“Green Acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land stretching out so far and wide
Forget [Milwaukee] and give me that countryside.”
Theme song to Green Acres
To find Cascade High Organics, I had to pass through a number of dim and boxy rooms in a large Milwaukee warehouse. Winding my way towards the grow space, I passed dusty stacks of conduits, racks of industrial lighting, and few signs of life other than an ominous black Lincoln idling like it was awaiting a hostage exchange.
The offices were cluttered. That’s because owner James Schwartz has one foot out the door as his indoor operation prepares for the move to a greenhouse garden west of Portland. Why the move? Is it the fresh air? The wholesome farm life?
Actually, the main reason is efficiency. “Greenhouses are 50 percent more efficient than warehouses,” says Schwartz. “We can’t create the sun indoors. We’re never going to recreate what Mother Nature has done.”
Dressed uncannily like Harry Dean Stanton in “Paris, Texas,” Schwartz immediately comes across as a sharp guy, more likely to talk serious farming and business than about terroir and his favorite strains for watching TV. Looking at his resume, he seemed uniquely suited for success in Oregon’s great cannabis game: nurse, political activist, administrator, and entrepreneur. Add to that some sophisticated farming skills and he looks like a strong competitor in this unique market.
As a farmer, nothing bugs him more than the unsustainable use of fertilizers and pesticides. “The way this industry has worked is by getting the fattest buds out of the smallest spaces. I don’t think that’s a successful model.” Instead of maximizing THC and CBD content, Schwartz is more interested in terpenes, the natural chemicals that give a plant its individual characteristics.
“This plant loves the natural and healthy living soil without added chemicals. To get those broad terpene profiles, you need to figure out the cultivation method that brings them out. And my experience tells me that’s done by raising the plants in a sustainable manner. I let the plants tell me what they want, rather than forcing them to be something they’re not.”
“This is an extremely energy and resource-intensive business, if you’re not already looking for ways to mitigate those expenses and costs, you’re not going to be around five years from now.”
“The best way to deal with pests is not to let them into your garden in the first place. That’s where I brought my healthcare background to bear. You need to use negative pressure to keep pulling fresh, pre-filtered air through the rooms. That saves you from having to deal with ninety-five percent of the chemicals people typically use.”
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