Friday March 25, 2022
By Paul Barach
For part 5 of our Growing Weed in Washington series, PotGuide sat down with Micah Sherman of Raven Grass to learn about growing weed in Washington’s capitol, the benefits of growing in living soil, and craft cannabis vs craft brewing.
Founded in 2013 by David Stein, Micah Sherman, and Nichole Graf, Raven Grass is an indoor cannabis cultivator based just outside of Olympia, the state’s capital. Raven Grass grows with a “Vera Terra” or “True Earth” philosophy, meaning organic inputs and no chemical pesticides.
An Interview with Raven Grass
[Paul Barach]: What is it like growing weed in Washington? Why did you pick Olympia?
[Micah Sherman]: There’s three of us that started Raven: myself, Nichole Graf, and David Stein. David lived in Olympia for a long time, so when we came to Washington to start Raven with him, we came to Olympia. We’ve been in this space since 2013 because the rules and regulations around where we could be located limited what was available.
We’re actually in the legislative session here in Washington, so it’s a busy time for me.
[PB]: How so?
[MS]:I’m on the board of the Washington Sun and Craft Growers Association, so we’re tracking the active legislation and we have a couple of bills that we’ve been working on. [This includes] creating a..“Craft Cannabis” endorsement [for small producers.] It’d be similar to craft brewing where there’d be consumer direct sales at the farm like at a craft brewery or a craft distillery.
[PB]: What are some of the benefits and challenges you’ve encountered growing weed in Washington?
[MS]: We have a fairly unique approach to indoor production…It’s pretty cool here all the time, so we’re just controlling our temperature by bringing in fresh air from the outside rather than using electricity to run air conditioners to cool a closed environment. It saves a lot of energy.
As far as challenges…we’re in a temperate rainforest, so we’re always battling things being very wet or very humid. We have to do a lot of drying out the air.
[PB]: Are there any weed strains that grow well or are harder to grow in your part of Washington?
[MS]: We often make…trade-offs because it seems inevitable that the best weed comes from some of the most picky plants (laughs). I think that’s a rule of nature. The easiest to grow I’d say are Durban Poison and Jack Herer. Those two are thriving plants that do well in any conditions.
Harder to grow out here are strains like Grandaddy Purple and Lavender Kush. They’re not unhealthy by any means, but they are really picky and produce less.
[PB]: Do you have any special marijuana growing practices that you use?
[MS]: We grow in living earth using 100-200 gallon fabric pots and our soil stays in place from harvest to harvest.
We re-amend that soil with raw inputs like spent cannabis from our extraction processes, alfalfa, different meals, minerals, and other relatively unprocessed elements.
We [also] do a weekly compost tea. Essentially we brew a big batch of a microbial solution with compost and other organic inputs. This makes a microbial solution that we water out to all the pots in our building. The microbial life in the soil…breaks down the raw amendments, and makes bio-available inputs for the plants. We’re recreating natural soil biology in our indoor grow operation.
[PB]: How does living soil improve your crops?
[MS]: Living soil produces a unique product. Instead of fertigation, where the liquid nutrients get up taken through the roots through the force of pressure when you water [which is how most cannabis plants get their nutrients], what we’re doing is creating a living microbiome in the soil. The plants in combination with the living microbiome uptake only what they need.
Flavor wise…we produce a different quality of plant. We don’t necessarily get super high cannabinoid testing, but we get a fuller flavor…effects-wise it’s hard to say because it’s all subjective, but we often get emails from consumers asking what is different about the way we grow because it feels distinct.
[PB]: What strains are you most hyped about growing?
[MS]:I love Jack Herer. It’s my #1 Go-To. The other one I’m really excited about that’s new to us is Panama Red. It’s a super trippy, almost psychedelic kind of high. Great for when you want to think about things in a new way, or maybe not at all (laughs).
I also really enjoy our Type 2 (CBD:THC) strains. We put about 50% of our canopy into those Type 2 strains. They’re very grounding, very functional. I get a lot of benefit from those strains. It’s an underdeveloped part of the cannabis industry.
[PB]: What in your opinion sets Washington weed apart?
[MS]:For the moment, what sets Washington weed apart is that we have a regulatory environment that’s at least in part trying to support small production methods, which means more Craft Cannabis businesses.
We also have a lot of great places to grow outside. It’ll be really interesting to see how we start to develop landrace strains that are suited specifically for growing outdoors in Washington.
Thanks for speaking with PotGuide!
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