Moxee, Washington is a small town located in Yakima County in spacious Central Washington. The area is little known to most but is a vital agricultural ground zero for the beer industry. Moxee is known as the hop capital of the world, the area produces around one-third of the world’s hop supply. The hop industry has been an integral part of the Moxee Valley for over 85 years, it took off when alcohol prohibition ended in 1933. Many hop operations are third or fourth generation family owned. Orgrow, one of the states largest cannabis producers has been operating since 2014. Their business has created a culture that honors Moxee’s hop farming history. The team at Orgrow is growing cannabis, post-prohibition, just like the OG hop farmers of the 1930’s.
Orgrow’s facility is at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by hop farms and spacious parcels of land. The facility itself was once a flower processing facility for the retail giant Costco. It’s a large, unassuming building with triangular roofs and huge garage doors on the front, and a main entrance that is similar to an office building. After signing in, our tour host Mario Gonzales, head of Orgrow’s sales and media, walked us upstairs through a door, the view behind that door is something that I will never forget.
Gonzalez took his first bong rip out of a six-foot bong before high-school basketball practice (and he remembers having a great practice.) Gonzales knew cannabis was for him from the jump. At the risk of sounding corny, Gonzalez told me he started willing his cannabis career into existence when he was eighteen-years-old. Gonzalez told his mother that cannabis would be legal in the future and that they should invest in that future.
Gonzalez now helps run an operation that produces anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds of cannabis every week and has major ambitions of capturing the attention of the Hispanic market to help destroy a negative stigma around cannabis that religion, politics, and propaganda have propped up for years.
(For the record, I don’t think that’s corny at all.)
When I walked into Orgrow’s main bay, I felt like James Franco’s character Sal from “Pineapple Express,” who just stumbled onto stoner El Dorado. With over 300 lights in the main room alone, the facility also houses 5 additional flowering rooms, a towering curing bay with flower strung up on pulley systems, reaching up 20-foot tall ceilings. A concentrate laboratory, pheno-hunt/experiment bay and an outdoor grow with 900 plants in the ground. There’s even a full-size basketball hoop in one of the empty bays, a callback to Gonzalez’s days spent stoned, draining three’s during basketball practice.
As massive as this operation is, there’s still plenty of unused space that they want to fill. Gonzalez talked about plans for eight more flowering rooms. I asked Paul, one of the owners of Orgrow, what the monthly electricity bill was.
“Oh, about $33,000 a month,” he said.
Orgrow has 41 strains in their lineup. Each strain starts as a hydroponically grown clone. Once the root systems are mature, they’re transferred into a cocoa growing medium for the rest of their lifetime. Every strain has specific requirements that the growers tweak and perfect over time. They had to use cocoa with the outdoor plants as well because the soil conditions were nowhere near suitable for healthy outdoor cannabis plants.
Orgrow has too many strains to talk about, but there were a few Gonzalez mentioned on the tour that stood out. Orglue and Ace of Spades are two of their flagship strains. Ace of Spades is a purple indica that with large spade-shaped buds. Orgrow is one of the few people offering this strain. Orglue is their rebranded GG#4, a strain Gonzalez believes is on the way out because of its oversaturation. Lemon Meringue, Afghan Cookies, and Space Candy are some of the new strains Orgrow has on deck that Gonzalez seemed excited about. Lemon Meringue is one of my favorite strains and it had all the skunky citrus and terpinolene goodness I expect from it. Look for these strains in brand new glass packaging this June.
The size of Orgrow’s facility didn’t hide its family-like atmosphere, something Gonzalez was quick to point out as well. Many of the workers have been in the area for over thirty years, they love the community of Moxee and are eager to do whatever they can to help the business succeed. Everyone helps where help is needed, whether it’s trimming or re-potting plants, nobody is above any task, and job titles are extremely loose. The goal is about constant and steady improvement on every level, however, they have to do it.
It’s a culture that reminded me of my Grandpa Olsen’s potato farm. I spent many days as a young child with my grandpa driving all over the state to check on his various plots of farmland. Sometimes he would simply check up on things. Other times he was helping fix machinery, running to grab parts, and driving the equipment himself with me on his lap in the cab. My grandpa is still friends with many of his farm hands to this day. He visits with them over coffee on a regular basis and gives them vegetables from his garden every summer.
It was Orgrow’s culture of improvement that led them to find a new extraction artist. The last person heading their operation was putting out poor products and it quickly soured Orgrow’s name on the 502 market. They knew a change had to made, and they found a gentleman by the name of Able Guevara who has completely changed their culture around concentrates.
“I was on the hunt for good oil,” Guevara said.
Guevara started running his own oil after he started dabbing and it was all gross. He started pressing his own rosin and open blasting, experimenting with methods and techniques. Like many great inventions, (penicillin for example,) some of Guevara’s best discoveries were by accident. Guevara extracts the oil he wants to smoke, and never wants to hear a bad product review get back to him.
Orgrow knows their concentrates weren’t acceptable at one point, but have since corrected course. They now produce eye-popping shatters, sugars, crumbles, and sauces that come in colors ranging from highlighter yellow to translucent amber.
Guevara and Orgrow want to help reverse the negative stigma around ethanol-based extractions and increase consumer education around the correct use of EHO products. Ethanol-based extractions have completely different profiles than hydrocarbon-based extractions because of the differing cannabinoid and terpene profiles left behind after the extraction process. This results in different looks, aromas, flavors, effects, and even how it burns when it touches the nail.
Guevara lamented about YouTube cannabis reviewers dabbing Orgrow EHO on red-hot nails that are covered in a black crust, then complaining about the taste or quality. Low-temperature dabbing and cleaning your nail in between uses are essential for experiencing the full potential of any concentrate.
Orgrow is looking forward to a large product release at Kush 21 in Burien this upcoming week, as well as future products such as cannagars, infused joints, and cannabis-derived terpene vape cartridges. Orgrow fully understands the mistakes they’ve made and is excited to change peoples minds going forward with a vastly improved product line, honesty, and transparency.
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