Interview with Berto from GFarma in Calaveras
Berto Torres is the Chief Operations officer of GFarmaBrands. He is in charge of grows all over the west coast, including this one in Calaveras, California. We were able to meet up with him at his Calaveras grow and ask him some questions. Here is that interview, in full!
Words from an Industry Leader
Here’s what Berto had to say
My name is Berto Torres, I’m the COO of GFarmaBrands. We’re a company located out of California. We’re currently sitting here in, one of our farms in Calaveras County, it’s a 22,000-square foot commercial cultivation property.
Why are you using 45 gallons?
So we’re, you know, I know it goes against the standard method as you, especially in Northern California, Nor Cal mentality, everybody grows bigger 400 gallons, 500 gallons I saw some 600 gallons this season. That really is a function of that fact that we’ve traditionally or up until this year we’ve been a plant-count state. So, when the county gives you the privilege to be able to grow, your kind of stuck in that parameter of “Hey I can only grow 6, 12, 18, 24 plants” and we kinda looked at it from a totally different aspect and looked at it more along the lines of a commercial scale ag mentality where we thought were gonna use smaller pots in order to create more density and if we lost a plant we weren’t losing these 10-12 pound plants we were losing you know 2-4 pound plans verses these big giants, less soil usage, consumption, easier to irrigate, a number of reasons. And then that was for starters the one of the biggest things about it that we did was you hear the notion saying “the bigger the fruit the bigger the root” and our mentality was that if we can get that bag to almost be nothing but roots, we’re almost straight feeding causing a much greater fruit at the top. So I know that’s not traditional thinking but that was our thought behind it.
Why did you choose tan fabric?
Just because of the heat, try to keep the heat off it. You know, Calaveras will reach upwards of 100 degrees and in Washington also where we use Grassroots pots, we’ve clocked days that are 116-117, it’s a very arid, desert like climate. As a matter of fact, it’s called the “Palm Springs of Washington.” It gives you an indication of what we’re dealing with over there. So we wanted tan pots to have the pots be in a cooler climate and not have to go back and backfill with hay. Everything we do, is really trying to scale up and take labor and hands off the end product.
How did you choose your soil?
Basically, having grown for the first time, one of the biggest issues that I had was the soil ended up compacting on us and that was a function of not have enough aeration, not having enough whatever it is you might use like vermiculite, perlite, rice hulls just make sure that it drains very well. That’s the number one thing because that year we did a massive grow and the yield was extremely affected by the fact that it wasn’t for a, nonscientific term, it wasn’t “fluffy soil” so we like soil that drains extremely well so we can run nutes through it and not have any lock out on the plants as far as Ph or overfeeding. Yeah, so I would say, make sure that soil drains very well.
How did you chose your strains?
As far as GFarmaBrands goes, we have a pre-rolled joint that is infused with some liquid Gold Co2 Cannabis oil. In going through and choosing the product line and the cultivar that run for that product itself, we have seven strains that we’ve tightly kept the ID but everything for the actual pre-rolled materials chosen based on, potency, yield of course, fan leaves, so you know we do have families of OG’s running in there all our products are sold in three classifications, which would be Indica, Hybrid and Sativa. Not cultivar specific which this year we are gonna introduce a couple lines where we’re unveiling I think another seven strains and they will be strain specific. But as it is right now everything we do everything is based really on a scalability mentality ease of it, we run a test bed as far as it being how do we ward of its natural enemies or natural predators be it mites, broad mites, thrips, powdery mildew. Everything we did we bred through and introduced them to different climates to make sure that we were getting a consistent product in the end, year after year and that we weren’t dealing with all these biologicals. Our IPM’s is why we use a lot of synthetics our IPM’s are organic and we don’t really, we’re not the guys that are gonna get mites and introduce Avid to the product and you know we, in California especially, we self-police because it’s not something we have to do here. In Washington, you can’t cheater products. You can’t use Eagle 22 on the indoor, because they do test for pesticides. If any of that stuff is found to contain any of that, then that’s just product that’s destroyed can do anything with it. So, we’ve adopted that complete mentality in the State of California also and as we move forward to, even with states that don’t allow it, what we’ve learned here in Cali and from especially in Washington, we apply state by state with the mentality that hey you know what some my growers test that product and check for it and we don’t want to be found to be in noncompliance. So, we self-regulate ourselves even when we don’t have to.
What made you choose this property?
Really the factors that we were looking mostly for sun. If you look at our grow it really looks like, a little valley was formed, a bowl, for the lack of a better word. And that was just basically set by the property boundaries. Calaveras is very strict on this as far as being 75ft from off the property line. So, we have to take that in consideration in the placement of the grow itself and also not to destroy existing plants. We have beautiful Oak trees up here in Calaveras, we don’t wanna destroy any of that stuff and it ended up being what you see now. Unfortunately, I probably would’ve picked the nice, flat, top portion of the property, I just couldn’t do it. You take the good with the bad and regulations you know for the thought everybody bitches about them, it still gives us the opportunity to do what we love to do you know. Which is key here, and that’s it. It’s the biggest point, you know, you talk about regulations with people and everyone kind of up in arms about it, they don’t want to hear about it. Because we’ve been this grey market for so many years. But it’s a beautiful thing then to be able to sleep and at night and know that you’re not gonna be raided, now is becoming an industry. Especially in California, it’s always been an industry but now it’s gonna be a regulated industry. And, wow, it’s a pain in the ass dealing with the property boundaries and stuff like that. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to grow and like I said man, I consider it a privilege. So, we thank Calaveras County allowing us to do what we did this year. We did our fundraiser here for one of our local Board Heads for reelection and you look around and it’s like 3-400 grows around and everybody knows each other and it’s a really tightly knit community. You know just, it reminds me of like a Humboldt that old school community I know people complain that it’s not as much anymore but I definitely felt like Calaveras when we first moved up here it was almost like everyone up here knew each other. Which is really neat. That’s the environment you want to be in because everybody looks out for you. We’d be driving by, we’d have others growers come by and tell you, “Hey there’s are car out there, it looks kind of sketch. I don’t know if you want to tell you guys to go check it out, it looks like he’s trying to look over your fence sign.” So, you know there’s definitely been situations like that, besides everything, farming is farming at the end of the day you have all these elements that are either for you or against you. You can lose your crop because of rain, you can lose it to natural predators, you can lose it to everything that can happen. This year thankfully they’ve eliminated the enforcement aspect of it as far as losing it like that and now you have to worry about theft. So, that’s the last enemy as we come into harvest that makes this community different I think most. Because everybody kind of on the lookout for each other as far as that last enemy which is the thieves and the guys that want to take it when once its’ done.
