Originally from Ventura County, Calif., Jason Evans spent his summers working on his family’s roughly 1,000-acre farm.
They grew various crops such as tomatoes, lima beans, peppers, jalapenos and more. “Basically, stuff that goes into salsa,” Evans says with a laugh.
Evans explains that after seeing his family’s stressors on the farm, he decided to go to college to study finance instead of taking over the family farm.
Upon graduating, he spent about 20 years in San Francisco in institutional fixed income, he says. He retired from that in 2012 and moved on to own two brick-and-mortar “soda pop and candy shop” retail stores. He had one location in Portland, Ore., and another in Palm Springs, Calif., he says.
“I was traveling between the two and not really enjoying it,” he adds.
In late 2015—following the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill—he decided to go back to his roots and co-founded Tweedle Farms with James Green.
Tweedle Farms, a cannabinoid hemp farm in Jewell, Ore., “has about 10 acres of outdoor production, 6,000 square feet of greenhouse production and 1,000 square feet of greenhouse propagation,” Cannabis Business Times previously reported.
Despite Evan’s background in agriculture, he still faced challenges during his early years of cultivation. Here, he shares his top insights and lessons learned to help cultivators increase their chances of success when they first get into the business.
1. Start Small.
Evans suggests starting small and producing minimal crop acres in your first year of cultivation to limit potential oversupply, which can lead to unsold products and unexpected expenses.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve got four acres, 40 acres or 400 acres; you can always produce more next year,” he says. “But if you overproduce, you’re going to create waste and endure [expenses]. A lot of people went through this in 2016, ‘17 and ‘18.”
As more farmers entered the industry in 2018 following the passage of the Farm Bill, oversaturation–especially in the CBD market—became a widespread issue in the industry.
RELATED: 6 Strategies Hemp Industry Members Are Pushing to Overcome Oversupply
“That year, there started to be a lot more farmers, and that put us into a glut because people overproduced, which also, in turn, kind of caused this delta-8 [THC] phenomenon because you had millions of pounds of unused biomass and millions of kilos of unused CBD isolate that needed to be monetized,” he says. “In year two, we overproduced, and we learned from that.
2. Know your climate, soil, water needs and genetics.
Evans says it’s essential to grow according to your location’s climate.
“Every area will have its own kind of unique climate, soil and access to water,” he says.
He uses the water drought in Oregon and California as an example. Where Tweedle Farms is located in Northwest Oregon, it gets its water from spring-fed ponds and has not been affected by the water drought; however, Evans says the farm still “takes steps to do water collection off of the roofs of the greenhouses and off of our utility sheds to have as little impact as possible.”
Evans says genetic selection is also hugely important, as a cultivar that performs well in one state may not in another. He also adds that knowing who you’re buying genetics from is crucial.
“You don’t want to buy seed from unknown, untested or untried breeders,” he says. “There’s a myriad of problems that pop up with seeds that produce flower that has too much THC, and it tests hot. [Or] if it’s listed as feminized, but then there’s an overabundance of males, and the crop gets pollinated and seeded, which completely kills your economic viability in the cannabinoid market.”
He also suggests diversifying your genetics, as it helps give species a better chance for survival.
“Never throw all your eggs in one basket,” he says. “Even if you only have a small patch to land, spread it out a little bit between a couple of breeders, a couple of strains, because you never know what’s going to work and what isn’t and if you throw it all into one basket, you may have a banner year, but you could also just have nothing.”
3. Know your laws, but also engage with your legislators.
Engage with your department of agriculture and state regulators, as they can be a valuable resource and help you meet your needs, Evans says.
“I think people have a kind of a misconception with local state and federal departments, and it’s almost an adversarial relationship, but they’re there to help,” he says. “I know that sounds kind of funny, like, ‘Hey, I’m here from the government. I’m here to help.’ But, in my experience dealing with whether it’s the ODA, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, or even the OLCC, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, I’ve had nothing but great responses.”
4. Engage with other farmers, trade associations and farm associations.
Evans says one of the most beneficial things he’s done for his farm is build relationships with other farmers in the industry. Whether it’s planting season or the middle of harvest, he says he is always traveling to different farms throughout Oregon or making an effort to call them.
“Build relationships with other farmers by calling them and saying, ‘Hey, what are you growing this year?’ or telling them, ‘Hey, here’s what I’m growing this year.’ So that you end up building a network and a framework on which you can all build off of each other, and then also use each other as support,” he says.
He adds that connecting with local trade or farm associations can also help connect you with other farmers in the industry.
5. Have a plan, but be flexible.
Regardless of what you’re growing for or where you’re growing, it’s always essential to have a backup plan, Evans says.
“There’s that old saying that ‘People don’t plan to fail, but they fail to plan.’ This is mother nature, and the market changes and the seasons change. So you have to have a framework in place,” he says.
“You can’t just go random and think you’re going to make money,” he adds. “You have to be adaptable, and you have to be able to improvise and be flexible with changing legislations, changing climate, any number of changes and not be so rigid that you stick to a plan to your detriment.”