Cannabis Business Hours regularly surveys cannabis growers to learn more about how they’re managing their grow operations, including top tips for success, tools and technology they couldn’t live without, and how to deal with constant challenges like burnout. In this episode, Joe Gibson, Head Grower at Gibby’s Garden, describes how he took his skills from growing at home to a professional level. Read more about Gibby’s garden in CBTDecember issue.
Surname: Joe Gibson
Company: Gibby’s garden
Location: Uxbridge, Mass.
Title: chief breeder
Indoor, outdoor, greenhouse or a combination?
Q: Can you share a bit about your background and how you and your company have come to this day?
A: I am a cannabis enthusiast with a family that has great home gardens. When ownership and home growing became legal, I started growing. When we first started talking about getting into the industry, I took home growing to the R&D level and experimented with different lights, nutrients, etc.
I attended the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis in Massachusetts and traveled to Colorado and Oregon to check out the legal industries that are already at play. Through my research and Mom’s (Kim Gibson’s) design and building background, we began planning the grow facility. I focused on the components of the build and my people did the license and permit kits and contract work.
We started to become a licensed facility in 2017, applied for our license in 2018 and fully licensed in 2019. As of January 2020, we are one of Massachusetts’ original recreational facilities. Proud of our premium flower, we’ve added whole flower-infused tinctures and live rosin.
Q: What tool or software in your cultivation space can’t you do without?
A: I can live without much. However, the girls (aka the plants) must carefully control their surroundings. Temperature, humidity, lighting, water, and nutrients are all critical. The greatest tool, however, is the lighting. That [LED] The lighting system I use has a high level of control on each tiered rack, allowing me to control the PAR of the lights as needed for the age and loading of each batch. The system also records performance and environment over time, which I use to interpret variances in test results and more.
Q: In the last six months, what purchase of $100 or less has had the most positive impact on your business?
A coffee! Also high-end extender clippers for defoliating in the shells.
Q: What cultivation technique are you currently most interested in and actively learning (most)?
A: Timing and methods for proper defoliation and topping to achieve maximum bud count and weight. I’m also researching rising terpene levels associated with the drying and curing process.
Q: How did failure or apparent failure prepare you for later success? Do you have a “favorite mistake” of yours?
A: My first clone batch was a fiasco. I transferred my experience from our home grow of 16+ plants to our first plant batch of 120+ plants. I changed too many variables – plastic pots instead of cloth pots, full coconut instead [potting mix], and make large reservoirs of nutrients. The plants suffered. But with the help of a more experienced breeder in the industry who gave me generous time and advice, I finally figured out how to bring them back and they grew healthy. I’ve learned two things: control the variables in slow, one-time changes, and be generous with your knowledge when you can help someone else.
Q: What advice would you give to a smart, dedicated breeder about to break into the legal, regulated industry? What advice should you ignore?
A: The cultivation industry is very data-oriented. Data is a helpful tool, but in a little cultivation there is an opportunity to focus more on the girls. If they’re not ready to harvest yet, give them a little more time. If a strain starts drinking more, pay attention and respond.
Dates matter, but this is your grow, and what and how you grow is a fluid activity. It must be because we work with living beings. The freedom to do this will make everyday life a lot more comfortable, I would say, for the producer and the girls.
My opinion is to stick with strong genetics rather than keep introducing new genetics.
Q: How do you deal with burnout?
A: Mainly keeping busy. I imagine that tasks in a small grow will change more frequently than in a large grow, so there is less opportunity to get bored or complacent. Because we are working with a living plant, there is a caring attitude that drives the constant work. And then of course we grow cannabis, so [there are] Benefits grow and after. Naturally, [I] Use the product to relieve stress!
Q: How do you motivate your employees/team?
A: Mixing up day-to-day tasks and encouraging pride in all aspects of crop handling. All workers are valued at the same level, whether they’re watering, trimming, or assembling deliveries. Quality control samples according to the regulations also help.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: The Head Grower’s responsibility to grow the best flower for consistent sales to support the business.
Q: What helps you sleep at night?
A: We know the quality of the flowers we grow.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited slightly for style and clarity.