In this Grow Operation Overview, Hunter Wilson of Growers Network interviews Elad Spiegel (pronounced “A-Lod”), Director of Cultivation for Golden Leaf Holdings in Portland, Oregon about his cultivation methods, equipment, and philosophy.
Indoor, Outdoor, or Greenhouse, and why?
It really depends on where you’re growing and what products you’re aiming to produce:
- Where cultivation needs to take place.
- If you’re in an area with limited land, indoor may be necessary.
- The kind of products you are producing.
- If you’re making oil, outdoors and cheap makes sense.
- If you’re growing for flower, then you’ll probably want indoors or a greenhouse.
- The environment you’re growing in.
- Ideal growing climates mean that greenhouses are your best option.
- Challenging environments make an indoor grow may be the better option.
If you had a lot to spend on a grow, what would you buy, and why?
I would say that investment in automation is key because the biggest expense in cultivation is labor. People should be used for work that is very sensitive or requires high-level judgment and decision-making.
Do you have any favorite strains you like to grow?
I stick with what is called the “old-school” strains. These are strains that have special attributes which both consumers and growers find attractive. These strains are easy to sell.
As a grower, you should always have a good selection of two or three strains for cannabinoid levels, and terpenes. Avoid too many different strains, as you can spread yourself too thin.
Tell me about your environmental controls and automation.
Northern Oregon’s rainy season is long; heating and supplemental lighting are crucial. DryGair systems have been awesome because we don’t have to invest in 3 separate systems. Instead, we can invest in one system and make it a focal point in our production.
What is your preferred methodology for handling pests?
Russet mites and broad mites in Oregon have proven to be very challenging. They are difficult to spot when their numbers are small. You can treat the infestations with pesticides, but you sacrifice quality and money by doing so. I maintain a preventative protocol using:
- Various essential oils
- Neem oil
These natural, organic pesticides are quite helpful for prevention without sacrificing quality.
What’s your preferred approach to preventing fungal pathogenesis?
While fungicides work to a limited extent, you greatly sacrifice quality. As a result, fungicide use is unsustainable, because you will not be able to sell your product.
Therefore, the best strategy is prevention via environmental control. You need to keep the crop dry. Your structure should divert condensation away from the plants, and your environmental controls should avoid the dewpoint. I personally recommend DryGair’s products as very effective solutions for the price.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was in my first year of growing back in Israel. I was growing AK-47s and Purple Kushes and thought I was hot stuff. Two weeks later, 90% of the plants had to go to the garbage because botrytis had taken over. My humidity was not under control.
Most recently, Marion County of Oregon opted out of recreational cannabis in the last round of elections. That meant we couldn’t expand our operation how we originally planned.
What are some of your biggest triumphs?
My biggest triumphs relate to people. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people. You could have the best technology in the world, but if you don’t have a good team to support that, then you don’t have much.
What differences have you seen between Israel and Oregon cannabis cultivation?
Regulations were virtually nonexistent in Israel while I was there. Israeli authorities allowed producers to produce as much medical cannabis as they could with basically no guidelines. They eventually regulated the price of the medicine for the patient. The result of this legislation meant that small, niche growing wasn’t possible. Growers needed to produce in bulk.
In contrast, Oregon’s recreational program was really thought through beforehand. There were some glitches and difficulties at first, but the smart people in the OLCC did a great job putting together a modular program that could be upgraded relatively quickly. On the other hand, the scale of production is extremely limited. Operations are limited to a small family farm. The market is limited to expansion.
What advice would you have for a new grower?
Talk less, listen more. It’s not about your ego, it’s about the plants. It’s not about your ideal garden, it’s about building good systems. Surround yourself with a good team of professionals that you can trust and learn from. Remember, the cannabis market didn’t invent agriculture. A good farmer can be easily trained to grow cannabis.
This article has been paraphrased with permission from Growers Network.
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