With an eye on beneficial bugs and matching plant genetics to the microclimate, family-run Greenman Acres thrives in a highly competitive cannabis industry. Words & photos :: Colin Field.
In the fall of 2020, deep in the hills of Meaford, Ontario, the inaugural harvest was simply referred to as a “tsunami of weed.” And that’s exactly what it felt like. After a short three-month growing season, 600 kilograms of cannabis needed to be harvested. Day after day it flowed into the shelter with up to 20 people at a time trimming, cutting, washing and hanging. I attended a few times, and arrived each day to a completely different trimming system, eventually culminating in the “penalty box,” a four-foot-high wall of aluminum with drilled holes. Pickers would lightly trim branches, put the stem end of a plant into the hole, then the person inside the box would pull the stem through, dropping the buds into massive bins placed below.
For those of us used to homegrown plots of 2-12 plants, this aptly named tsunami of weed was daunting. Just when you cleared a table of the enormous plants, the Kubota would pull in with another load. It was never-ending.
The brainchild of Rob Mantrop, Greenman Acres is a family-run affair. His wife, brothers, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, mother and close family friends are all involved. Plus they’ve assembled a very talented team of growers and experts.
Running a cannabis farm is very much a farmer’s life. And they take it to heart. They’re out walking the field every day, touching, smelling and watching the plants—looking for problems and carefully paying attention to what works and what doesn’t.
Greenman’s goal to produce high-quality, small-batch organic cannabis is an ambitious one, especially when growing outdoors. But as the years progress, so does their knowledge and skill at growing a quality end-product.
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“We focus on the plant and we literally make our decision that way,” says Mantrop. “Is that better or worse for the plant? We’re always looking to save on labour and time, but we never compromise the quality of the flower.”
Using manure from nearby Good Family Farms, plus natural pesticides, they’re slowly learning how to do it. And they have help.
“There is a general attitude in the marketplace that 20 per cent THC is a bigger bang for your buck. It shows the immature marketplace; as people get educated they’ll realize that it’s not all about THC. There are other cannabinoids, CBN and CBD, that also have an effect. And when you combine it with the terpenes, you get an entourage effect.”
“Our association with the University of Guelph is a nice tool in our toolbox,” he says. “We’re part of the first-ever study on an outdoor cannabis crop in Canada. This is year two of the study. We have three master’s students from the entomology program and they come every single week to take samples and write a report for us. They look for the beneficial insects versus the non-beneficial insects. So we don’t buy any bugs. A lot of producers will buy ladybugs, or nematodes for the soil. Rather than buy the bugs, we have the environment for the beneficials to be there. We intentionally plant sunflowers, calendula, camomile and radish to attract beneficial bugs. To date our beneficial insects outweigh the non-beneficial.”
Covid, along with the wait for licenses, meant 2020 was a stunted year; they weren’t allowed to plant anything until July 3. Then 2021 had its own set of challenges: A wet June, a dry July and a cold, wet September brought hurdle after hurdle. They still harvested 600 kilograms.
“We learned a lot,” says Mantrop. “All of which we’re applying this year.”
At a budtender event held on a Friday afternoon in 2022, the farm looked perfect: Row after row of healthy green plants lined the hilly farm and, for those who love this controversial plant, it looked heavenly. Young retailers walked through the fields, asking questions and learning about all the processes that go into growing outdoor and organic. Looking at the massive acreage with 6,000 plants, it was easy to see they’ve started to figure it out. The farm looked healthy and happy.
The Greenman Acres main strain is their own genetic: Mother of Berries. Grandaddy Purple is also currently available in the market and two more (Durban Poison and Scotch Mountain) will be available post-2022 harvest. There are 25 other cultivars in a test plot, where they explore new genetics and find what works in this microclimate.
While some may scoff at the idea of growing top-quality cannabis outdoors, the proof is in the pudding: Mother of Berries and Granddaddy Purple both hit the trend-setting numbers of more than 20 per cent THC, but that’s not entirely the metric Greenman is going for.
“Our THC percentage has to be put on the label,” says Mantrop. “People are gravitating toward that. There is a general attitude in the marketplace that 20 per cent THC is a bigger bang for your buck. It shows the immature marketplace; as people get educated they’ll realize that it’s not all about THC. There are other cannabinoids, CBN and CBD, that also have an effect. And when you combine it with the terpenes, you get an entourage effect.”
What are terpenes, you ask?
“Terpenes are flavour profiles and they work in concert with the cannabinoid. It changes your experience. Growing outdoors promotes terpenes.”
So has the romance of being a weed farmer faded for Mantrop?
“Certain days it’s romantic, other days it’s a nightmare,” he says. “The biggest thing you can’t forecast is that the government’s our customer. They’re great people to deal with, but we’re dealing with some unique problems. Ontario has its own challenges with this hybrid model of privatized suppliers and retailers, with the government buying in the middle. We feel that pain for sure. It adds a lot to our bottom line. There are a lot of efficiencies we can’t realize because we have to ship through them. We’re just trying to survive this crazy industry.”
The next challenge? Harvesting 6,000 plants. The crop of 2022 is expected to produce 2,000 kilograms. Now that’s what you call a tsunami of weed.
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