Logan Osenga is the proud owner of 600 pot plants. Well okay, technically they belong to his mother/business partner Theresa Stephens, seeing that her name is on the license. For Stephens, investing in a recreational pot farm seemed like a logical retirement option, and Osenga ultimately opted to split the cost instead of further pursuing a career in nursing, his second passion. Being the go-getters they are, Osenga and Stephens obtained the first recreational producer license in Benton County, along with an 11-acre plot of land they now call Half Moon Bend Farm.
Half Moon Bend Farm is home to three greenhouses and 600 bona fide, organic cannabis plants, divided amongst 25 strains. Currently, Osenga and Stephens are in possession of a Tier I license, which allows them to grow within 20,000 square feet of canopy. Growing on the entire property would require a Tier II license, but for now, Osenga dedicates some spare space to a garden of organic fruits and veggies.
Investing Big in Pot and Knowledge
Breaking into the weed biz was a logical next step for Osenga, who prior to going recreational, grew medical marijuana on and off for 10 years. Since Osenga and Stephens, only a handful of other recreational pot producers have cropped up in Benton County, which sounds surprising, considering the rising cultural acceptance and lucrative nature of the marijuana industry. However, owning a pot farm requires not just a pretty penny – Osenga and Stephens’ initial investment totaled to about 200 grand – but a wealth of obscure knowledge.
Osenga admits to spending at least an hour a day doing research, noting a scarcity in online resources. There’s no ‘How to Grow a Pot Farm’ user manual, presumably because, like Osenga, those putting in the work are pulling 16-plus hour days, seven days a week.
Oddly enough, Osenga gleans most of his information from major tomato producers, since marijuana and tomato plants share many similarities. “From a growing perspective, [marijuana] reacts in all the same ways and needs all the same nutrients [as tomatoes],” he says.
More than money and research, a recreational producer license requires a hefty pile of paperwork. At the end of 2015, Osenga and Stephens began the 30-plus page application process. Obtaining a license meant manual requirements too, the most extensive and expensive of which Osenga says was security, having had to “fit the farm with full cameras, sensors and locks everywhere.”
Regarding hurdles or difficulties in the application process, Osenga acknowledges there were flaws a’plenty, but that the Oregon Liquor and Control Commission, responsible for processing applications and distributing recreational licenses, was flexible and forgiving. “The OLCC was very honest and happy to work with us,” he says.
Clone Your Buds, Watch Them Grow
Osenga tracks his plants with state-contracted software, which compiles the data he enters and pumps out statistics. “I can go in there and look up how many [plants are] in each strain, how many are in each building, how many that I’ve planted on this day, how many got harvested on this day…” Presently, all of Osenga’s plants are grown via cloning, though he hopes to start from seed next season.
Using clippings generously bestowed by some friends, Osenga spawned his 600 plants by giving each clipping a hormone, sticking it in a special sponge, then watching as the clippings shoot off roots and grow into new plants. Osenga could then transplant them from his multipurpose cloning/drying room to one of his three greenhouses – which he built from scratch, by the way.
For enhanced quality, Osenga uses the common tactic of light deprivation, tricking his plants into thinking it’s later in the season by covering the greenhouses with black plastic each night, then removing the plastic come morning. “If you cover them and make them think that it’s later in the year, they’ll start budding sooner,” he explains.
The plants are grouped together by strain, all in different stages of growth. “I purposely have it spread out as much as possible so I don’t have too much to deal with at once.” To avoid spending an inhuman amount of time trimming and clipping all 600 plants at once, Osenga’s planned their growth cycles in succession – though some have matured quicker than expected, specifically his lavender strain, which began to bud in early August.
A Walk in the Pot
Most of us have a very basic image of marijuana engraved in our brains – that classic five leaf shape – which is why I am enchanted to discover how each strain varies. One is stout, with thick leaves; another grows tall and long. The leaves are also weirdly itchy, and Osenga tells me allergic reactions are common to the marijuana plant.
The greenhouse fans waft a surprisingly subtle, heady scent as we walk toward the water reservoir Osenga built in March – busy mixing all the nutrients needed to balance the plants’ pH. With clipping season just days ahead, Osenga’s most mature buds are ready for harvest.
“Things are starting to look pretty sticky around here,” he writes to me. Up close you can see the buds’ wispy pistols like little white hairs, and clusters of trichomes – frosty droplets which, under a microscope, look like crystal mushrooms.
Of all his strains, Osenga’s favorite is Sour Tangie, a mix between the well known Sour Diesel and citrusy Tangie. Osenga first encountered Sour Tangie while working on pot farms in California, where dispensaries were paying exorbitant amounts of money for it. “Because it’s so tangerine-y,” he chimes, “It’s like eating an orange while you smoke a joint.”
