The grass is greener in West River

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West River Cannabis gets license to grow

It seems that the Parker family has a green thumb you could say.

Mark Parker, son of West River Greenhouses owner Bob Parker, is bringing new life to the greenhouses in West River with his own green project. He has been working hard for the past two years to get a license from Health Canada to be able to legally grow and sell cannabis seeds and plants to retailers.

When Health Canada announced a couple of years ago that it was going to start opening up licences for smaller operations to be able to grow and sell plants to retailers and production facilities, Parker took interest. He looked into it initially but decided to wait for regulations to loosen up and go through the paces before he would get into the business.

As things changed a bit Parker began building relationships and filling out paperwork for nursery and micro cultivation operations run from the greenhouses in West River. After two years of working with consultants from the greenhouse and cannabis industries, Parker received his licences last April and May and has been through a full growing season so far, and is gearing up for the next round.

“It took two years from when we started to get the licences,” he said.

Initially, Parker said he was going to contact a bigger growing and production operation. But after attending a greenhouse owners meeting talking to a few of the other members who were going in consultation for the cannabis business he decided to go his own way, with the help of the smaller businesses.

“I’ve got a pretty good grasp on it,” he said about the process so far. Although it was a learning curve as far as paperwork and legal issues are concerned, he added that he had to hand it to Health Canada and other organizations for having a pretty clear process mapped out. He is currently working on a medical sales licence as well so he will be able to produce for all different streams of processing companies that distribute products.

As he gets into the beginning years of the business, Parker noted that he finds the market currently is looking for strains that have a high THC content, something that he is working on growing. Although high THC is where the demand is at currently, he is also excited about lower THC content strains and the variety of flavours that can be offered from them that can be enjoyed more than just going straight for high content.

“Hopefully as time goes on people will realize,” he said. In the meantime, Parker has been taking his time cultivating the best strains of his seeds and cloning the best of the best with each other to make new and better quality cannabis for his customers. He shared that as he puts his product out there more he has been receiving calls from across Canada and even overseas inquiring about his product and clones.

Parker has been sprouting his own seeds and currently has different strains growing in his facilities to crossbreed and clone. He then either sells the seeds or grows the plants large enough to put them in 100-gallon pots using True Living or Kryptonite soil from Nova Scotia. He shared that after that the next three months are spent watering the plants, plucking some of the leaves and spraying them with an organic compound to prevent mildew on the buds.

“By the time September hit it was time to start harvesting,” Parker said.

Before he is able to send his product off to processors it must be sent to Truro to be tested.

With the first crop from West River Cannabis sprouting last summer, Parker had his first harvest this past fall. Along with creating a job for himself he also hired someone else to help him out and was even able to hire the workers from West River Greenhouses to stay into the fall and help him trim and dry all the buds harvested.

During his journey through the first few years getting things together, Parker said that the community of cannabis producers has been more than welcoming in helping him get his feet off the ground.

“Most of the people in the industry are pretty good,” he smiled.

As for the growing part of the business, Parker shared that he has worked for his father at the greenhouses for 12-14 years so growing plants was certainly not something that was new to him and he also has his father’s knowledge of plants to help out if need be. Parker said he had been thinking about getting into the greenhouse business himself with one of his brothers but they ended up going their separate ways. That’s when he decided to go into the cannabis industry.

“Why not focus your efforts on something that we knew was a little more financially successful?” asked Parker. He is already planning on expanding and putting another greenhouse up to help him work his way to a higher yield in the next season. Although he did add that a lot of people think that once you get a licence it means you will make a lot of money, he said that like anything it is not without its challenges and does require lots of work to be successful.

Eventually, Parker hopes that those buying cannabis at liquor stores will be able to see ‘grown at West River Greenhouses’ on a package and know that it’s local.

“Our plan is just to continue to grow so that we can take over the rest of things from Dad,” Parker said. “I would like to have a breeding building,” he added.