Siskiyou Sungrown doesn’t look like a cannabis farm. The company takes the “sungrown” part so seriously that the property is missing the giant light-dep hoop houses that typically telegraph “pot farm” here in southern Oregon. In November with the crops already harvested, the farm is just rich rainswept soil, fall foliage, and a big wooden barn. It feels homier and more eclectic than one might expect from one of Oregon’s most prominent brands.
Siskiyou Sungrown is located in Williams, which is considered some of the finest cannabis farmland in all of Oregon. The farm is surrounded by forested hills and has an abundant source of fresh water–a particularly precious resource during these years of drought and fire danger.
Co-founder Cedar Grey was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and he’s been growing cannabis for a long time. “The first times I grew were indoors because of the illegality of it,” he says. “And then I started growing outdoors in the ‘90s and I realized how fun that was. Outdoor farming I just love. It’s great. It’s the way it should be.”
He and his partner Madrone started their business under Oregon’s medical law.
“The mission of Siskiyou Sungrown from the very beginning was to create the highest quality cannabis products for the health of the people and the planet,” Cedar says. To this end, they began producing Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) made from organic cannabis and extracted using certified organic alcohol. They developed a reputation for quality and integrity.
When Oregonians voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2015, the Greys bought their current farm and began setting up the infrastructure required to comply with the state’s rigorous seed-to-sale tracking system. They now grow two acres of cannabis on two adjacent five-acre lots. They typically grow 4,000-5,000 plants each season.
Regenerative organic agriculture is the name of the game here at Siskiyou Sungrown. They compost all waste, minimize water use, and employ powder nutrients whenever possible because it’s more economical and has a lower carbon footprint—shipping liquid nutrients around the world uses a lot of fuel. Cedar’s focus is on creating living soil that doesn’t need much help.
“We’re going to use practices that make this soil better every year, so that this soil gets healthier every year instead of more and more depleted,” Cedar says. “So there’s a more vibrant microorganism community in the soil and that allows the soil to not only grow better plants but to sequester more carbon in the soil, which combats global warming.”
To ensure soil health, they test about four times a year to make sure everything is copacetic. “We use all organic nutrients, and we just add enough to bring it into balance. We’re always adding organic carbon material in the form of cover crop…We heavily mulch our growing rows with rice straw and that rice straw breaks down into the soil and feeds the microorganisms.”
For pest control, they use preventative strategies to minimize the potential for infestation. “We have a lot of companion plantings. We plant perennial hedge rows and beds and annual flowers and vegetables around our fields,” Cedar explains. “When you’ve got a whole multitude of flowering crops, you’re inviting in a large diversity of insects. Sometimes we purchase and release predator insects around our fields. And those are the environmental controls that we take to try to prevent infestations in the first place.”
This year they grew about 30 strains to produce oils, tinctures, and gel caps. “Platinum Yeti is an old favorite of ours and we do a lot of breeding of it. We’ve been back-crossing Platinum Yeti to develop our own special strain. This year we crossed the Platinum Yeti with various other strains and one of our big favorites from this year is the Platinum Lemon Kush,” Cedar says, looking enthused.
The Greys like to focus on the essentials–which for them is all about stewardship of the land and quality cannabis. Their branding is simple and informative. The company employs fifteen people full time, and they no longer manufacture their own products.
“As the industry scaled up we realized that it’s hard to be good at everything. And operating a high quality laboratory facility in Williams was going to be very, very difficult,” Cedar says.
They found a third-party extractor they like a lot. From there the oil goes to a couple of other manufacturers who make the products. Their THC oils and tinctures are now available in 270 shops in Oregon, and their line of hemp-based products are available in other states as well.
Cedar says the brand may expand its THC line into other states if cannabis is legalized at a federal level, but until then, they’re focused on sustainable growth here at home.
“I believe that farming is one of the most wholesome and healthiest things we can do,” Cedar says. “I think being connected to our food and our herbs is a fundamentally healthy process. I think it’s part of caring for ourselves and caring for the earth and developing that relationship between ourselves and nature.”