Make no mistake, this virtual conference was sponsored by the major CANNA companies and garden products distributor Biofloral, but a partnership with Grower’s Source has created a platform for gardeners to talk, share and, of course, brag a little!
Across Canada, people like to talk about what they do, says Frank Mann, a producer at Grower’s Source, who was instrumental in organizing the event. We have found a compassionate audience, which makes this community unique from all others.
The Grower’s Source Expo is the first virtual conference on cannabis cultivation in Canada. The program reflects the mission of Grower’s Source to create a network where farmers can share their experiences with other farmers. This is a side event to the live events sponsored by CANNA and Biofloral, which had to be rescheduled due to restrictions imposed by Covid. The Grower’s Source application will eventually be available so farmers can stay informed even after this event.
The plants were kept secret for so long in their cellars and could not be distributed. In the past, their only option was to go to their local store and talk to their friend, says Jason Stanley, director of sales and marketing for Biofloral, who admits that some conferences are too corporate.
According to Stanley, the Growers Expo offers cannabis growers of all shapes and sizes a chance to sit down, light up a joint and showcase their grow rooms in indoor meeting rooms that can be set up with participants of their choice. You can also attend one of the sessions in the Growth Corners and participate in discussions on specific topics, including growing methods, challenges for licensed growers (LPs) and clinic management.
Unlike some of the virtual conferences that followed Covid’s restrictions, the Grower’s Source exhibition was spread over a two-week period rather than trying to cram it into three days like a traditional conference. Most meetings were held at the end of the day, so participants could go in at the end of the day.
By the time you get familiar with the technology, it’s too late, says Nick Ruwers, referring to the typical three-day format. Rowers is director of business development at CANNA and attended the conference from the Netherlands. He added that the two-week cast will give people the opportunity to become familiar with the technology and literally enter what is the closest thing to a face-to-face conference.
The road to Cannabis
People who come into this industry come from all walks of life and have a lot of experience. The participants shared many informative and inspiring stories. From a business perspective, one farmer said he had employed two 70-year-olds to grow ornamental plants in a greenhouse to make his fledgling business more efficient and profitable. In this case, he could use all his experience to grow and manage his business.
Meirig Murray, the cultivation manager at Stewart Farms in New Brunswick, has a slightly different story. Murray grew up thinking that only sex maniacs use marijuana. Fortunately, Murray, who was born in Norway and now lives in Canada, questioned these beliefs and took cannabis at the age of 14 to relieve his ADHD symptoms. This led to a fascination with medicinal plants that could be grown in the wild and used to relieve many different ailments.
Eventually Murray met James Curran on the Broken Coast on Vancouver Island. Curran also questioned the insane story that he had smoked pot in his youth. They shared a belief in the medicinal potential of cannabis and collaborated on the presentation of From Soil to Olive Tree : How do you align your pheno hunting with the goals of your prey. Much of what they learned in nature applies to what they do now, which is to sell hemp oil for recreation and healing.
Immersion in culture methods
Participating in the Grower’s Source exhibition was not only an excellent opportunity to make contacts and explore the demonstration halls for cannabis products, but also offered sessions that helped to better understand the fundamental but essential aspects of crop science. For example, a CANNA representative presented separate sessions on understanding and monitoring pH and EC, with tables and charts. It was a bit like taking a science course at university, but much cheaper. Most sessions were recorded for broadcast. There were several other such classes, including high-efficiency LEDs, the benefits of mycorrhizae, and the study of irrigation and watering.
If you are the interactive type and like to speak up during a training session, then you would have definitely appreciated the CANNA Q&A that took place during the second week of the show. This session was an opportunity for small and large farmers who want to optimize their work or experiment with new technologies, to ask questions to a group of experienced farmers.
Like to go together
As the old saying goes: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. To avoid being taken too seriously, the Expo offers evening happy hours where like-minded attendees can crack open their favorite drink, spin a club or enjoy an edible beverage and just relax and play with the other attendees for a while. This event was well attended and, as you can imagine, offered participants the opportunity to discover, shall we say, a slightly more colourful part of people’s personalities.
The conference also screened some fairly recent documentaries that will make passionate farmers wince, while others will shake their heads in wonder. The first was a film called Need to Grow, which included a live interview with the film’s producer, Tana Stewart, co-founder of the Stewart Farm. The film focused on regenerative agriculture and advanced technologies combining water, CO2 and biomass. On the final day of the conference, attendees were treated to a film by Scientist about the human search for chemical compounds in cannabis, including a question and answer session with director Zach Klein.
There are not many brands at this show, 21 to be exact. Still, brands represented most of the growers’ needs, including nutrients (CANNA), retail garden products (Biofloral) and testing equipment (Blue Lab). These showrooms consisted of relatively short, professionally produced videos that promoted and explained the company’s products and services, while company representatives were available to talk about their products and services.
And if you think you might be missing out on your loot from the booths you visit, these companies send it to the people who have visited their showrooms. What do you think of that? And you didn’t even have to take it with you until you went back to your room, like a normal conference. So maybe there are advantages to going virtual after all!
The Growers Source Expo has really broadened the spectrum of visitors, from those far from the ocean to those who can’t afford to travel across the country to attend such an event. This seems to have made the conference more inclusive and accessible to smallholders.
So, are we going to meet in person? Will there be another Cannes Cup? These are the burning questions of the visitors.
We will do it again, hopefully live, when we can shake hands and kiss, said Eric Dujvenroorde, brand ambassador of CANNA.
Neil Moran is a freelance gardener and writer living in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.