I’m checking in again with Jesse Peters, who, along with his wife Kate Guptill, co-founded and operates Eco Firma Farms in Canby, Oregon, out of a former jam-making facility.
I’ve talked with Peters for this column before—about CBD oil for pediatric patients, medical growers selling in the recreational system, and other cannabis-related matters.
In March, Eco Firma announced that they’d raised $33 million in funding for plans to expand and go public on the Canadian Stock Exchange.
“Sustainability” has become a word as commonly thrown around as “natural” and “organic.” Its implications are pretty great (and “non-sustainably produced cannabis” sounds really terrible), but what does it mean, really?
Eco Firma could be considered a sustainability OG, being the first cannabis producer in Oregon to be powered by wind energy credits, getting Gold Certification through PGE’s Green Mountain Energy program, and using LED grow lights. They’re installing solar this summer, and their mission statement includes a desire to to be Oregon’s first carbon-neutral cannabis farm.
To illustrate, I ask Peters about the bioswale at Eco Firma’s facility, which allows them to divert and filter water runoff from plant feedings, preventing it from entering the water table via creeks, ground, or septic and sewage systems.
“Honestly, it wasn’t some grand plan. I just assumed I would not be allowed to just let my runoff go anywhere,” Peters says. “I thought I had to address it, so we designed the facility to do that. Turns out, it was never a requirement. We did it anyway because it seemed like the right thing to do. It really wasn’t very expensive, all things considered, but it does require one to be in agricultural land and have the space to do it—not very easy in the city.
“It’s about being sustainable as a company, so everyone we employ still has a job tomorrow,” he continues. “They can buy a house, and feel secure they can keep paying the mortgage.
That’s sustainability, and everything we do for our practices as a company has led to us being able to produce at such a low cost per pound. The steps we have made to be environmentally sustainable have also made us financially sustainable. One has to be sustainable as a company to survive in what has become such a brutal market.”
The low cost per pound Peters is talking about is indeed quite low.
It costs Eco Firma $189 to produce one pound of cannabis. (That comes out to $11.81 per ounce, or $0.43 per gram.) Those numbers aren’t a secret, as part of the “going public” process required that they “show what we grow for” in their filing audit.
“Keep in mind, that number does not include trimming, advertising, expansion, marketing, construction, or social media,” says Peters. “Just plants.”
I ask if production costs can be reduced further, and to what end cutting some corners might help.
“Really, there are two ways to cut corners here, and this goes back to my ‘sustainable as a company’ thing,” he says. “We pay extra for our wind power, so we could shave that number down if we went back to straight dirty electricity, or, we could put 248,000 watts of solar on the roof, and cut back our power bill even more.”
“Everything we have done has had higher upfront costs, but has paid itself back in production costs,” Peters tells me. “They all compounded on each other, and that was something we didn’t expect, but once all the systems started working together, everything changed and we became exponentially more efficient.”
I ask Peters just how he thinks production costs can drop, because $189 a pound for indoor-grown cannabis is the lowest price I have ever heard.
“We also have some other plans that I believe will push us down even further,” he says. “Our goal is to get below $100 per pound.”
For reference, a $100 pound of cannabis works out to $6.25 an ounce, not much more than a venti coffee drink with tip.
Further broken down, that equates 22 cents per gram, albeit before the additional post-harvest costs Peters mentions. That’s a price point that, while great for consumers, could also allow for industry progress, potentially permitting for experimentation with strain genetics, growing techniques, and the processing of flower to make products such as cartridges and concentrates.
“It will not be easy, but I believe we can do it,” Peters says.