Farmers awarded New York State’s new conditional adult use cultivator licenses last week tell Grown In they’ll get THC cannabis plants in the ground soon, but most are likely to become extract rather than flower this growing season.
“I think there will be a lot of oil, extracted material and the flower will be short,” said license winner Seth Jacobs of Slack Hollow Farms in Argyle, NY.
“We’ll see a lot of product going toward extraction,” warned Kaelan Castetter of the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association. “I’m being cautious to growers: Don’t max out. Know what your market is.”
Last Thursday the New York Cannabis Control Board awarded cannabis growing licenses to fifty two hemp growers, all of whom by statute, had been operating for at least two years. The result, says Castetter, is a hardy bunch, most of whom survived the difficult, record rain growing year of 2019, “That was the boom and bust year in hemp. It inflicted a lot of pain in NY,” he said.
One of those licensees, Erik Carbone of Tricolla Gardens in Tioga County, says he’s going to be cautious in the first year of legal cannabis cultivation.
“It could be risky building infrastructure,” Carbone said. “We did not put a greenhouse on the property. We’re going to try and stay safe. We do have plans to get a greenhouse up later in the summer so we can be ready for next season. Full outdoor this year.”
Carbone and others warn that growing outdoors risks mold and biological contamination, and that drying and curing outdoor grown cannabis can be difficult. It’s a sure thing to budget for selling biomass for extract, while getting flower for sale by the end of the summer may be a bridge too far.
“We know that what we’re growing is not going to be enough to feed the wider market. We’re going to need a few million pounds of cannabis to fuel the whole market. With a few dozen farmers we won’t come close to those numbers. If, at the end of the day, it’s not a great season, farmers will still be able to sell biomass for the extract market,” said Carbone.
Both Jacobs and Carbone have received offers to buy their farms, for “sizable offers”.
“It’s been pretty predatory from what I know. There were people that wanted to talk but we’ve had our game plan for some time now,” said Carbone.
“It definitely put us on guard for sure. It educated us and got us to think about what our vision for the farm was. It was a lot of money,” reports Jacobs, who said it would be hard to imagine leaving the family farm for any amount of money – and anyway, he’s got a plan.
“We’re going to try and use the high prices we can expect in the first couple of years to build it out, and then cash flow it and see how it goes over time,” said Jacobs.
“These are high quality, sophisticated operators. Them getting licenses is a positive thing for the cannabis industry. It might take a year or two or three for them to hone their systems,” says Castetter, who lobbies Albany on behalf of growers and already has concerns with the new license system.
“I’m concerned the [Office of Cannabis Management] has tied their hands to build out a more controlled environment with artificial lighting,” he said, referring to a stipulation in the enacting law that limits conditional cultivation licenses to just 20 lights. Also, growers have to submit a security plan within 30 days of receiving the license.
“They have to have a physical barrier, we know that,” he said. “There isn’t much guidance for what that security plan might look like. The way the guidance has come down for compliance is not detailed enough. There certainly is also a lack of guidance on the type of records they need to be keeping.”
Meanwhile, growers are wondering where their product will go, since right now only Registered Operators, who grow their own supply, have operating dispensaries. The state has yet to stipulate how to even apply for a dispensary license. But aspiring dispensary licensees are excited nonetheless.
“We look forward to partnering and collaborating when we get our license and to showcase them in our dispensary,” said Osbert Orduña, owner of The Cannabis Place, a Long Island company that plans to apply for a dispensary license.