Each month, we invite master growers from Licensed Producers to share their stories with us. This time, we spoke with Jeff Thorne, master grower at Green Mountain in Kaleden, B.C., cultivating on behalf of Treehugger.
Pure organic soil. Biodegradable humidity packs and bags. Zero pesticides. All-natural pre-roll cones. One-hundred-percent recyclable boxes.
Treehugger, a cannabis brand that hit the Ontario market in spring 2022, has its sights set on being the choice of environmentally conscious cannabis consumers. From seed to sale, Treehugger tries to reduce its environmental impact at every stage of the Treehugger product cycle. And it all starts with master grower Jeff Thorne.
Thorne is experienced — and passionate — about growing organic. He became acquainted with organic agriculture in B.C.’s winemaking industry, where he learned about living soil, banker plants and other fundamentals of organic cultivation. In 2008, he ventured into cannabis.
With his Marihuana Medical Access Regulations license in hand, he began developing his cannabis cultivation skills — slowly. He started out growing indoors with conventional processes that used high energy and chemicals. When he and a partner moved to Summerland, a town in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, they decided to build a greenhouse and adopt more sustainable growing practices. It changed Thorne’s whole philosophy.
“In those years, we really learned about how we can make a better-quality product in a greenhouse setting than we ever could indoors,” Thorne says. “When I say quality, I mean the amount of resin, the terpene profile, the user effect — all of those things were significantly better in a sun-grown, craft product.”
Today, Thorne puts his green methods to work at Green Mountain, the Kaleden, B.C.-based Licensed Producer that Treehugger chose as its cultivation partner. The brand looked for the right partner for years, searching for a grower whose enthusiasm for organic practices and commitment to sustainability matched its own.
“When Jeff came along, it was just right,” says Adil Hirji, director of marketing at Avant Brands, which oversees Treehugger. “We wanted someone that was as passionate about the planet as he was about the plant, and that was Jeff.”
Situated in the Okanagan Valley, the Green Mountain greenhouse is a perfect place for Thorne to grow green. While Canadian growers are no strangers to hostile climates, the Okanagan provides ideal conditions for greenhouse cannabis cultivation — it’s dry, warm and gets plenty of sunlight.
“The amount of resin, the terpene profile, the user effect — all of those things were significantly better in a sun-grown, craft product.”
To supplement the natural environment, Thorne and his team use state-of-the-art technology. Low-waste LED lighting from Philips Horticulture and an evaporative cooling system help reduce the temperature as needed, while a moveable curtain makes it possible to create periods of necessary darkness during the summertime, when the hours of sunlight can sometimes be too long for the plants.
“Before [legalization], we learned on web forums from a community of underground operators,” Thorne says. “It’s a totally different world that we live in now from a technical perspective.”
The team seeks to be as ecologically friendly on the analogue side of cultivation, too. All organic waste is composted on-site. The plants are grown in a gutter trough system using a homemade living-soil blend (soil that’s enriched with diverse microbials) and coco coir, a plant-based growing medium that’s reused after completing a growing cycle.
“When we’re done our harvest, we remove our root ball, we take some analytics, we amend based on those analytics and then we replant,” Thorne explains. “There are no soft plastics to dispose of. There are no containers to wash.”
While Thorne could use pesticides approved for organic use, he instead employs beneficial predators and tea to protect the plants from harmful insects and disease. “The more you spray, the poorer the plants perform,” he says.
Optimizing his plants’ performance continues after harvesting. When it’s time to process the cannabis, preserving terpenes is of the utmost importance. The team uses about 25% of their total growing area to hang-dry their plants, and they take their time curing and trimming.
“We hang the whole plants in the traditional craft grower approach. We do that to maintain the environmental conditions to preserve the quality of [the plants’] texture and the aroma,” Thorne says. “All that takes care and time.”
When Thorne’s work is done, the Treehugger team takes over, packaging products like the Organic King Tut Pre-Rolls — a 10-pack of 0.3-g pre-rolls filled with high-THC hybrid King Tut bud — in 100% organic bamboo cones, biodegradable cellulose baggies and Forest Stewardship Council-certified recyclable boxes.
Treehugger labels are made from hemp and post-consumer recycled waste, and the humidity packs are biodegradable. Dried-flower offerings, like the potent Organic Sweet Fuel OG, are packaged in recycled glass. And for every case sold, Treehugger will plant a tree in the province where it’s purchased.
“Eco-conscious was something that we just genuinely, naturally cared about,” says Hirji of how the brand came to be. “Recycling every little thing, watching the waste that we had at the company — it meant a lot to a couple of us here.” Hirji says the brand is hoping to expand its efforts, exploring carbon offsets and community-outreach opportunities.
For Thorne, that shared commitment to reducing waste and growing greener is why he and Green Mountain signed up to grow for Treehugger.
“Their model fits right in line with what our core values are.”