For our Garden of the Month we finally got the chance to tour Holistic Industries, owners of the brands Liberty and Strane. And I have to say I was genuinely impressed for quite a few reasons. Holistic’s facility actually surprised me with what I think are novel cultivation standards in Maryland, and might just be one of the most efficient industrial designs I have ever seen. But I am getting ahead of myself, as it is important to understand the compassion and advocacy that drove the growth of this behemoth company because after all, this industry was founded for some of the most vulnerable populations in our community.
After getting checked in, we were greeted by Rabbi James Kahn, the Director of National Outreach who was set to give us more of the history behind the start up of their company and their goals for the community.
In the case of medical Cannabis, every patient population is riddled with hard questions and tragic stories, and sadly this fact is overlooked by many companies seeking to maximize their ROI. Not only is this suffering not overlooked by Holistic, it is their priority.
Rabbi Kahn explained the history of how Holistic owners got introduced to Cannabis with story after story of compassionate motivation by the management and workers alike.
Initially up and running in Washington D.C. before opening in Maryland, Holistic developed a patient forward reputation by working with groups of mothers advocating for medical Cannabis access for their children suffering from intractable epilepsy. Holistic not only lent their industry voice to the parent’s movement, but went as far as to develop “Jackson’s Courage,” a specific proprietary blend of Cannabis oils designed for children with epilepsy and named after one of the children who sparked the patient movement.
As if this wasn’t enough, they made sure that every child within this program (in D.C.) was given access to the medication for free! Additionally, they have developed programs that provide outreach, support, education and access to veterans groups, senior citizens and addicts.
Rabbi Kahn stressed that their outlook is focused on Cannabis as a social justice issue, which they have demonstrated by their continuous advocacy and partnerships with groups that suffer tremendously without access to medical Cannabis.
Rabbi Kahn is a super nice dude and definitely helped us to understand the Holistic mission, but we were eager to see some plants. So we were passed off to Cultivation Manager Nick Denney and Facilities Manager Garen Stephens to show us around the grow itself.
Holistic not only lent their industry voice to the parent’s movement, but went as far as to develop “Jackson’s Courage,” a specific proprietary blend of Cannabis oils designed for children with epilepsy.
And what a grow it is, truly a monument to industrial Cannabis efficiency that spares no expense in creating a system that is at once a massive organizational effort, as well as super easy to maintain. In many ways, it is quite similar to other grows, having traditional veg/flower rooms and separate areas for post harvesting process – but with two notable differences.
First, they have no mom room – as in they do not cultivate and raise mother plants to clone from. Second, every single room that grows a plant is connected by a track that creates a loop through their facility, allowing for entire tables of plants to move seamlessly from room to room on a tight schedule.
This is where their industrial circuit comes into play. Effectively they have a veg room, an early stage flower room, and a late stage flower room, all connected together by this track which allows for employees to roll entire tables from room to room with minimal effort. They set up their system for an eight week flower time divided into two rooms, early and late stage, and each room has four massive rows each. Plants are rolled in from the veg room and spend one week in each row, moving down the line each week like clockwork. As one new batch is being moved into the first row of early stage flower, another batch is being moved from the last row in late stage flower to harvest, and then the empty table is cycled back to the beginning to get filled with new veg stock and repeat the process.
This whole system operates on a weekly basis – legitimately like clockwork and is really quite different.
Most growers really pay attention to finding some great genetics and then try to tweak their system to optimize the production. In fact, some of the top quality artisan growers are known as mono-croppers who specialize in one or two cultivars that they really turn into excellent, small batch, Cannabis finery. Holistic is taking a different approach, recognizing that their goal is to build an industry around Cannabis and not just to focus on creating a specialized product. They have built a system that is extremely efficient and allows for them to produce year round, flawlessly within the confines of their system.
In part this is because they have created a fixed flower cycle, but really it’s because they saved a significant amount of space, time and energy by not having a dedicated mom room. They have been able to cycle through so many more seeds, and as a result acquire so much more data on the different genetics that otherwise would take years to understand.
Many growers take the approach of designing a system to support a genetic line, but Holistic has flipped the script and are attempting to cater their genetics to a predetermined system. What this tells me is that they are very aware of their industrial size and capacity, and as such have taken responsibility for reconciling the quality control conundrum that arises when you scale up Cannabis. In short, this conundrum is that the larger you scale up a grow, the more difficult it becomes to maintain a consistent quality of production, and there becomes a real schism between small batch boutique growers and large scale commercial producers.
Holistic is aware of this and made the determination to be a large scale commercial producer that remains true to the needs of the patients. The only way for them to do this is to get to know the Maryland marketplace, assess their needs, and find the Cannabis varieties that really work for Maryland, as well as work within their system. This might seem like a long process, but literally every grow is doing the same thing in their own way. Holistic recognized this strategy from the get-go and has optimized their industrial design to its utmost potential – churning out exponentially higher and higher quality flower.
But if there are no mom rooms and they just pop new seeds over and over, how can they maintain any genetic lines and continue to produce strains that do end up working well in the system? Well, it’s as simple as dedicating a table to being clone stock to remain in veg. You see, anything that goes through this system is rigorously studied to determine the proverbial winners and losers. Losers being discontinued and winners to be continuously propagated for patients. Plants are rotated through to complete circuit if they are to be flowered, harvested and packaged, but every batch has some stock set aside to go through a continuous veg circuit. Here, any strains that look interesting or have demonstrated vigorous growth in the system, or that end up testing really well, can be cloned from again and kept going through the system. Almost like a mother plant, but instead of one big plant that they clone off of, they keep a whole table of plants they can take clones off of.
Again, all this is as easy as moving tables from one room to another room, nearly effortlessly, in what probably started off as a pretty chaotic mess of logistic organization – to what is today, a truly evolved and meticulously efficient system that provides patients with Maryland’s top tier Cannabis. I hope this gives you a grasp of what is going on at Holistic, because it is at once a logistical marvel, as well as a testament to quality production.
Holistic has designed a system that can only produce better and better quality Cannabis as time goes on and they dial in their system. Since they have finalized their grow system and crushed the market for years now, they have started to expand to fully double their grow space, again keeping the same system. Now combine the efficiency of this system with the knowledge they have gained testing so many different phenotypes, and we very well may see a company who solves the great scale conundrum of quality.
Maryland does not have a very diverse market and so all the growers have focused on large scale production, but soon, the small batch craft/artisan/boutique Cannabis people will be getting into the market, specifically to compete with the large Cannabis companies because that is untapped market space in Maryland. Holistic very well may be the first large scale production facility in Maryland that is able to manage small batch craft quality at a large scale commercial capacity!
I look forward to watching this company’s Cannabis portfolio grow here in Maryland as they continue to optimize their genetics within an already hyper-efficient model. Holistic showed us that at every opportunity, they had made the investment into producing top quality Cannabis with maximum efficiency, directly with the needs of our most vulnerable patient populations in mind. A big thanks goes out to our hosts Rabbi Kahn, Nick Denney and Garen Stephens – probably the most transparent and forthcoming tour guides we have had the experience of touring with!
story by Taylor MARTIN @MDCANNAINSIDER | PHOTOS by JASON KOLSTON @J6PHOTO