Sat, Jun 6, 2020
∙ READING TIME: 4 MINUTES ∙

“I really love indoor chronic. I like the product that comes out of indoor, and learning how to run these environments and equipment is vital. It’s food, environment and genetics that determine the quality of Cannabis being grown.”

Inside the walls of an Arlington warehouse sits a group of 10 indoor hoop house gardens that are redefining the concept of structure-in-structure Cannabis growing. Indoor gardens are created inside buildings of many different sizes and dimensions, with the space always being modified to fit the needs of Cannabis cultivation.

Pioneer Nuggets is the first garden the Leaf team has seen in over a decade of Cannabis publishing to take a traditional hoop house and build it inside a warehouse for growing Cannabis.

The benefits to this model are many, starting with the building process.

Instead of creating a new building inside the warehouse – which can take hundreds of thousands of dollars in building materials, labor and permitting, Founder Fitz Couhig chose to take a simple and proven design that didn’t require modification of the overall building.

Almost like setting up a kids tent in the living room for a camping simulation, the hoop houses were easily permitted and had lower initial costs to complete and begin growing products.

Each hoop house is its own sealed environment – with double walls that contain positive air pressure and sliding glass door entrances.

Maintaining a clean environment is crucial to growing Cannabis indoors and Pioneer Nuggets takes cleanliness to heart.

The greater warehouse is also sealed from outside air intakes, and all internal air is scrubbed and UV treated for prevention. With his focus on the vapor pressure deficit, clean air and clean water, Couhig has dialed in the Pioneer Nuggets facility.

Sliding open a door into the hoop house releases a burst of pressurized air and a thick, humid waft of delicious Cannabis terpenes. Employees are only allowed inside the grow rooms for specific tasks with plants or harvest, always in garden-only Crocs and wearing freshly cleaned clothes. Keeping the garden extremely clean is a big part of the success for the garden.

“What I’ve learned over the years is that pests you can keep out, and pathogens exist everywhere. We only use cease (a biological fungicide) and soil drenching along with beneficial bugs inside the flowering rooms, those are the only forms of pesticides that ever come near our plants,” Couhig explained, noting that a small team keeps the facility running smoothly.

The benefits to this model are many, starting with the building process.

“We have three guys managing the entire garden on four, 10-hour shifts. Cutting down from the peak of 31 employees to 18 amazing team members has been integral to sustainability. The biggest part of survival has been finding the right people with the right work ethic and attitude that they want to be a part of the team.”

The rows of plants from the vegetative and mother room to the finished flower rooms are all clean and happy, with bright colors and frosty nuggets that are begging to be smoked. The flowering plants are grown hydroponically with a soilless peat and perlite base, in eight flowering rooms and a nursery and veg room. The facility has a harvest each week, keeping the team busy with a constant flow of flower to trim and package, guaranteeing the bud being sold is at the peak of freshness.

“We held a higher price point in the beginning while we worked on getting our costs down, but once we got there I transitioned to my priorities. I want all the weed to be smoked by people. So we got our costs low enough, to get our prices low enough that all of the weed goes into flower and joints and a little trim for processors, and it took us 24 months to find that groove. It’s allowed us to move this year from survive to thrive.”

PHISHING FOR ROOTS 

The Pioneer Nuggets story began with a Phish concert at the Gorge in 2013, although Couhig’s roots go back much deeper with the band. He’s seen over 240 shows at the time of print, and met his wife at his 50th show. Today their son is being raised to love the music.

Couhig flew to Washington in 2013 for a concert and met a friend who inspired him to work in the Cannabis market. Just four weeks later he sold his house and moved to Washington to begin the process of building a legal Cannabis business.

It’s rare to find someone as well-traveled for psychedelic concerts as Couhig who doesn’t like Cannabis, but he waited until the plant was legalized before getting involved in the business of pot. It’s the respect for the early founders and the legal aspect that led to the name Pioneer Nuggets.

“The name Pioneer Nuggets was meant to honor all the pioneers who grew Cannabis before me when it wasn’t legal. I always respected the people who started this industry,“ he explained passionately. “I never wanted to get a medical card because I didn’t have a true qualifying condition. So I said when it moves forward legally I’ll get involved and put myself out there – that’s just who I am.”

art of honoring the pioneers of Cannabis includes growing classic strains like Acapulco Gold – NW Leaf’s Strain of the Month in October – which was one of the first strains to gain national notoriety in the 70s. Sweet and earthy with creamy citrus notes, the flower smokes with a light inhale and a stoney, euphoric buzz. The Pink Lemonade tastes exactly like the name, with bright, sugary, citrus and grapefruit notes, and a creative energy that hits the mind and body quickly. Other strains include the Lodi Dodi, Chem Brulee and Dolato – all chosen by Couhig with a passion for the end result.

“The reason I grow indoors is that I don’t believe indoor vs. greenhouse vs. outdoor is better or worse, but I really love indoor chronic. I like the product that comes out of indoor, and learning how to run these environments and equipment is vital. It’s food, environment and genetics that determine the quality of Cannabis being grown.”

With a positive approach to growing Cannabis and managing a team, including a dream wall for employees that began with his favorite quote – “dream your life and live your dreams” – Couhig is leading the way as an indoor producer and business owner growing for the right reason.

“Slowly the kind people are finding the kind people in this industry. I believe that the artistry of cultivation should be open sourced, and if you want to get taught what to do it should be available. This is an art that everyone should be open about because there is no wrong way to do it.”

PioneerNuggets.com @Pioneer_Nuggets

 

story by WES ABNEY @beardedlorax | PHOTOS by DANIEL BERMAN @BERMANPHOTOS