The business of cannabis is new, but the concept of growing a bountiful crop for harvest is just about as old as human civilization. And while British Columbia has long been known as a good place to grow any number of staples, the past few decades have put the province’s cannabis on a tier all its own.
So much so, it has been drawing some of the region’s farmers away from growing foodstuffs.
Just ask Marc Geen, CEO of Speakeasy Growers Collective. Geen’s cannabis group wants to help small growers navigate the country’s daunting legal framework, but before taking the path less travelled, he was the next in a long line of traditional farmers.
“Really it’s an industry that is conducive to constant change,” Geen told Daily Hive. “You have to sort of be mindful of what’s coming around the corner.”
Geen’s great grandfather came to Kelowna generations ago to start growing tree fruits. They moved throughout the region to several different spots in the Kelowna area, growing apples primarily and then expanding into growing grapes and cherries.
“My grandfather took over after my great grandfather, and my dad took over from him,” he said. “My father and a couple of partners started growing ginseng in about 1990, 91.”
After dedicating 120 acres and 18 years to ginseng in the Okanagan, Geen needed to look elsewhere as the market was flooded with product from overseas. And while his business found success in more standardized crops, in 2013 he submitted an application to grow cannabis as part of the country’s early medical program.
“It was just perfect timing. I mean, we see it and saw it then, and still do, as an agricultural crop,” Geen told Daily Hive. “It isn’t any different than ginseng. It’s just an extremely highly regulated industry on a bunch of different levels.”
Ultimately, his company’s philosophy is that treating cannabis like any other form of commercial farming is a real way to create a quality product and that collaboration is key to developing the best quality crop possible.
“There’s a lot of things that from a farmer’s standpoint we can bring to it that, that isn’t really in the system yet,” says Geen. “The focus has always really been on security… there really hasn’t been a whole lot of focus on good farming practices.”
Other crops’ growers, according to Geen, like ginseng and cherries cooperate through associations. Something that cannabis agriculture is currently lacking.
“You can go a whole year and learn a few things,” he says. “You’ll learn a year’s worth of information from 20 guys sitting around a table. That’s 20 years worth of experience. You’ll learn more from that one day then, you know, in half a lifetime. It’s essential. It’s far more than what you can learn in a book or reading High Times.”