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Good Weed starts with better cultivation 

click to enlarge No-till methods foster plant health. - DANIEL JITCHAKU
  • Daniel Jitchaku
  • No-till methods foster plant health.
Pulling into Good Weed Co.’s parking lot, observers are greeted by a nearly barren black-and-white concrete exterior that does nothing to indicate the dispensary might be engaged in cutting-edge practices that differentiate it from the myriad of other pot shops.

That minimalist structure south of downtown — abandoned for over 30 years before it was acquired by Good Weed co-owner Mark Terry in October 2014 — offers little to lure weed consumers, save for a painted “Dispensary” sign above the entrance. But once inside, it doesn’t take long for one of the company’s six employees (five of whom share ownership stakes) to lay out what makes their process and product unique.

It starts with the soil, and a no-till growing process. In its simplest form, no-till growing is a system of agriculture in which the soil is left undisturbed rather than being turned over (tilled) prior to planting. Advocates say it fosters soil health and plant growth. No-till falls under the umbrella of permaculture (i.e. “permanent agriculture”) — agricultural techniques designed with sustainability in mind.

“When you’re growing no-till,” says Good Weed co-owner Evan Stookey, “you’re relying a lot more on biology, on nature.”

Adds fellow co-owner, John Terry (Mark’s son), “You’re not going in and disturbing the soil. You’re not disrupting the ecosystem, you’re maintaining it so it can harbor the most life.”

Central to this, John emphasizes, are the microbial webs that form in undisturbed soil, which serve as nutrient-dense highways to growing plants. Tilling damages these webs, and thereby the ability of soil to retain nutrients, even water.

Most large-scale grow operations regularly till soil because production demands have led to a reliance on fertilizers and pesticides that aren’t always in accord with nature (or the law). Good Weed owes its existence to those realities.

“We were all on the grow side of this bigger commercial farm,” says John. “Good Weed started as a way for us to express what we weren’t OK with and what our owners were making us do, like spraying unlabeled pesticides that were actually illegal. It was against our morals.”

Good Weed’s future founders believed those growing practices were harming the final product, making it weaker and potentially harmful.
“Most grows, their soil is just a medium and they’re feeding all the nutrients from the outside,” continues John, detailing how tilling necessitates the use of inorganic inputs to the plant. “You’re destroying all this life and you’re making the soil barren to where you have to pump it with all these agricultural fertilizers and chemicals to get a result.”

At Good Weed, he says, it’s not just the practice that’s different, it’s the philosophy. “With us, the plant and the soil are the same thing. Instead of force-feeding the plants, they’re able to take what they need and give a full, natural expression.”

That begins with a cultivation that isn’t just tailored to a plant’s THC content.“If you just grow cannabis for THC, yeah, you’re going to get high, but are you going to get all the medicinal effects?” asks retail manager, Kale O’Donnell.

“We try to ensure that the patient is getting a true medicinal product, instead of who-knows-what chemicals,” says John. “Because even with the state, all the heavy chemical and pesticide testing isn’t mandatory, so people can say ‘We don’t use pesticides,’ but no one knows unless they get caught.” (Shannon Gray, a marijuana communications specialist with the state Department of Revenue, says new mandatory pesticide testing rules went into effect on Jan. 1, with implementation continuing over the coming months.)

At Good Weed, though, the owners say total transparency in process and product is paramount. They offer tours of their facilities, label every ingredient in their products, and say they put the health of patient and plant above the protection of trade secrets.

“If you want to know our soil mix, we’ll tell you exactly how we mix it,” says John.

Of course, not everyone is as interested in soil as they are. “Most people don’t even really know or care what permaculture means,” he says. “There’s always a little bit of a reach with our culture here, like, is there anyone here who will receive this?”

“You’ll always have the Walmart side, the McDonald’s side, the chain mentality,” adds Mark.

But, says fellow owner Tanner Budde, “We’re trying to create a craft market, an entirely new market that doesn’t really exist in cannabis.”

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