We’ve heard a lot lately about what Humboldt growers have been doing wrong. So it’s refreshing to visit a farm where they’re doing it right. On a sprawling property in Southern Humboldt, grower Tom Sparrow is on his morning walk-through of his greenhouses. The air is pungent with the smell of OG. The plants look good: stout, vital, perky. In fact, they are perfect representations of OG, which should come as no surprise. Sparrow has been growing OG since the inception of the strain. He believes in doing everything in-house, and has dedicated his 25-year career to cultivating and curating an arsenal of the highest quality genetics. His mother room is, to say the least, enviable.
Sparrow is a man of few words. When I ask him the secret to his success, he grunts and says, “Everything we do is special. That’s why it’s better.” After walking the farm, I get what he means by special. The place is obviously the result of an obsessive attention to detail, from the rigorously noted feeding schedules to the layout of the garden: Sour Diesel, OG, Girl Scout Cookies, Blue Diesel, Zkittles, Trinity and Gelato are planted in spirals with the precision of Fibonacci sequences.
The feeding schedule is a point of pride for Sparrow. In fact, he’s now a consulting expert for Aurora Innovations, the Oregon-based garden supply company that’s responsible for Roots Organics. Sparrow has been using Aurora products for the past ten years and says the relationship developed naturally. Because he gardens on a large scale and is obsessive about the process, he’s passed on his findings to the company. Aurora product developers valued his information and eventually invited him to test products and customize application rates. Growers around the world are now able to follow Sparrow’s “master feeding program.”
Aurora confirms this. “He’s helped us develop new products and feeding schedules to make Roots Organics easier and more efficient to use,” says Aurora representative Ryan Dristol. “There’s a reason why we brought him on board—He’s known to grow and cure some of the best tasting and smelling medical marijuana on the west coast. This guy can look at a plant that is sick or deficient and tell you exactly what’s wrong with it. His knowledge of growing and processing the plant is profound.”
Sparrow was initially drawn to Aurora’s high standard of non-GMO organic ingredients, which fit in with his overall vision of a farmer’s responsibilities. “No John Wayne goin’ on here,” he says, referring to Humboldt county’s reputation for haphazard and illegal gonzo grows. In contrast, the farm operates under a commercial cultivation permit and is compliant with state fish and game and the water board. But Sparrow goes beyond permitting requirements in his commitment to organic farming practices and water conservation.
In a way the operation is the cannabis version of the farm-to-table movement. The farm provides the high-quality organic cannabis for Sparrow’s Lost Coast Elixirs, which makes vape oil, candy, rosin, and other specialty products, which are sold at Direct THC (directthc.com), a premium San Francisco delivery service. Sparrow provides the cannabis for 95% of the menu, ensuring that he has complete quality control over the end product. This sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Sparrow often works from 4 AM to 9 PM, but doesn’t see the grinding schedule as a sacrifice. He enjoys being involved in every part of the process. “This is where it’s at,” he says, gesturing down the hill at row upon row of plants, green and gorgeous in the Southern Humboldt sun.