AUTOMATION AT ALTITUDE
STORY BY GUY HOLMES • PHOTOS COURTESY OF GATEWAY ORGANIX
IT WAS A year ago when I first met Forest Stroud and Jessie Brockl, owners of Gateway Organix, Mountain Greenhouse, and ProSoil, in Southern Oregon. The husband and wife farmers are tucked back in the picturesque peaks between I-5 and the coast where they cultivate acres of sun-grown greenhouse buds in greenhouses they built themselves. These greenhouses are also outfitted with state-of-the-art, push-button, automated light deprivation solutions which they built themselves. I should also mention that these buds are grown in organic soil that is, you guessed it, mixed by the couple from scratch. And when you spend all these years as a husband and wife team, growing cannabis, building greenhouses and elite light deprivation solutions, and soil from scratch you learn a lot of things, enough to start a business–or three.
The views of the entire little valley with its own unique microclimate are breathtaking as I pull up to the farm gate. The expanse of greenhouses off to the left, right, and beyond are large and glowing with supplemental light. The attention to detail across the board is noticeable from afar. As I approach the homestead/office, I can’t help to notice the 10- foot half-pipe situated between the abode and the massive greenhouses. I was a skater and my 10 year old currently skates so I felt right at home, nostalgic even, amidst the aging faded timbers of the ramp.
I park just beyond it and am greeted with warm, strong hugs from the pair. The vibes are 100-percent positive as we immediately start talking about the ramp and kids and growing. Clearly, we have a lot in common and, very soon after meeting, I get the notion that family is of first importance to them. Before we head out to the fields I am introduced to the extended family of teammates who are trimming some A++ premier buds that even the most savvy consumers would easily mistake for high-grade indoor. We grab a quick joint and begin to share some more background to this growing family tree.
The couple met in the middle of their two home towns. Brockl grew up in LA before moving to Oregon, where she rented land from a friend for her goats. She was more into the traditional agriculture and animal husbandry side of things. Stroud, a 20-year growing veteran who had grown indoor and outdoor in northern Washington, had purchased the farm next door–where they still are now–and used to drive by Brockl’s field every day in a Volkswagen Vanagon, piquing her curiosity.
Now, seven years later, they have a set of four- year-old twins, three businesses, and are experts in cannabis, soil and light dep greenhouses.
They started in the greenhouse business about six years ago when they realized they needed to go beyond their, as Brockl put it, “ghetto greenhouse,” with metal struts thrown up and plastic pulled over. Stroud decided that he both wanted to build his own and start his own business, the first inspiration for what is now Mountain Greenhouse.
They build Dutch-inspired rigid structures, that are built to last and made from state-of-the-art, Canadian steel and aluminum components as opposed to the Quonset-hut style hoop houses that many of us manual light deppers are familiar with. These solutions allow them to connect together multiple greenhouses with gutter connect technology, which allows them to snap on greenhouses like legos and add on as many as fit or needed or as budgets permit. “It makes more sense for people,” Brockl says, adding that it makes it easy to add on interior elements too, like mounting additional fans, atomizers and lights.
Originally, they would hand pull their tarps daily, for weeks over their “ghetto” Quonset hoop houseIt started with one tarp, pulled twice a day, for each greenhouse. Then they discovered one wasn’t strong enough. They added another tarp, and their muscles grew, but they knew there had to be better materials and better methods. They found better black out tarp materials to more effectively cover the hoops and eventually they had it down to a science. Like clockwork, every day. After a couple years of torture, manually pulling tarps they decided to investigate automated solutions.
The best components they could find were coming out of Canada, but no matter how complete or customized, they soon learned that there was no such thing as a one-size-fits-all light dep. solution. No matter how complete, each solution needed to be fine tuned to a customer’s unique individual space to function with optimal efficiency. They soon decided to build their own solution-combining technology from the Canadian company with their own fabrications. They make each system their own, as Brockl says, making it excel much more by doing so. They now offer these custom tailored, push-button, light dep. solutions to help fellow growers escape the madness of pulling tarps.
They offer two types of greenhouse systems: gutter connect systems and quonset style house with optional auto light dep. These are all fully-integrated and customized to their customer’s needs. They also sell greenhouse supplies, such as forced and passive air systems, custom shade systems, lighting plans, automated temperature and climate controls, and soil and fertigation systems. Brockl says that their most popular structures span between 12,000 square feet and 34,000 square feet.
Before Mountain Greenhouse, and even before Brockl and Stroud met, Stroud had developed his own soil. Still manufactured in Oregon, ProSoil Premium Plant and Cannabis Soil has four different types for each level in your grow game. Essential Mix is a basic soil mix, good for greenhouse, indoor, or outdoor applications. Their ProEarth Mix has the Essential Mix as its base, but with added earthworm castings. The Propagation Mix has a higher porosity than the previous two, but with less organic premix. Their Treeline Mix is the perfect pH-balanced, substrate-only mix for growers who like to build their own formula but need a base foundation to work with.
Needless to say, the couple has very little bandwidth between their three businesses, their kids, and the future of the cannabis industry. Brockl says the market is changing as quickly as the laws on all levels. “As an individual company, we’re seeing a lot of different changes in what our customers want right now,” she says.
Brockl says they’re going to start transitioning into growing more hemp at their farm, Gateway Organix, which fits perfectly into their greenhouse world. She says the greenhouses are perfect for drying and processing, as well as growing. Now, farmers can grow acres of hemp outdoors, but then dry, cure and process their harvest in greenhouses while shaving the serious costs involved with leasing a warehouse space big enough to dry and process hundreds of acres of hemp.
The Brockl-Stroud family is impressive. A busy, entrepreneurial unit, they know what their customers want and will build to the size they need. They know cannabis and greenhouses, kids and light dep.. They are honest, trustworthy professionals that refuse to settle for satisfactory. Their drive and ambition is proven again and again by their willingness to do it better, their own way. And when it comes to cannabis, the proof is always in the finished product, which in this case is nothing short of high-grade!