Sour Tangie has a 4.5 star review on Leafly and is a Sativa dominant hybrid, thus it’s effects are happy, energetic, euphoric, and creative.
What’s at Stake
Without missing a beat, Osenga answers my ‘what kinds of threats’ question with a hard-faced, “teenagers.” After breaking character he lists spider mites, brown mites, and especially thrips on the menu of marijuana pests. To combat the pesky insects, Osenga uses a cocktail of certified organic products, mainly neem oil, a naturally occurring pesticide pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree.
Thrips are tiny winged insects that suck out a plant’s cell contents through the outer tissue. “They will suck the juice right out of the leaves, the larvae will go down and eat the roots and they will actually just eat the bud itself.” So far Osenga’s noticed millions of thrips crawling around the ground near his plants. Knowing the buds are thrips’ favorite munchies, Osenga hopes they won’t do too much damage as his plants further develop.
Every marijuana farmer runs the risk of their crops being compromised, whether it be from natural sources or a poor choice in product, but none will know exactly or to what extent until it’s tested. When Osenga’s cannabis is all trimmed and clipped, he will send harvest samples to a lab of his choosing and await the results.
Since the USDA is a federal branch, marijuana consumers and producers have to rely on outside sources to facilitate the testing. Osenga has the number-one national certifier Clean Green in mind for his lab review, esteemed for their sustainable, organic, and biodynamic practices.
“Everything sold at a dispensary has to be tested, but not everything has to be Clean Green certified,” says Osenga.
According to Osenga, despite the state issuing stricter testing regulations about using organic nutrients, testing laboratories have a reputation for being corrupt. “People say that if you can just pay off the laboratory you can buy yourself a clean result… I mean, there’s a huge amount of money at stake for really big growers.”
Say a big Tier II producer sends in a sample from a 500 lb batch of weed and it comes back compromised. From a business standpoint, it may be more beneficial to bribe the lab instead of disposing of the product and losing out on major profit.
As for the feds, Osenga shows little concern over getting caught. “No point in living in fear,” he says, “I’m already doing it, there’s no turning back now.”
Osenga claims he’s no poster child for legalization, recounting fondly his days trimming on the farms of Cali, alongside foreigners and wayfaring vagabonds alike. The micro culture or ‘trim scene’ that popped up during his pastimes of no legalization conjures nostalgia for Osenga. “Those were some of the happiest times of my life,” he says, “making 600 dollars a day, sitting across the table from people from Brazil and Spain and Mexico just working [there] for three months so they can save up as much money as they can to just go travel for the rest of the year.”
He continues, “Pot has always done that for people, let people focus on other things – doing things money limits people from doing.”
Though Osenga hopes to preserve as much of that culture as possible, he admits to being “somewhat limited.” Trim scene in the world of legalization comes with restrictions. “The people I hire will have to get their marijuana handlers card – they have be citizens, they have to be 18, they have to pay 100 dollars to get it, they have to take a test,” he lists. Producers and others licensed under the OLCC may have to err more on the side of caution during hiring phases, and the trade might start taking a more commercial appearance.
What Highs Ahead
“I definitely have a big vision for next year,” says Osenga. Though he and Stephens are presently focused on making back their investment, he envisions a dispensary of their own someday, with hash oils and other trippy treats abound.
“If you’re going to grow, you should really open up your own dispensary because your profit margin goes up 50%,” Osenga explains. From a business standpoint, owning their own dispensary seems practical for the mother-son duo, which would require them to apply for additional wholesale and processing licenses.
Next growing season, Osenga plans to experiment with hybrids and genetic programming, as well as start from seed to produce a better quality product. He hopes to have a heavier crop load of CBD, or high cannabinoid strains as well – the pain-relieving, anxiety-reducing medical grade stuff, instead of the rabble-rousing psychoactive stuff.
“There’s a huge demand for [CBD],” says Osenga, “and I unfortunately I don’t have that many CBD plants this year.”
In the meantime, he and Stephens are reaching out to local dispensaries and circulating their decided name, Cascade Valley Cannabis, downtown. One thing Osenga hopes to inspire is a communal discussion amongst other recreational workers, those interested in spreading their knowledge and experience. Because as it happens, going full bore into pot farming leaves little time for chitchat. The man’s busy building an enterprise.
If you have any expertise or experience to share, I encourage you to reach out to Osenga through his social media and contact information below – who knows, maybe you’ll see his name on a ‘How to Be a Marijuana Boss 101’ manual someday. And maybe Stephens’ too, without whose entrepreneurial spirit and financial support (and the very creation of Osenga), we would never get to know Benton County’s first recreational marijuana producers.
For more information on Logan Osenga, Theresa Stephens and Half Moon Bend Farm, search ‘Half Moon Bend Farm’ on Facebook and follow them on Instagram @cascadevalleycannibis.
By Lilly SilverRead more ...