High End Farms: Tier One Growing In Today’s Cannabis Market

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“I started to grow mainly for me,” declared Co-owner of High End Farms Haider Tareen. “I want to grow the best. I want to smoke the best, so it took me learning how to grow the best marijuana. What does it take for the plant to be the best? That’s where I started to focus everything.”

High End Farms did not officially open its doors until September 2017, but Haider had been planning his grow for years. “I started this a little bit late,” Haider said. “I’ve been in the game a long time with a medical company. I’ve been growing for a long time. In 2013 when the whole thing opened up for licenses, I said ‘it’s not going to work in Washington.’ I’m not going to get tied up and I was holding off on applying. Three months later they closed the window on producers and processors and I’m thought ‘I’m SOL right now.’ Then it was 2014 and said ‘I better get into this now.’”

Haider continued, “That is when I started to assemble my team and figure out the tier licenses and exactly what I was going to do. Finally in September 2017 we procured our license. That is when we got started. We started selling in January 2018. So we’ve been around for a little over 1 year. It is definitely starting to explode now, with 47 stores, and has been growing and growing.”

“It has been a challenge to understand the industry,” said Haider. “How to operate sales-wise and marketing-wise. There is a learning curve, but we have finally started to figure it out. Now it is all about big growing and building that growth.”

High End Farms is a fully built-out tier-one grow. They produce about 40 lbs a month in an environmentally-controlled indoor facility. “We are a bunch of scientists and engineers who run this place,” said Haider. We set this up in a very process-oriented way. We have our trimming line and our processing line. Everything is streamlined so that it makes sense and is more of a production. We put a lot of science and thought behind everything.”

Since High End Farms operates in the smallest growing space allowed, they achieve a high quality product using a scientific approach to growing.

“We run a very clean setup,” stated Haider. “I don’t like my grow rooms dirty. I run them like labs. The walls are all white. They are clean. Between every run we break everything down and bleach the whole room. It is very important to us to minimize pests and disease in the building. It is just easier for us to go pesticide-free.”

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Pheno-hunting

High End Farms have spent time developing their strains to produce a great quality product. One of their goals is to produce dependable strains.

“In the medical days, one thing that bothered me was that a lot of strains were called the same thing but they weren’t the same strain,” said Haider. “There were two completely different versions of Blue Dream. I started to question which were the real genetics behind these strains. That is when I started research into the breeders — research into my genetics to make sure every breeder I choose was running true genetics.”

“I run my own pheno-hunts and find my own strains,” said Haider. “We start from seeds and are looking for specific traits from the parents. If we don’t find what we’re looking for, we don’t release it. The phenotypes, the specific cultivars we are using, are distinct to our grow.”

Haider continued, “It’s like when parents have kids—not all the kids turn out the same. When plants have seeds, not all the seeds are the same, either. That is how you do a pheno-hunt. You grow the seeds, find the one you like best, and continue cloning that one to keep the strains alive. That is how we keep our strains around.”

“Everything in our grow depends on their phenotype,” said Haider. “I’m always searching for new strains, too. I’m always out there trying to find something new.”

CannaBiz Journal: How many strains do you grow here?

Haider: Right now we have about 20. That’s 14 staples and we mess around with trial runs with some others to see if they’ll make a stand in the market.

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CBJ: What is your favorite strain?

Haider: Probably right now it is Brandy Wine. It is one of our new ones. I knew that there were others out on the market. I tried all of those because I wanted to make sure that mine was going to be distinct and stand out among those.

The hardest thing about having a high-end brand out there is you have to find the things that make you stand out among other people. The Brandy Wine we have right now has a very complex palate to it. It’s a really nice one. It is one of the brand new ones. I tend to go after the new ones.

CBJ: Do you focus on one strain at a time or are they mixed up in the same growing area?

