Growers Network interviewed Jarrod Mason and Matt Wheatley of Los Sueños Farms about what’s going on in Pueblo!
Paint a picture of the farm
Jarrod: The farm itself measures 32 acres as the total footprint, with about 28 of those acres as canopy. There’s a good chance in the future that we may double the size of our farm in the next year as well. The vast majority of our cannabis is sold as wholesale.
Matt: Our greenhouses are designed to provide cuttings for our large field grow, and keep our genetics fresh over the winter.
Most of what we grow is traditionally considered indoor varieties of cannabis, because that’s the direction the market has headed. We’re growing roughly 36,000 total plants in the field during the growing season, with 2400 in the greenhouses.
Since it’s in outdoor grow, do you use a lot of water?
Matt: We actually use a method called plasticulture to reduce our water usage. The way it works is we have a strip of plastic on top of the soil with small holes in it periodically. Our plants go into the holes with drip irrigation feeding them. This provides sufficient water to the plant, and any water in the soil underneath the plastic doesn’t evaporate.
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How many strains are you growing, and how did you select them?
Matt: We have 15 strains growing out in the field, and 83 strains in the greenhouses. As time has gone on, and we cater more to our customer’s needs, the number of strains we’ve grown has decreased substantially. We’re potentially looking to grow half a dozen next year from our current winners.
How do you keep your soil quality high, since you’re growing outdoors?
Matt: Most of our technique follows permaculture principles, with an emphasis on growing organically and treating any pest problems with non-damaging solutions.
We consciously choose to use only OMRI-certified products, and we regularly take soil samples which we send to laboratories to get a nutrient analysis, pH, and EC. We’re firm believers that it’s better to underfeed than overfeed.
How do you harvest and dry your plants?
Matt: We use our greenhouses for some of that. We also currently have an electrical engineer building a semi-truck trailer that can be pulled around the farm as a portable drying room.
We have about 30 days to harvest 30 acres worth of plants before the frost hits. In order to stagger some of the drying, we plant our summer greenhouse turn to finish a week or two before we start the fall harvest.
What pests do you have to deal with?
Matt: Grasshoppers are our #1 enemy. We also have to deal with borer beetles, which are pretty awful. We’re pretty aggressive in our prevention and elimination regimen. We cleared a fire line around the farm and we also put out an insecticide called Nolo Bait, which is a consortium of bacteria that makes grasshoppers really sick until they die.
Our best biological control is the humble chicken! We’ve got a lot of chickens running around our farm, and they love eating grasshoppers. It’s not uncommon to trip over a chicken while you’re on the farm.
One other cool tool we have at our disposal is an electrostatic sprayer. It charges the fine mist it shoots out, causing any water, nutrient, or pesticide to adhere really tightly to all parts of the plant.
What’s your trimming strategy?
Matt: 90% of our cannabis is machine-trimmed for the purposes of selling to extractors and dispensaries. The remaining 10% is the best flower from our fields, which we wholesale to dispensaries around the state.
What are some challenges Los Sueños has faced?
Jarrod: Honestly, the scale of the farm has been our biggest challenge. We’re always coming up with custom solutions, since there’s almost nothing off the shelf for our scale.
Our farm is the size of a conventional agricultural farm. It’s tough to grow organically at that size, but cannabis also has special regulations. We comply with METRC, which can be difficult at our size since it doesn’t scale too easily.
What have been your biggest successes?
Jarrod: Our sales continue to increase year over year. We’ve nearly doubled sales every year we’ve been in business. Our innovation due to our scale has really impressed me, and I can’t wait until we expand soon. We’re going to have to implement more automation at some point too, because we won’t have enough labor for the farm, which is a problem of success.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Matt: I’m excited about the expansion. Seeing the company grow and flourish has been amazing. And with that expansion comes the ability to finance more science and research. Some of my background is in tissue culture, and I’m super excited to get started on implementing it into our grow.
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What advice would you give to somebody who wants to become a grower?
Matt: Get an education. Don’t be afraid to pursue a plant biology degree. It opens up a lot of doors.
And of course, hard work and thinking outside the box are important. A good education will allow you to take everything you learn and transform it into something magical.