By Mat Lee
In the beautifully quiet, tree-covered hills of Monroe, Oregon, you can find the gates to Apollo Grown. The farm is nestled comfortably off the beaten path, where the pavement ends and the dirt does double duty, guiding visitors down and around washboard-laden twists and turns until eventually, you are greeted by the Pegasus.
Andrew Felperin and Jared Dellinger started legally growing under Apollo Grown brand on August 3, 2016, when they were finally granted a license as a recreational producer in Benton county. Andrew Felperin says, “It’s a rough little rocky start just because we got it late, which is kind of how it works. But yeah, it’s been going really well; the plants have been loving it. They’re … close to finishing, so it’s been a fun ride.”
Apollo Grown is headquartered in an gorgeously epic, multi-level farm home on 22 lush acres, complete with shops, garages and everything else one might need to conduct business in Oregon’s cannabis industry. The company was founded on the foundation of sustainability, keeping it organic and high quality. They strive to grow the best all natural grown cannabis they can.
A critical difference between Apollo Grown most cannabis companies is their branding approach. “Many cannabis companies are focused on a grow as-much-as-you-can sell, as-often-as-you-can approach,” a common mindset and objective back when cannabis was in a illegal or in a legal gray area.
Now that the industry is growing faster than the smartphone industry, people are going to need focus more on brand recognition and company image. This is one of the main reasons that Apollo Grown wanted to apply the theme of Greek mythology to cannabis. The god “Apollo” represents medicine, music, art, beauty and sun. These five attributes can play a vital role in the cannabis industry.
“With this image we’re creating, it definitely makes things quite fun,” says co-owner Jared Dellinger. “It means that besides spending so much time in the laboratory and garden sweating our tails off, we can at times kick back and share some excitement and innovative ideas on how we would like our demographic of cannabis buyers to enjoy our name and products. Plus, who doesn’t like the history of the Greeks; they were a tough group of inventive people.”
Apollo Grown plans a line of clothing using their unique marketing approach, as well as a few new cannabis strains relating to the Greek gods. Apollo Grown isn’t in any stores yet, but soon they will be everywhere and the buds are looking fantastic. Andrew says, “We have some Thin Mint coming, Banana OG Kush is coming, some Sweet Kush, Cali Kush’s, even some more OGs. Just a whole assortment of good stuff coming out. We’re … getting our processing license, so we’ll be producing and processing every type of cannabis we can get our hands on. Right now we’re trying to focus on getting our cartridge game going.”
In an industry with drastically different laws and regulations—depending on where you happen to be—it’s important to look at the big picture in regard to what you would like your cannabis company to be. Oregon and Alaska allow vertical integration, which means you can completely control every aspect of your cannabis business, from seed to sale and everything in between, if you so choose. Not only can you grow the cannabis, then extract it and refine the oil into a product, but you can also be the storefront that sells that product to the end user. Sure, not everyone wants to do all of that, but it’s important to have the choice.
Washington does not allow that choice. There is no vertical integration, so you can only operate certain parts of the business—you can’t do it all. Andrew says, “We’re very lucky to be out here … in a beautiful part of the country. Oregon has the ability to learn from a couple states that have done what they’ve done before.”
Being from a family with deep roots in the northern California medical cannabis scene, they decided to make the move to the Oregon market—a market full of options where, out of all the markets so far, it’s been the most inviting.
Not only is Andrew a passionate cannabis farmer, he’s also a top shelf cannabis connoisseur. This is important for a couple of reasons. For one, people who don’t use cannabis, yet try to sell it, are more likely to be in the business for the money and have less passion for what they are doing. This can completely show through in their product. On the other hand, with a company full of passionate people who love what they do because they have a strong relationship with cannabis, that connection gets passed on and shines through in the end product.
As open as the Oregon market might be, a strict set of regulations dictates the images and wording one can use on their products. No longer will you soon find strain names like Dr. Who or Girl Scout Cookies; more than likely the abbreviations for such popular names will substitute. Apollo Grown is already taking that into account and going above and beyond the new regulations when they create branding designs for shirts and other products.
As far as growing cannabis, and the ideals Apollo Grown holds close, they are all about happy plants. Andrew says, “Our theory with cannabis is that you have to give it some love and TLC from the beginning. A happy plant from the beginning is going to be a happy plant at the end. We like to use as many bat guanos and other organic supplementations in the soil to give it what it is without giving it any type of synthetic nutrients or anything like that. We’re big into organic stuff.”
Apollo Grown is also all about farming and promoting good microbe growth in their soil. Andrew says, “When a lot of people grow marijuana, they want the plant to bring in all these nutrients. [But] the plant itself has all the nutrients in it; you just have to be able to tap into it. So giving it what it needs to build up a nutrient uptake system by also [using] readily available [nutrients] within the system is where the plant is going to thrive and become a beautiful tasting plant.”
Andrew likes to wake up with the Blue Hawaiian and end the day with Girl Scout Cookies (GSC), but this also depends on what’s going on that day. Sweet Kush is also a favorite. As far as growing, Andrew says, “One of my favorites is the cookie strains. I’m really starting to get into Sour Cookies. I have four of them over there in greenhouse 3. Those are really nice. I want to start getting into Animal Cookies; those are starting to get my attention. Thin Mints—there’s a couple Thin Mints back there too. Pretty much any type of Girl Scout strain....”
For the most part, Andrew says, the GSC phenotype is fairly generic. “You can obviously exacerbate certain things as you plant them, but I can do that with any phenotype.” For example, Andrew has a spot out in the farm with two different microclimates. Without using any nutrients, he can have two of the same plants on each side, with each getting its own climate control. This difference will cause expression of different traits and flavors. Once ythis cool, serendipitous change happens, you can choose the plants that are most appealing and continue breeding from there.
In the future, Andrew looks forward to building more greenhouses, getting the indoor grow operating and expanding the operation, while continuing to strive for the highest quality product he and his team can produce. He says, “I’m the green thumb of the group, but we definitely want to vertically integrate and get a retail store relatively soon. It’s one step at a time; you can’t always throw everything you have at it. Stick with what you’re good at and expand from there.”
For more information on Apollo Grown, check out their website at ApolloGrown.com.