North Okanagan micro takes holistic approach to cannabis

| Staff

Located in BC’s North Okanagan, Living Cannabis takes a high-tech, low-impact approach to its small-batch cannabis grown in living soil.

The BC-based micro cultivator’s Master Grower, Gerrit Richards, not only has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Horticulture and has studied the soil food web, but he’s also a long-time cannabis user and advocate of medical cannabis. Gerrit is committed to holistic, organic, and regenerative soil management practices. 

Living Cannabis logo

Richards and Beth Talbot, who started her career in medical cannabis, handle the cultivation duties, while one of the co-owners, Brad Marta, keeps the financials and paperwork in order at Living Cannabis, licensed since 2020.

“We wanted to create a legal cannabis company that focused on organic cannabis produced with low-waste methods and a hands-on approach to each and every plant and bud,” Marta tells StratCann. “No mass-produced factory farming here. As a micro cultivator operated by a small team of family and friends, we cherish the opportunity to care for every plant. We hang dry and hand trim all our products.”  

That means no synthetic inputs and potential pests are managed with beneficial insects in their three small grow rooms within their allotted 200 square meters of cultivation space.

While pathways to market for a micro cultivator can be difficult, Marta says they have focused on quality products to build their brand, rather than marketing budgets. 

“Like many other micro cultivators, getting to market and staying has been a long, hard battle,” adds Marta. “Our main focus right now is consistency in producing a good quality product that the consumer can be confident has been grown with care and attention. 

“We’re just a little guy trying to battle with the giants. Given all that has happened in the market over the past couple of years, we’re proud that we’re still around to compete. What distinguishes us most from the big guys is as a micro cultivator, our smaller footprint allows us to take a hands-on approach to every aspect of our operation.”

Richards, the Master Grower, says one of the things helping Living Cannabis stand out is their attention to this kind of detail and their living soil growing methods, which he maintains gives their cannabis its unique terroir. 

“We grow for more than just potency. Although that’s important in today’s market, there is a lot more depth to these plants,” says Richards. “We are adamant about the link between soil microbiology and the production of secondary metabolites such as cannabinoids, terpenes, esters, flavonoids, etc., within plants.” 

Marta says Living Cannabis has been selling its products through JVCC’s BC Black brand in BC and Ontario, including its recently sold-out Triple OG and some select offerings in Ontario like Blackberry Pancake. Living Cannabis is also part of a pre-roll sample pack called BC Craft Road Trip, available through BC’s direct delivery. Their genetics come from their internal seed bank and through partners like Life Cycle Botanics.

Having good partners like processors and nurseries is key, he adds, especially for a micro cultivator with a small staff who doesn’t necessarily have the time to reach out to retailers.

“We’re so busy as a cultivator, and our processor has been really helpful in getting a pulse of the market. They’ve often been our eyes and ears on what’s happening with retailers. Since we started, we have been so focused on growing, but we plan to connect more with retailers in the near future by providing them with better information on who we are and what we strive to do, starting with the revamp of our website in the new year.

“One lesson I’ve learned through this whole process is that you can’t go too big too fast; you’ll run out of cashflow because you’re going to have a hard time raising any extra capital. So I try to always keep that in mind for us. We try to get one thing right before moving on to the next idea.” 

Right now, times are not easy for many small craft cannabis growers, with prices dropping and costs increasing, but this also leads to a leaner and more competitive industry, explains Marta.

“Now we’re seeing in the industry who can run lean and maintain cashflow and still produce a great product, while others are posting losses in the millions or shutting down entirely. I’m really proud of how we’ve progressed as a company, financially, and with our operations as a whole. I do hope one day that, as a co-owner, I can recoup my investment and pay myself more than minimum wage.  But I also know many small growers who still aren’t even paying themselves a dime yet, all the while everyone else in the supply chain is getting a cheque. It’s going to be a long road to get better, but I’m still optimistic we’ll get there one day, eventually.”

“I think we’ll see a slight levelling out of product supply as larger cultivators start scaling back operations, but market prices these next 12 months are still going to be a big challenge for everyone in the industry.”

“Once we get through this stage, I hope the market will start to rebound, and cultivators can make a decent return. I hope the federal government realizes how much their excise tax is affecting the little guys who have invested so much of their own money into micro-cultivation, yet aren’t able to make a decent income, if any at all. I think micro cultivators are the future for this market, and the powers that be need to recognize this and support us. However, I’m not holding my breath that anything will happen soon, so for the time being, I know we’re on our own.”

This profile is brought to you by Life Cycle Botanics, the preferred cannabis nursery supplier for Living Cannabis.