Oregon Imperial Farms
Do you know where your cannabis was grown? Do you know what nutrients went into the plants? Can you even say with certainty that it is a hydroponic or soil grown plant? Back in the days before legalization, I struggled with these kinds of questions. Growers were overly secretive lest they end up on the wrong end of a police raid and consumers rarely had an alternative so questions were pointless. Oregon Imperial Farms is helping end the age of prohibition.
Oregon Imperial Farms is located in the rolling hills of farms that cover the land around Madras Oregon. Down a hidden road that turns into a drive, sitting back from the street is a house. For about the last 4 months or so, it has been serving a dual purpose. It has been a residence, but also a working farm.
This farm is a new breed of cultivator. Licensed by the state to grow recreational marijuana, Oregon Imperial Farms has several growing locations and I got to visit one that they are in the process of expanding. The property currently has a working flower room, outdoor growing area and they are putting up a small greenhouse for vegetative growth outside of Central Oregon’s short growing season.
Alone, this grow could supplement a family income but combined with the other locations, provides a small boost to the businesses bottom line. Combined with the other locations, it provides a test environment for new techniques and nutrient mixtures. The farm currently uses a specialized soil mixture as a base for the seed-grown plants with a compost tea nutrient added to the plants water supply.
Oregon Imperial Farms has been serving the medical community for several years but has only gotten into recreational cultivation since it was legalized last year. The expertise they cultivated over those years is being leveraged to provide recreational consumers with a quality product at a reasonable cost at dispensaries like Central Organics which pass on the savings.
Finding a person who could obtain quality medication for a reasonable price to non-licensed consumers was rare in the old days. Growers had to sell on the Black Market usually dealt in bulk. To protect themselves from prosecution, they tried to limit the number of contacts they had. This led to a proliferation of middle-men who dealt in ever smaller weights, not to mention the misinformation.
At street level, an eighth (3.5 grams, not 4 like every other eighth on earth) would go for about $40-50 and god help you if you wanted to know anything about the product beyond the price. You had to give dude a fist of cash and hope that he came back. Then you had to pray to the cannabis winds to blow you on the better end of the chronic/shwag dichotomy of street salesman.
Besides the price, waiting up to two days for a ‘hookup’ was not uncommon in the old days. Getting the same 3.5 grams from the grower directly would cost $18.75 but only if bought at least an ounce at a time. I could get the same quality and price any time, every time. You can see the real-world consequences of having reliable, affordable access to a cannabis cultivator we huge for my life.
When I got to know my first cultivator and began purchasing through him instead of my previous contact, my cost per ounce went from $320 to $150. As a consumer that went through almost an ounce a week, that adds up to $680 a month in savings on product costs alone. It also had the benefit of increasing the knowledge available to me about my product. I was finally able to ask the questions that people couldn’t tell me up to that point.
It was during this time that I began learning about cultivation and the intricacies of consumption. In the years since, I have come to know many growers and cultivating methods. When medical cannabis became legal, growers opened up a little but it wasn’t until recreational cannabis became legal that growers were finally comfortable enough to come out of the shadows.
By hording their knowledge, growers have been able to preserve the skills they have learned in the face of the drug war. As a survival method, secrecy is effective. Once the battles are over, secrecy can prevent growth and development as common issues and quality solutions are actively kept from the community at large. Now that the government has backed off criminal penalty enforcement in addition to licensing operations, it has given growers like Oregon Imperial Farms the opportunity begin sharing.
I learned from Oregon Imperial Farms that many Oregon farmers are dealing with a pest called Russet Mites. These creatures were released in Canada to keep thistle plants in check. Since thistle grows in Oregon, the mites have come here as well. The interesting and some would say terrifying thing about these mites is that they love eating cannabis plants as much as thistle. Whole crops can go from happy, healthy plants to organic waste in just a day or two thanks to the tiny mite.
Dealing with them is also a real issue as the mites are immune to pesticides. A farm that gets infested has to bleach everything and change out a massive amount of equipment. Growers must take extra care since the mites can hibernate until plants are reintroduced. Unlike Spider Mites which die if plants are removed from the room for a time, Russet Mites can live until killed entirely since they go into hibernation when they can’t find plants to consume.
As more and more growers spread the knowledge they have gained, cannabis cultivation becomes more and more of a science. The skills that one grower develops and the challenges they overcome can positively impact other people who face those same challenges. Many of the people who will benefit from that shared experience will be people the grower never met.
I’m glad companies like Oregon Imperial Organics are getting into the recreational market. Beyond engaging in the sales of cannabis, they have shown their dedication to growing the community by sharing their knowledge openly and by dealing with reputable dealers. I can’t thank them enough for letting me get my camera on their live plants. Until next time, thanks for reading.