Remember Wagner? He’s our head grower at our main farm. Now, we want to introduce you to Yoel. Yoel is head grower at our second Sonoma County Farm, LIG Remedies. Yoel’s been growing since a young age but actually came to Elyon after working in the world of cannabis consulting. In addition to his expertise in growing, his experience with compliance and his industry relationships are extremely valuable to the Elyon team.
How did you first get started as a professional grower in the cannabis industry?
Yoel: I loved weed. And I wanted to grow my own. So I popped a couple plants in my backyard…and quickly realized that you could put 12 plants in your backyard and make around $30,000. So I thought, maybe there’s something here. I was 18. I started growing, wanted to grow more plants so I bought some property in the hills. And I’ve pretty much been growing since then.
I went to college and I grew at the same time. I always felt like I walked on two roads. Growing really helped put me through college. It was always a priority but college was my biggest priority. I went to Santa Barbara and graduated with a bachelor’s in economics. I wanted to do something with that. And having a passion for cannabis I first worked at Green Rush Consulting in Oakland. I was like, oh wow, there’s cannabis consulting companies; this is what I want to do. I started there but Oakland was too far of a drive so I found 421 Group and joined them. I was really happy to be able to join the cannabis industry using things I learned in college. That was the foot in the door. We picked up Elyon as a client and did a lot of permitting and licensing work for them. And then the opportunity came up with Elyon where they were hiring for new growers. And that really being my passion I decided to apply. I’m happy I’m not spending a lot of time behind the computer every day. I like being in the field.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Y: It depends on the time of the year. Pretty much I go to Toley [Elyon’s third farm] first. Every morning, I try to get to the farm between 6:30 and 7:00 am. I do a little walk around there. Grab my coffee, drink my coffee. I look at my notes. I always keep a little notebook on me. I look at my notes from the day before. I look at what we’re scheduled to do for the day and reprioritize the tasks as needed. As soon as I get settled at Toley and everyone is good I head over to LIG. I’ve got a few of my more seasoned workers at LIG so I know they are already working. They know what to do. I come and check in with them, do a walkaround of the plants, take notes. I prepare feed and spray orders for the following day or that night and then usually head back to Toley. I probably spend about three hours a day on the phone – ordering stuff, canceling orders, changing orders.
What are the most important skills for you to be successful at your job?
Y: I think as a grower, the most important skill is adaptability. You’ve got to be able to adapt quickly. You have to wear a lot of hats. That’s the most important thing for me. I can build; I can do electrical; I can do plumbing; I can mix nutrients; I can look at leaf tissue samples. I think you really have to be able to do all of the above. I see a lot of growers spend too much time of their day focused on detailed work when they should be overlooking the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong – it’s really, really important to get your hands in the dirt and spend time working with the guys. I try to do it as much as I can. But I think always having that step back perspective is important.
And then show up for work. The plants are going to grow every day so a lot of growers will say I don’t need to spend time in the garden today. But the more time you spend with your plants, learn your plants, study your plants, study your property – the better you’ll be on that property.
You also have to care about your people. You have to know how to manage people. That’s important. I always try to get the guys to drink more water, take breaks. It’s not just about getting the work done. You have to take care of the people.
What’s been the most startling change since legalization?
Y: Working with the government. By far. Coming from consulting, it’s got to be the biggest bottleneck to any operation. Now that you are relying on the government to get your permit… just to get the local permit you have to wait who knows how long – years sometimes. And then you have to get the state license which can take months. You always have to have inspections going on. Which we’re ok with, but it just takes time out of my day when I have to do walk-throughs with them.
Any predictions for the future of the industry?
Y: I think its going to get more standardized and commercialized. People are going to accept it a lot more. I think craft cannabis will hold its name, even though people say it’s not worth growing for flower anymore and everyone should do extract. People still want to smoke flower.
More than anything, it’s going to go federally legal. That’s obvious. It will turn into a standard industry.
Do you have any advice for those new to the cannabis industry – first time consumers, home growers and those looking to get into it professionally?
Y: For new consumers, smoke flower. Don’t go eating edibles or getting wax pens. It will just turn you off. Flower is the best. Try it out, take a little hit. Work your way up to the stronger stuff. Also, try to buy from the dispensaries. As much as the price and taxes suck, support the legal industry. A lot of people in the legal industry are just trying to stay in and continue their craft.
For home growers, spend time with your plants. One hour to water your garden is not enough. Spend a lot of time with your plants. They feel love. They’re not like vegetables; they don’t just grow. Also, if you’re just growing a little bit of weed to smoke, try growing something organic. You’re going to enjoy it more and you’ll be more proud of what you grew. You might not get as big of buds or crazy high THC content, but it will be better bud. At the end of the day, it will smoke better.
For those hoping to break into the industry, be patient. It takes time. Get your foot in the door where you can. Look for companies that are just getting off the ground. If you’re going to be an operator, don’t manage it like you used to manage your dope farm. Run it like a business. There’s compliance, HR, billing, invoicing. It’s not a dope farm.
What is your favorite strain to grow? Is that different from your favorite to consume?
Y: Purple punch. It’s the most farmer-friendly strain to grow. Everyone’s going to hate on me for saying that. But you can just put Purple Punch out – it’s going to grow. It’s going to eat any food. You’re not going to burn it. It fights off pests. You can pull it at week six and half or seven. And I like Blue Dreams too. Blue Dreams are the biggest plants. But that’s another one that people will hate on me for saying. It’s very easy to grow. It’s a commercial crop. But when you’ve got 15,000 plants you have to make some commercial.
I don’t consume too much anymore, but there’s nothing like a really good OG. Fire OG is always really good. But really just any OG.
Y: Probably ice cream.
Y: I really like being outdoors. If I can smoke on the beach and then just pass out in the sand. Or paddle out and just pass out on the surfboard.
What are you most proud of as part of the Elyon team?
Y: Definitely the dedication of the work. Everyone is so dedicated: down in the office, everyone that does everything for social media and all the content; on the farm, all the guys that are working with the plants; the trimmers, I’m watching how careful they are with the plants. They’re looking at the buds. For them, it’s just money – the quicker they go, the more they get paid. But they’re really watching what they’re putting in and making sure they are doing the right strain. Everyone has a lot of dedication for their work. And that’s what really brings everything together here. Everyone we have on the team is here to get the job done. I love that.
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