Top-Shelf Cultivation began in 1999 in Redding, CA. Their team was one of the first in the area to go fully indoor, and this was during the time when basically everyone was growing outside.
Back around the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s, everyone was growing outdoors or in a greenhouse. This was way before most growers cared about having a controlled environment for growing cannabis, or keeping the growing process at a food-grade level of cleanliness.
Top-Shelf Cultivation now has over 20 years of experience cultivating cannabis, not to mention selling it. Choosing to take the growing operation indoors, Top-Shelf started the first steps towards developing a commercial cannabis brand.
Around eight years ago, the head grower and founder of the brand had his son Kelsey take over and began applying everything his father had taught him.
With zero investors, they’ve been able to keep a steady hold in the ever-changing landscape of medical and recreational weed by pivoting and diversifying their brand.
There are several strategic moves Top-Shelf has made in order to get to where they are now. Just a few months into being fully operational in the recreational market, Top-Shelf has already won multiple awards for their Whoa-Si-Whoa strain.
Their victories are the product of a carefully drawn out plan for success that originally came from buying up a lot of licenses, opening their own retail space, and going on an enormous phenotype hunt.
Kelsey, Cultivation Specialist At Top-Shelf Cultivation—Exclusive Interview
What Was The Grow Like When You Came In 8 Years Ago At 18 Years Old?
Kelsey told me that his dad had been running things pretty much the same since he began the grow in 1999. He told me “he’d been growing the same strain for over a decade.” They now represent this strain as their Top-Shelf OG. “When I came in I tried to take what my dad taught me and expand on it,” Kelsey said, “so I took us on a pheno hunt.” This pheno hunt, or R&D, would go on for two years as Top-Shelf found their hallmark strains.
How Did You Find Your Strains?
When you’re operating out of California you have the convenience of High Times Cannabis Cups. Growers, seed-makers, and cannabis enthusiasts come from all over to participate in High Times’ events. “I basically went to all of the High Times Cups and a few shops up in the North Bay Area to get clones and seeds.” When you’re hitting up one of the premier showcases for growers you practically have the pick of the litter when it comes to fire strains. This is ultimately where their award-winning Whoa-Si-Whoa came from.
Where Did The Whoa-Si-Whoa Come From?
The Whoa-Si-Whoa strain is Top-Shelf’s breadwinner. It took them home first place for Best Indica Flower at the 2019 Central Valley High Times Cannabis Cup. Kelsey said he actually got it from a High Times competition from the folks at Cannarado Genetics. “There’s a lot of limonene and pinene in it. And 3.59 percent natural terps.” He went on to say that there are so many varying responses to the strain that it further proved the quality of the cultivar. “Some say it makes them super uplifted and ready to write an essay, while it puts some people on their ass.”
Why Did You Open Your Own Dispensary?
Kelsey told me that their retail sector is a completely separate part of their business. “We get most of our direct feedback on genetics from our first store in Long Beach.” He then told me about how they first launched their own product in that store. They’ve since gone on to have shelf space at over 100 shops across California. “We opened it to experiment with what the customer wants, needs, etc…” he told me about their initial location. “We’re in here every day getting automatic feedback.”
Kelsey told me that they’re “working on a license out in Anaheim right now to get one more retail spot.” Top-Shelf busies themselves with diversifying their portfolio so all of their eggs aren’t in one basket. They are able to stimulate and grow their business from the producer/processor end, as well as from the retail side.
How Much Space Are You Currently Utilizing? Will You Expand?
Kelsey told me they currently have capped out their tier-3 indoor grow with a 10,000 square-foot canopy. He went on to say that they have “three separate licenses for about 800 lights a piece” at different locations nearby the original grow. “So we have about 50,000 square feet of grow coming up soon; all indoor,”
Kelsey said their goal is to ultimately have a crop coming down every week once they have all three facilities running.
Do You Have Plans To Extract Oil?
“We’ve been growing for 20 years, and extracting for about 15,” Kelsey said. “Anything from shatter to distillate, even to high-end sauce…we’re just now experimenting with rosin and solventless.” He went on to say that they’re currently in the process of coming out with a line of live-resin cartridges and rosin.
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