Interview with Fish from Wild West Growers
Fish helps runs Wild West Growers’ grow in Eugene, Oregon. Wild West Growers has been in the cannabis industry since 1976 and they sell to over 100 dispensaries in Oregon.
It’s the Wild West out there!
Check out what Fish said:
Hi, I’m Fish with Wild West Growers. This is the 2016 outdoor season and we are here growing a lot of cannabis.
What size fabric pots are you using?
We chose to go with the 300 gallon pot and that is what fit us and the style that we’re growing in. It gives us a large root mass and plenty of height above the ground to get away from the gravel that we’re using. We had to come up with a good layout, something that accommodated our square foot space that we were using. So the 300 gallon is what fit for us.
Have you attempted to move a full pot?
I did on a couple.
How did you do it?
We did on a couple, but what we had to do was… we actually had to empty… we couldn’t move them when they were full. We had to empty them out halfway, drag them a few feet, and that’s how we kept our rows consistent. But, we’re going to keep them where they’re at and just put some cover crop on them in the winter time. Throw some worms, and let them eat up all the root mass and stuff and get it re-amended for next year.
Are you planning on reusing your fabric pots?
So, yes we are going to reuse these pots. We’re not going to… we have so many of them out here, kinda makes sense to keep them out, put a cover crop on them. Rexius provided us with a great quality soil, and so they’re also going to provide some amendments to help us reestablish the soil for next year, next growing season.
Do you prefer tan or black fabric?
I personally like the tan pots better just because of the heat factor. I mean if you were maybe going in the ground or something or had grass around it to keep the pots cool you might be okay. But I personally like the tan just because it keeps the root ball cooler. We’re on gravel as it is and so tan is what works for us.
What soil did you choose?
We chose to go with Rexius because they’re a local source of soil. They’re here in Eugene, Oregon as well. So, we’re also building a relationship with them. They provide a high quality product and it has allowed us to have a really great growing season.
Do you have any soil picking advice?
Look for something that’s sterilized. There’s a lot of pest problems out and a lot of that is transmitted through the soil, so something that I would really look for is a high quality soil that is a clean product, not just a bunch of bark and mulch that somebody has blended up.
What nutrients does Wild West Use?
We use a local organic company “Oregon’s Only” and they provide a high quality product to allow us to keep our soil and our microbials where we want them to be as opposed to some of the synthetics. And so, we try to keep everything as natural as possible and they provide that. So, that’s why we like to go with their product.
Any other amendments?
We use worm castings. We’ll use bat guano, we use a couple of other different products that have Mycorrhize, macros and azros, we make teas and that’s how we keep our soil where we want it.
What strains are you growing?
Um… jeez. I should know. We have… each row is a different strain. So, we have… basically two rows are one strain. So, we have 22 rows with probably a total of 14 different strains. We have one row that is a mixed strain, just kinda… this is a testing year for us and so we’re finding out what works, what doesn’t. But, we have the gorilla glue 12, the blue widow, we have LSD, we have ACDC which is a CBD, we have the pennywise which is a CBD, we have… jeez… pitbull, which is a 6 week strain so we are really interested to see how that works out. We have black jack, royal kush, lemon sour berry, cherry pie, and train wreck. So we have a lot.
Props to you for remembering that!
That’s why I was like “oh shit… the hard stuff. And that’s just here. Over in the greenhouses we have even a couple more strains. Gorilla glue 4, we’re doing another one full of cherry pie, green queen… jeez.
That’s a new name for the green crack? Green queen?
It’s the space queen and the green queen is a space queen and the green crack cross, so yes.
Are you happy with your property location?
We’re in a good place where we’re at. Actually, the sun goes east to west so we are prime-ly located in a good area. A lot of people, when you’re on a hill, you want that south facing slope so that you way you get that all day sun as opposed to being anywhere else on the mountain. But luckily we’re flat and we have great sun all day. It’s actually a pain in the butt. Wish we had some shade sometimes. *laughs*
Is transplanting part of your grow process?
We did transplant. We started in the 3 inch to the 6 inch, and then we went to a 2 gallon to a 5. And that’s around the time we start putting them outside to get them acclimated to the weather outside. And we went from a 5 gallon into the 300 gallons and that’s where we started our season.
When is the best time to transplant?
Here, we like to transplant into the final pots around the end of May, the 3rd week in may to the 1st week in June. And that’s what the optimal time for us here at Wild West is. And not just Wild West, in this area is what you get that from.
Where do you see Wild West in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, hopefully we’re not dealing with the federal issues that we’re dealing with now and we’ll be across the map. Wild West, we consider ourselves a microbrew. We’re not the Budweiser, the Coors light of cannabis but we want to be a Ninkasi or Hop Valley or something that’s a good great local product that people can rely on. So, I’m interested to see where this whole industry takes us and what the federal regulations allow us to do.
Where do you see the cannabis industry in 5 years?
5 years ago, if you had told me that I’d be doing this and getting an actual paycheck, I don’t know how much I’d believe. I was kind of against the whole legalization of it because I was medical for so long and thought that would effect my paycheck but now that we’re here where we’re at it’s amazing because you can be 100% legit and not have to worry about some of the issues that we used to face. Where do I see this in 5 years? I don’t know, I think the sky is the limit. I think a lot of it has to just do with the federal regulations and as soon as they allow us to do more then this is going to be a huge industry. It’s not going to stop by any means. The floodgate is open and we’re moving forward at a very fast pace.
How did you start growing?
