By Adam Rhodes
Nestled in the idyllic hills beneath a range of volcanoes, there sits a small family farm called Oregon Territory Organics.
This farm looks much like the rest of the rural properties in the area. The main house sits on the edge of the property with canals flooding the fields and hawks hunting overhead. The outbuildings have been there for a long time, giving the massive wood structures the feeling of living history. A fresh coat of red paint showed me that the owners are dedicated to keeping their equipment in good condition.
Looking on from the outside, there was nothing out of place for a working farm.
I would never have guessed that the property was turning out amazing medical cannabis. After a short conversation outside, I was invited back to where the real magic happens. As the door opened to the first outbuilding, I was greeted with a wave of warm air as the over-pressurized building welcomed me into its core.
The first thing I noticed was the excellent cable management of the power supplies.
I really appreciated the effort put in to keep things organized. The bank of ballasts are spaced far enough apart to have air flow and high enough to make it easy to inspect or change. The corridor connected the grow room, flower room and work room while keeping contamination to a minimum. This is the base that the rest of the operation is based on so it was wonderful to see the effort put into making it as efficient as possible.
A quick turn and a door later and I found myself in the vegetative room.
This is where the seeds grow to the point where they can be transitioned to the flower room. Most plants stay here for about a month before they leave, 12 at a time for the flower rooms. During that month, clippings that do poorly are culled and especially strong cuts are moved to the front of the pack.
Using a form of hydroponics that creates a fine mist of nutrient rich water vapor around the roots.
With all the building blocks of life, the plants don’t stay small long. Florescent lights hang above the bays, giving off a white light that feels nice to be under even if it is really bright. The scent of Trainwreck plants permeate the air with the sweet smell of chlorophyll.
The flower rooms are a whole other experience.
My eyes noticed the distinctively yellow hue to the light blasting out of the 1000w bulbs first. The light reflective walls didn’t blind like the sun glaring off of metal but I was conscious of the fact that even squinting wasn’t protecting my eyes. I was handed a pair of polarizing lenses and the difference was incredible. It was like being back in the vegetative room with its nice white lights.
The smell was something else entirely.
There were NW Coffee, Afghan, Hash Berry and Afgoo ‘84 buds the size of my head everywhere. The interaction of the terpenes was overwhelming. Brushing up against a plant would release a barrage of flavors better than any dab. The live resin was still wet so many of the finer terpenes were still present in the CO2 enriched air.
The color of the flowers present was also wonderful to see.
The Afgoo ’84 plants that had turned so purple they looked black sitting happily next to Sleeping Beauties with their light green colas. Many of the buds were so heavy that they snapped the branches supporting them making it seem like they were growing up and down. If not for the stakes added early on in the flower process, much of the harvest would have ended up on the floor.
As it stood, there was no chance any of these massive chunks were going to fall before the growers were ready for them to.
The stalks had been cleared of leaves for the first foot or so in an effort to reduce the number of sites that buds could grow. While limiting the number of buds, this process ensures that more of the harvest is a premium product. It does this by directing all of the plants growth into a couple big flowers instead of hundreds of tiny, loose flowers.
When the flowers are almost ready for harvest, the nutrient-rich water that has fed the plants all the way up to this point is changed to straight water.
The plant is allowed to use up all of the stored nutrients it has but isn’t given more for up to 14 days before harvest so there are no residual nutrients locked inside the bud. This can cause the water leaves to take on a yellowish or rust-like color as they use up their stored nutrients and begin to die off.
If nutrients like Potassium and Phosphorus (which are present even all healthy plants) are left in the flower, it can cause the dried flower to sparkle when lit and can create dangerous byproducts if inhaled.
That is why the OTO guys take extra care to ensure their plants are properly purged of all residual nutrients before harvest.The final hours of the plants life are marked by total darkness. The plants put the last of their energy into flower production and use up the last of the sugars they use for energy. The lights are turned off for a day so before harvest so that the plants will stop looking for more sources of energy. This is when the buds are in the right state to harvest.
Oregon Territory Organics understands the finer points of the process and has spent decades refining their craft to produce high-quality buds.
A family owned company, OTO has been in the medical side of things for the last few years and has been showing off their work to the recreational crowd since 2015. Judging by the quality of their setup, they are planning for the future.
As a couple old-timer stoners, the owners have absorbed an amazing amount of knowledge concerning cannabis.
I was constantly learning new things about the grow process and harvest. Some things were confirmation of previous suspicions (like how challenging it is to find a good trimmer) while others were completely foreign to me (like the sweet smell of six NW Coffee plants mere hours before harvest). The whole experience struck me as surreal.
I was standing in the middle of a forest of weed just waiting to be smoked.
I was taking pictures and planning to share them with everyone. The thought of it made my stomach do a loop. This would put people in prison in the 1960’s through the early 2000’s and effectively ended their lives. Here it was fully sanctioned and licensed by the authorities with business permits hung and everything.
The surreal feeling was that I have now lived on both sides of the market.
The black market has left me with an internal fear that if people know what I do, I will get put in prison or worse. I have to remind myself that I no longer live in those days. I live in a state where recreational cannabis possession, production, distribution, and refining are all legal.
And I am able to share that amazing experience with everyone reading this openly.
That in and of itself is something I once feared I might not live to see. Thanks to the effort of countless individuals, I get to share the miracle that is cannabis freely. In the end, I feel it all comes down to devoting yourself to something worth sharing.
Oregon Territory has had to devote a great amount of time and energy into developing a product that can provide help to any who need it.
They have put their necks out as medical growers and did again when filing to become a recreational grower. They have looked at the market and can see the merger of rec and med systems in the future and want to be in the right position when it happens.
This setup has taken years to get dialed into the point that it has.
While small for a commercial grow, the demand of farms like this can even challenge the capacity of existing infrastructure like power lines and experience. With close to $100,000 invested in equipment and even more on skilled workers, it still hurts when the utility company tells you it will be thousands of extra dollars and years of permitting to get the electrical capacity of your farm increased.
Beyond the physical capacity of the equipment, there is a real demand for experienced growers who can get a farm dialed in quickly.
The difference between a 4 pound and a ten-pound harvest can be as little as 5% more CO2 in a room or as much as a full light system replacement. Knowing which change is needed is challenging and many people fail to make the right call and it can cost them tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I’m glad I got the chance to tour such a refined and well-funded family operation.
With the quality of the product produced so far being so high, it makes my mouth water thinking about what we will see coming out of Oregon Territory Organics in the future. This family-run farm has all the makings of greatness and has been selling out of product quickly.
I found my hookup of OTO flower at Central Organics in Madras.
This Friday they are having their 1 year anniversary and having specials like one dollar pre-rolls and free BBQ to customers going on all day. With dank herb like Oregon Territory flower on tap, I look forward to getting to support some bad ass locals. Until next time, thanks for reading.