Is there a difference between growing for flower and growing for concentrates?
Yes, there is! Namely what we do is, when we do cannabis for our…it’s basically is just like choosing what we do for our pre-rolled, fan leaf production comes into play, potency and yield for us and then of course natural predators. When we’re doing it for concentrates we heavily go for strains that have low fan leaf content, very consistent yielders and more than anything potency. So, we like strains that will consistently test over 25-26% for our concentrates. So, we’ll keep that in mind while we’re choosing it. And we’ll dedicate a quarter of the crop to that. Quarter to 30% of the crops to extracts or extracts in mind.
Are planting times different between Calaveras and Washington?
You know it’s gnarly! It’s completely different. I was talking to some Oregon guys too that were in Lake County back in the day with us and they set up a forty thousand plus square foot grow in Oregon also and you know, the harvest is quicker down here. The photo period is completely different. We’re getting ready to start harvesting now. Washington is about 10-17 days behind us. But it’s definitely different, we lose light a lot faster than they do, we are pretty low on the horizon line there. So, that is the biggest thing we had to get used to is that here we always talk about first week of October, second week of October target date and there it always seems to go into that third week. You know, by the time we’re done pulling. But yeah, the last year we got in extremely late in ground. We were awarded a license there I think it was August 24th and we planted the last plant there September 3rd. So, like I said we ran, I think our final pull there was October 25th. It was a very short season, but it was a late harvest. And we’re seeing that again this year. Plants, it doesn’t matter what cultivar your running comparatively speaking cause we running the same here as we are in Washington to keep the product consistent you will see roughly a week to two weeks behind over there.
Do you tend your California plants differently than your Washington plants?
You know, our goal… when I went to school I heard a crazy quote that we’ve kept from the moment that we started growing especially the indoor side and the outdoor side, we spoke about consistency. And everyone always asks what makes us different from everyone else, and it’s the consistency of the product. The quote that I was referring to was, we were working on a marketing campaign for McDonalds in school, and all these ideas were going to be handed to them, and the guy got up there and he said you know the crazy think about McDonalds or any fast food chain for that matter, or high quality restaurant, is that you can literally buy product in California, drive clear across the country to Florida and return it to the person, the cashier, and they won’t know the difference. That’s how tight your consistency is and that’s really where we strive to be. You know we want to be that consistent product across the board everywhere.
Do you plan to reuse the fabric pots?
Definitely! It depends on how the condition of the soil… we’ll go through and test it at the end of the season and the we’ll introduce… if we decided to use the same pots the very first thing we do is we go through and clean them all out. Clean out the root substance out of it and then give them a nice… desalt every single pot. We’ve had times where we’ve gone through and just taken them to a laundry matt and just basically rinsed off and leach everything off of it with just water cycles. So, yeah. The advantage is huge, right? It’s a cost of goods, going back to the cost of goods thing, right? We don’t have to go through and… we like to empty out our pots and redo them with the new medium but we have in Washington this year we might have run 4 or 500 test pots with the same medium and introduced beneficial into it this year to see how it reacted and as far as physical appearance of the plant, we haven’t seen a difference. But they are also our test plants so we will see what they did as far as inputs go in final chart check profiles and things like that so…we don’t expect to see anything different so, we’ll let you guys know.
Where do you see the Cannabis Industry in 5 years?
That is a great question. I was just having the conversation yesterday with Anna Gonzales who is the founder of GFarma Labs and it hit me the night before our goal as a company is to really get up there in terms of valuation of over a billion dollars. You know you say that to people and they kind of scoff at it, but we’ve heard that the whole time since we launched the brand, you know you can’t do this you can’t do everything you hear. I think that in terms to see that become a prophecy as I sit here and speak, you need regulations. For as much as people don’t want them in order to make this a true industry and push it forward you see it in Washington, you see it Colorado, you definitely need the regulations. I don’t see it being deregulated as far as on a Federal level but once that happens you’ll see these massive evaluations on people that control market share. 5 years from now hopefully, I hope that California figures it out and as MRSA or Alma or rec comes in, that they would fast track in and make it so that all these rules will be implemented and done in an efficient manner that could be enforced and keep it clean and keep it safe and consistent products on the shelves. That’s what I think everyone should strive for. So, five years, I hope we’ll see regulations in California. I know they are on the way I know they’re coming, we’ll see regulations are actually implemented and enforced. That’s what I think of Cali. I think that in five years I think at least 10 more states will fall into the rec program. So, we’ll see. We will see a fast track of growth. And right now, we’re at a tipping point. A year or two from now, once California goes and if they can make it work in crown jewel of the United States, you’ll see a tipping point go across the whole United States and it’ll be massive. That’s what’s coming, that’s what I see in the next five years. I don’t see it being legal, federally, but who knows.