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Haider: They are in the same growing area. We monitor all of our plants at the end of the cycle during harvest time—their trichome coloring, terpene levels, and other characteristics, to make sure we are not growing anything like an extreme sativa that needs 12 to 14 weeks to mature. We pick sativas in a way that they are still strong but only [take] eight to nine weeks to mature. Our indicas are strong but we can push them eight to nine weeks without having problems with maturity levels. It works with one room. Normally I prefer three rooms, but I started off with this and this is the beast that I work with.

CBJ: How often do you harvest?

Haider: Every three months. We have one big room that is our flower room and that is what we harvest in a three-month cycle. We redo the flower room every three months. We have a veg room, also; that is where we keep our juveniles ready to go. Once the flower room is emptied out, the veg room goes into the flower room to fill that backup. Then the clones go in the veg room, and that’s when the cycle gets repetitive.

CBJ: Do you only do flower or do you process your cannabis?

Haider: We do ice water extraction bubble hash inhouse. That is the only extraction we make here. Our product menu consists of flower, pre-roll, bubble hash, and infused pre-rolls.

CBJ: What do you do for pest control?

Haider: We are pesticide free. My brother has been creating living soil. We introduce microbes and beneficial bacteria and things like that. They attack pathogens and pests in the soil. That is our number one defense against anything that tries to start. Anything that would make it onto the leaf we take out with predatory insects. We put in predator mites and beetles to use for any live things that would make it into the room, but soil is our number one defense.

It’s really interesting to create the beneficial or living soil. Nutrients break down faster; it makes the transport of nutrients into the plant easier. You focus on the health of the roots and the system. The nutrients we are using right now are Dominion Organics. We use their full lineup and are growing amazing cannabis.

It is a hands-on, personal approach to every plant. It is what I tailored my style around. To grow the best plants out there, you have to tend to each one individually. You have to be able to look at each plant. If you have a giant grow room and there is a problem with any part of it, and you aren’t paying attention to each plant the problem is harder to find. If you’re in here and you’re intimate with each plant it is much easier to understand just what the plants are doing.

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CBJ: How did you brand yourself?

Haider: It became apparent to me rather quickly that branding is extremely important in this industry. Get your brand known or all customers see is “there’s another farm on the shelf.” We have been working hard to get out there, which is the [difficult] part. You can spend all your money and go nowhere in marketing.

On a tier one grow, where we are on a budget, we have limited funds and have to spend our money where it makes sense. Get out to the customers. That is who you are really trying to get the brand out to. A Pepsi commercial doesn’t make you want to go buy Pepsi. It locks that Pepsi image in your brain, so when you go to the store you are more likely to buy it.

That is the goal that I’m trying to hit now. The goal of getting into more stores will always be there, but my goal is to get into peoples’ brains, so [we are] not just a new company on the shelf.

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CBJ: What do you do with your packaging?

Haider: Everything we do is nitrogen sealed. It’s an inert gas and keeps the product fresh for a longer period of time. The cannabinoids, trichomes, and terpenes all degrade with oxygen. If you can avoid packaging the oxygen, the THC levels and terpenes [can be retained]. Everything will mature without degrading in the process. We advertise it on our bags and put an N2 stamp on it. People ask “what’s an N2?” The stamp makes them ask the question.

CBJ: What makes High End Farms special?

Haider: What makes us unique is that we are a tier one producer—a tier one growing in an industry that is on a race to the bottom right now. Coming into it, I didn’t anticipate that. It was a huge challenge. Now you have tons of farms across the state that are struggling hard and dropping their prices as low as they need to drop them to get their products sold. And here we are trying to brand ourselves as a high-end product, introducing a product that’s new to the market at a high price. That is a huge challenge. You have to overcome two hurdles. You have to overcome the hurdle of the store wanting to pick you up and now you have to overcome the hurdle of the customer coming in to buy the high-end product [and picking yours] over the brand that they normally like.

That is what we are trying to figure out and get past. It’s working. We are starting to get the recognition and brand name known. But to start off, it was difficult to understand that demographic ideology.

High End Farms products are currently available in stores across Washington. Check out their website at www.highendfarms.com for a list of stores.