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Shelton Mason County Journal
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Mason County Journal
August 28, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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August 28, 2014

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Page C-14 - Mason County Journal - Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 AT LEFT: Marijuana grows outside at Highwater Farms in the Skokomish Valley. AT RIGHT: The surrounded by an 8-foot tall fence and signs in accordance with the new state law regulating the commercial growing operation industry. Journal photos by Tom Hyde at Highwater Farms is continued from page C-13 "I wasn't really surprised at all -- I think they did a great job," he said. "I was impressed. "Everyone at the county has been super helpful. It's been a real positive experience." Browne is required to have 8-foot tall fences with security cameras. The plants can grow up to 6-feet high, he said. While waiting for approval, Fuhr, who has a background in marketing and mountain climb- ing, started a consulting business to help other commercial Cannabis applicants. Despite the difficulties, Fuhr said he's not giving up. "It's the mountain climber in me," he said. 'THE REAL MONEY IS IN PROCESSING' Growers and processors have varying es- timates on the costs associated with their en- deavors. "The real money is in processing," Fuhr said. "My focus has really been on processing - growing is the easy part ... The revenue (for a processor) is three to four times what a retailer would expect." Cannabis takes about a month to process be- fore it can be packaged. Marijuana loses about 80 percent of its weight in the drying stage, Fuhr said. After drying, the plants are cured in glass jars. Fuhr compared the curing process to the fermentation process with wine. "It goes into an environment where we have to carefully control the moisture and the light," Fuhr said. "Light hurts the THC (tetrahydro- caunabinol) -- it makes it less potent." Growers can monitor the THC content of a growing plant by using jeweles loops -- high powered magnifying glasses -- to look at tri- chrome crystals that form on the plant. When they go from clear to a milky white color, the buds are ready to be harvested, Fuhr said. "It's a very finicky process," he said. Agropack will likely hire about 20 people, nine to 12 of which will harvest the marijuana one harvest. He said the size of the harvest is by hand. difficult to predict. Larger operations might use trimming ma- "Growing indoor, your production cost per chines, but Fuhr said they can mangle the mare- gram has to be so high," he said. "My cost per juana buds. gram is pennies." "When you have a product that has the value He plans to find a "like-minded" processor our product does, it makes sense to have them who can help him market the distinctive prod- hand trim," he said. uct. Agropack recently had its packaging ap- "I think that's why (my application) got proved by the liquor board, pushed through so quick," he said. "Mine is so "Packaging is the biggest mystery for all of basic, so small." us," Fuhr said. "No one's packaged Cannabis Browne said another producer and processor like this before." told him that they plan to ask for $10 to $15 per Packaging at Agropack will also be accom- gram, or $300 to $400 an ounce wholesale. plished by hand. Fuhr said small packing ma- "Price to the public could almost double chines cost up to $25,000 and would have to be that," he said. "I will absolutely do my best to custom-made, make sure Highwater Farms Grade A organic Flowers must be in sealed packages, but ed- ganga is available at a reasonable price." ible and oil-based products must be in child- proof containers. Each container lists the $HE FUTURE percent of THC, cannabidiol (CBD) and total It's tough making a living growing vegeta- activated caunabinoids (TAC). The recipes for bles, Browne said. edible products must be approved by the liquor A new crop under high demand may be just board, what it takes to stimulate Mason County's economy and revive the sodden Skokomish Val- GOOD AS GOLD ley, he said. Agropack will likely produce Cannabis oil need to be realistic about the changing products, commonly known as hash oil, package land in the valley," he said. dried marijuana flowers and maybe produce ed- The Skokomish River, full of silt from moun- ible products, he said. tain runoff, regularly floods, making farmers' Fuhr said hash oil is worth "literally twice as pastures unusable. Farmers in the valley used much as gold." to have large dairy farms, but floodwaters re- Because the industry is so new, producer and duced the size of their pastures, making the processor applicants are learning as they go. farming unsustainable, Browne said. "I have been working seven days a week since Farmers began turning to vegetables and before Thanksgiving," Fuhr said. "I spent three other crops, but continue to lose land to flood- weeks in Colorado two years ago researching ing, he said. the marketcarefully." However, farming Cannabis outside can While the revenues are expected to be great, be very lucrative on a small amount of land, the cost to enter the industry is high, he said. Browne said. His patch sits on a quarter of an Fuhr said a minimum startup cost for a produc- acre. er and processor operation could be $150,000. "I think it's important not to forget it's a crop," Browne said he hopes to keep his costs low, he said. "I think by leading by example ... hope- resulting in an affordable product. He plans to fully the county and neighbors will see maybe grow for five to six months per year and make this is the crop that can save our way of life." "l have been working seven days a week since before Thanksgiving o=o s#eet three zeeks o[o 'a o years ago researchiHg the ma@e wrefUHyo" Steve Fuhr, co-owner of Agropack Minimum startup costs for a producer and processor operation could be $150,000, according to one grower. tiltl[iII Iilii [iiHi l[H Illi|lillfllll;ll Ii][ I!:[ ill i!tll | II i lU i I@ I II ] i i= =J .