James Green of Tweedle Farms on Hempin'
Tell me a little bit about your first year growing hemp: year, location, acres, processes, etc. Had you worked with cannabis or as a farmer prior?
Tweedle is growing about 8 acres this year, around 14,000 plants. As far as acreage, we haven't expanded much since our move from Vernonia to Jewell, other than a new greenhouse for propagation. We have however added a fertigation system, and an 8 foot elk fence this year which I am very excited about. As far as the company goes, we have expanded fairly quickly as we did not realize the demand for smokable hemp flower. It's hard to keep up. We went from 3 people to just over 20 since the launch of the website in Feb 2018. Most of them work at the distribution center in Portland. Such an amazing team! That is one of my favorite parts about this whole thing.
What are your favorite strains to grow? I know you specialize in craft smokable flower.
My favorite strains to grow are definitely Crawford brother/Oregon CBD strains. This is twofold: first, they are all super sticky and terpy with high yields, but also, just as important for my farm in particular, is that they finish earlier than most other strains, and with our short growing season, it makes them perfect for us. Susie Q is also a favorite of mine.
If we can get the laws sorted out in our favor, for instance sticking with cold delta-9 testing instead of switching to total THC, there will ALWAYS be a market for high terpene smokable hemp flower. This is what got us off the ground and is still the bulk of our business. The demand is huge.
On the regulation side, do you see the greatest threats coming from the Feds or the states themselves? Any particular threats you see on the horizon?
On the regulation side, right now it seems the biggest threat is from both the states and the feds. The possible switch (in Oregon it has already happened) from cold Delta-9 testing, to using a post decarboxylated sample, which means using total THC vs delta-9 only as the measuring point to determine what is hemp and what is marijuana, is going to be a huge deal for farms and retailers alike. There are VERY few strains, if any, currently available on the market now that when pre or post, especially post-harvest tested will come in under 0.3% total THC. I encourage everyone to please support organizations like OIHFA who are currently raising money to lobby about this here in Oregon, and in DC.
What are some of your favorite technological advancements in farming you’ve seen since you first started in the industry? Have you guys development any processes you consider pioneering and don’t mind sharing?
We didn’t actually invent this, but my main farmhand/builder/everything else on the farm guy Matt Worthy, who has been absolutely invaluable to Tweedle Farms since the beginning, built us an incredible seed station. That, in connection with a speedy seeder, allowed us to get around 15,000 seeds, enough for the entire field, into trays in about 6.5 hours.
Fighting nature, fixing tractors, or finding staff: Do you struggle with more with environmental, mechanical, or personnel related issues at your farms? Has cross pollination been an issue?
Fighting nature. Definitely. Where we farm near Jewell, OR, we have a very healthy elk population. When 30, 600-800 lb animals walk through your hemp field they leave a massive path of destruction in their wake. They rip up drip line and crush plants. It's a nightmare. As I mentioned earlier we had to install an 8 foot tall fence around the entire field to keep them out. It has been working great so far. The other big challenge we have out here is a shorter growing season. We are only about 20 miles as the crow flies from the ocean. So although the Nehalem Valley is a micro climate and the weather is much closer to the Willamette Valley for most of the year, around mid September the fog rolls in and we have to get plants out of the ground FAST.
Do you have any advice for anyone entering the industry? What direction would you steer aspiring farmers? Where do you think the industry is headed?
My advice to new farmers getting into the industry is to really be prepared. Talk to other experienced farmers as much as you can. I have seen many people that have dollar signs in their eyes but really don’t have a grasp of how much work and cost there is associated with a first year farm. Most people drastically underestimate harvest and drying/curing. This is where the bulk of the work is and especially if you are growing for smokable flower the drying space needed is a major factor. Also, as much as you can, expect the unexpected. So many problems arise that are impossible to predict and you have to be able to roll with the punches.
And finally, if there are any people that you’d like to recognize from Tweedle Farms or the industry in general that have helped get the company to where it is now?
There are so many people that have helped get us where we are today. This is in no particular order, but Matt Worthy is one, as I mentioned earlier. He has literally been with us since the very beginning, before we were even into hemp. He can literally build/fix ANYTHING. He can also run any piece of farm equipment. He also pretty much works as hard as 3 regular workers. He lives on the farm full time and is in charge of all day to day operations.
Another person I don’t know what I would do without is Andrew Gruver. He moved his whole family from California to work for Tweedle Farms and has proven himself 1000 times over. He is the chief of operations and runs the office/distribution center in Portland. He has a depth of knowledge about cannabis that is hard to rival. He ran two dispensaries in Santa Cruz prior to moving to Portland and that experience is such a perfect fit here at Tweedle. He also just has amazing leadership and customer service skills. His wife Ashley is also a crucial piece of the puzzle. Among many other things, she does all the bookkeeping and payroll which are both HUGE tasks.
My wife Flossie has not only put in many many hours of work for Tweedle Farms in various forms, but more importantly has been so supportive of me the entire time. There have been many times when I have just wanted to walk away due to indescribable amounts of stress/frustration, but she has always stuck by me and encouraged me to see the bigger picture, and I am very thankful for that.
My partner Jason Evans was the critical force in really getting us off the ground. He comes from a retail/finance background and was the one who insisted that customer service be the main focus for us. This is one of the main things that sets us apart from other similar companies and why we have such an amazing loyal customer base.
Literally every single employee is amazing. Too many to name here, but they all work together very well to keep this incredible machine that is Tweedle Farms functioning smoothly, and I am continually grateful to all of them.