Meet the grower: Urban Farms
Last week I joined the folks at Main Street Marijuana and New Vansterdam on a trip to a new grower in Longview that they’ve both signed an agreement with.
The deal should bring prices down some once the grower starts harvesting in November, Ramsey Hamide from Main Street Marijuana said.
Visiting with the Griffiths family, who own Urban Farms, was really interesting. They have a great setup using LED lights, which seems to be an emerging trend among I-502 growers.
LED lights are less expensive than traditional lights and can be altered to mimic seasonal spectrums during the grow cycle.
Wendy Griffiths said it’s saved the indoor farm quite a bit on energy costs.
“We pay maybe a few hundred a month, but right now we only have a few rooms going,” she said.
At maximum production, the Tier 2 grower – which has 4 grow rooms, should end up paying about $1,000 or so a month for electricity, she said.
That’s pretty inexpensive compared with traditional lighting.
I did a profile on the farm that ran today in The Columbian’s business section. I’m attaching it below.
Longview marijuana farm is preparing for its first harvest
By Sue Vorenberg,
Columbian features reporter
Greg Griffiths has a warning for parents: Don’t tell your son to follow a career he’s passionate about if you’re not ready to hear his choice.
With a bit of a laugh, Griffiths, who with his family owns Longview’s Urban Farms, said that’s how his clan ended up in the legal marijuana business.
“I tell people, ‘Be careful what you ask, because when I asked my son what he wanted to do with his life, he said, “Well, Dad, I’m really passionate about growing marijuana,’ ” Griffiths said.
He first asked his son, Keith Griffiths, that question before Initiative 502 legalized marijuana in Washington.
At the time, Keith had been growing plants in California’s medical marijuana system, but he wanted to come home and start something new.
That idea, though, didn’t win parental approval the first time around, his father said.
“I said, ‘No way,’ ” Greg Griffiths said. “I told him, ‘That’s a gray area of the law, and we as a family don’t do gray areas.’ ” But everything changed on Nov. 6, 2012, when Washington voters approved I-502.
“After it passed, my wife and I started looking at each other, thinking, ‘Well, we have a grower, we have a (human resources) person (his wife, Wendy), and I’m a sales and marketing guy,’ ” Greg said. “And then we started seeing the potential.”
That started a two-year journey that will soon bear fruit — or marijuana flowers — when Urban Farms completes its first harvest in November.
But it hasn’t been an easy road.
One of the hardest parts was just finding a leasable space that would accept an indoor marijuana farm, Greg Griffiths said.
“We spent a lot of time in front of the (Longview) City Council,” he said. “The first time, they voted us down. We started thinking everything was over. But after a second meeting, they lifted their ban.”
Local service providers, like electricians and plumbers, have also been harder to secure than the family expected, Wendy Griffiths said.
“Oh, my God, we’re so discriminated against,” Wendy said. “At one point, I tried to get a quote from a service company, and everything seemed to be going well until they found out we were a cannabis farm. Then they wouldn’t return any of my calls.” Eventually, though, she was able to work around the problem, she said.
The warehouse, near the Port of Longview, now has four grow rooms and one large storage area. Building it out wasn’t cheap, and had to mostly come out of pocket because of banking regulations regarding marijuana, which is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance and illegal under federal law.
“It’s been an incredibly expensive journey,” Greg Griffiths said.
His son, as head grower, is working with more than 20 marijuana strains that will soon head to the shelves of Vancouver’s two recreational pot shops: New Vansterdam and Main Street Marijuana.
“When I was 15, I started growing,” Keith Griffiths admitted. “White Widow was my first strain, but then Pops found it and put it down the kitchen disposal. After that, I didn’t start growing again until I was 18 and down in California.”
When he told his father about his career choice, he wasn’t sure what sort of reaction he would get, but he said he’s happy to see how everything has progressed.
“When I-502 came out, I talked to the parents and they were totally on board,” he said. “I was very surprised and happy.”
Greg Griffiths said it’s been a huge learning curve for him to get over the stigma and come to terms with the marijuana business — especially since he’s not a cannabis consumer.
“I struggled with that, but I’ve gotten over it,” he said. “What really bothers me now is the hypocrisy versus alcohol, painkillers. The more people I met in the cannabis industry, the more I found that were incredibly responsible and productive. I started realizing we’ve been programmed to think a certain way about it.”
Wendy and Keith Griffiths both smoke, and both said they really enjoy tending to the plants. “I love it, it’s so calming,” Wendy said of her time growing plants. She added that she hadn’t smoked since she was young but came back to it after legalization.
Greg Griffiths thinks its a shame that the high prices of legal recreational marijuana — which have spiked in Vancouver at $32 to $38 a gram — have driven many people back to the black market.
“We thought it was important to work with retailers locally and also to keep prices down,” he said. “I think (the pricing issues have) been scary. I think we lost a lot of customers that went back to their underground dealers.”
One of the goals of the farm is to keep prices reasonable and to build a business that’s around for the long haul, he said.
That’s why Ramsey Hamide, a manager at Main Street Marijuana, said he’s looking forward to the new contracts with Urban Farms, which he said will lead to lower prices, that he and New Vansterdam have secured over the last month. “One of the reasons we chose them is that we all have a long-term view and a plan,” Hamide said.
Greg Griffiths also said he appreciates working with the two Vancouver stores.
“People think ‘Oh, the marijuana business, you’ll be rolling in dough,’ ” he said. “But it’s not that. Everybody is just starting out. And the only way this industry works is if we all work hard to make sure we do it right.”
He said he’s also thrilled to see the business turn into something his family truly enjoys — and is, indeed, passionate about.
“If you’ve got a son or daughter that wants to be a farmer, how do you do that today?” he asked. “Well, this is a family farm.”