Okanagan farmers collective looks to cultivate success by growing cannabis

Aug 22 2018, 6:30 pm

When Marc Geen’s family built a farming business over 120 years ago, it was unlikely they anticipated growing cannabis.

“The Geen’s have been farming in the Okanagan since about the turn of the century,” Geen, CEO of SpeakEasy, a BC-based late stage Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) applicant told Daily Hive over the phone.

The family business started growing apples, and Geen’s grandparents alongside a collective of other farmers founded Sun-Rype, which is now an internationally known juice company.

When Sun-Rype went public, Geen’s father was chairman for close to 20 years.

Aside from apples, the Geens also grew ginseng and cherries, until a new opportunity arose.

cannabis

More than a century-old family business (@speakeasygrowers/Instagram)

“I was reading the newspaper and there was an advertisement from the government announcing the inception of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR),” said Geen.

“I talked to my parents and asked if they wanted to get involved in growing cannabis, and the rest is history.”

The Geen’s 2500 acre ranch in BC’s “golden mile” (named for its ideal growing conditions) now houses a 10,000-sq-ft facility with another 80,000-sq-ft being built for indoor cannabis cultivation.

Over the next two years, the farm will also have 120 acres reserved for outdoor growing.

“Our operation isn’t just one head grower with a general philosophy,” said Geen.

“We’re a collective of farmers, and each grower has 13,500-sq-ft to bring their unique genetics, grow technology, style, and personality.”

SpeakEasy is five separate grow operations under one umbrella, which allows the growers to perfect a handful of cannabis varietals (strains).

“For one grower to provide and perfect 20 varieties is far-fetched,” said Geen. By acting as a collective, SpeakEasy is hoping to accommodate an array of consumers tastes without compromising on quality.

Geen’s experience in commercial farming is rooted in family history but it also tied to the grey market.

“I started about 18 years ago working with some friends in the Okanagan who had Marihuana Medical Access Regulation (MMAR) licensing,” said Geen, who was bringing farm tech to “what was essentially a very underground operation and industry at the time.”

Part of Geen’s role with SpeakEasy is transitioning seasoned growers from the grey market to Canada’s new legal framework.

“As the black market transitions and disappears a lot of the growers who love the actual business of growing need a way of transitioning.”

“Understanding the needs of a cannabis plant is variety specific. It’s easy to grow but hard to grow well,” said Geen, who believes that bringing experienced growers into the new market is necessary to protect BC’s reputation for quality bud.

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