It’s kinda funny the way I started growing. My mentor, a buddy of mine Steve, he’s been growing for 20+ years and I would go to his place, we’d be going… hanging out or whatever we were going to do. And before we’d leave he’d say, “hey, I have to water real quick.” So I was like, “Okay, cool”. I’d look in his room and I see all these pretty buds and it’s like, “Wow, he just puts water on them and they just grow like that. I’m sitting here smoking a joint and he’s watering and this is all to it.” So, finally I found a place where it would allow us to grow and, “Hey, buddy, let’s do it.” So, I had no clue as what it took to grow. I thought it was something that you just put some water on plants and they just are pretty and crystal-y. I had no clue that you had to become an electrician, you had to become a scientist, you had to become so many things… a builder, a construction worker, contractor. It wasn’t until I had to get up under a plant that I realized, “Holy crap. This is a lot of work. This is not just putting water on the plants like he said.” You get out of your room at 5, 6 o’clock in the morning… it’s like the sun is coming up, you go in when it’s dark time and you come out and the sun’s coming up. It’s funny, my uncle always tells me that I don’t have a job. This isn’t a real job. You put in as many hours as I do, it becomes a job. You growing 4 plants, that’s a hobby, but this is serious. So that’s kinda where I got started. And even with Wild West, I came on just to put a couple hours in a week. Maybe 20 something hours or so and they asked me if I wanted to do the outdoor. Sure, no biggie. I had no clue. I was thinking we were going to do more of a medical, 48-96 plants. An acre and a half later, 450+ plants out here, it’s a lot. It’s challenging. This was a learning year for us. This was the first year we had the discovery year, as we call it. Discovering what worked, what doesn’t work, what strains we’re gonna run for the following years. We started out in a greenhouse. This field was just a dirt field with a couple stumps and some trees and we put tree coverage all around, we had gravel laid in. We designed the layout of the field and so to watch the whole thing come together has been truly amazing. We started out and all we had… we didn’t have any watering systems in play. We didn’t really have a set plan of attack and how we were going to head this thing up. We only had, as far as our watering system, we had a 250 gallon tank that we were watering with a little pump each plant. Each plant was taking a gallon, two gallons of water. So watering at that point wasn’t a problem. To know, we have over 12,000 gallons of reserve water. We have 5,000 gallons of mixing tanks. Everything is plumbed in automatically so it’s a lot more automated than when we first started with a 250 reservoir that we could move around and refill with the water hose. Even as far as our scrogging systems and how we were going to trellis the plants out, that we had no clue. And so, it took meeting after meeting, discussion after discussion, to finally come up with the plan. We had a few errors that we made this year but like I said it was a learning year and all that’s done is made us a lot better for the years to come. It’s funny because the boss always comes out and I’m like, “Ah, are you happy with everything? Is everything okay?” and he’s completely content and happy and his thing is people can always come out and say you could have done this, you should’ve done this… he doesn’t care about that because what we have is in the ground, it’s planted, and we’re so much further advanced than everybody else that’s talking about it. So, it’s a lot of reassurance that just because you might not, I might not be happy with what we have as far as my own personal goals, he’s happy and everybody else that comes out here is happy with what we have going.
What sort of failures have you run into so far?
My first personal grow started out with 40 lights. That’s a huge indoor for not having a clue what you’re doing. And we had some issues. I had gotten some plants that had root aphids. And talking to, I don’t know anything about root aphids or any type of marijuana pest, and so talking to people, they were just freaking me out. “You gotta just kill everything, cut everything down.” And so, what that did is: one, it taught me a lot about soil, it taught me a lot about pest control, and just… I take every mistake or every challenge and turn that into a learning lesson. That’s the only way that you get better. Study the issue, study the sick plants, study whatever may be going on and move forward. So, with my first grow we had root aphids and we were so focused on the root aphids that we don’t realize what the bigger problem was. And the bigger problem was that we had cold air coming into the room that was just freezing everything. It was 30, 40 degrees in the middle of the night which is way too cold and the lights were off. And that’s what the true problem was, it wasn’t so much the root aphids. So we hack everything down and start from scratch, we sterilized the room and started from scratch with new soil and new plants and that was my first grow. And so, there’s a lot of trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with cannabis… or hand in leaf.
How often do you water your plants?
We water heavy one day, the next day we’ll water lighter. This time of year the temperatures are a lot hotter. And so, with our 300 gallon pots we can get away if we water them heavy today, we can get away with not watering them tomorrow. The 30 gallon pots that we’re using over in the greenhouses, those are drying out so fast that we have to water them everyday. Which is a good thing because it allows us to get more nutrients on the plants and more growth out of them, and so we like it.
So you like plants to dry out quickly?
When you’re using plastic pots, you hold all of that moisture and heat inside of the plant, but with the fabric pots you have air moving through there. You have all that water and moisture is able to evaporate and it allows you just to customize your plant instead of you having a waterlogged plant your plant is drying out more frequently and you can do what you want with it as far as feeding schedules.
Are you going to empty out the pots before reusing them?
With the pots that we have out here in the field, we probably won’t do that. We will probably put a bunch of worms and just re inoculate it for next season. But we have over by the greenhouse 28 or so 300 gallon pots and with those we will dump those out and check just to see how big the root ball has gotten, how much of the actual pot we’ve truly used. And so that’s what we’ll do with those guys.
Anything you would like to say to close out?
It’s been a great opportunity working with Wild West and I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to take care of their outdoor grow. And so it’s been fun!