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Flower-Side Chats Part 2: A Q&A with Bill Conkling, Founder and CEO of Maggie’s Farm

In this series, Aaron Green sits down and interviews a number of integrated cannabis companies and flower brands. In Part 2, Green chats with Bill Conkling, Founder and CEO at Maggie’s Farm, to learn more about the benefits of outdoor growing, localism and their recent Clean Green certification.

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Flower continues to be the dominant product category in US cannabis sales. In this “Flower-Side Chats” series of articles, Green interviews integrated cannabis companies and flower brands that are bringing unique business models to the industry. Particular attention is focused on how these businesses navigate a rapidly changing landscape of regulatory, supply chain and consumer demand.

Maggie’s Farm is an integrated cannabis company based in Southern Colorado. Maggie’s Farm has seven adult-use and medical dispensaries and cultivates the vast majority of their flower on outdoor farms. All Maggie’s Farm products are sun-grown from seed in soil that is 100% custom-mixed onsite as well as spring-watered, slow-cured and hand-trimmed. Maggie’s Farm does not use any synthetic pesticides or growth hormones in its cultivation. In addition, for the past eight years, Maggie’s Farm has recently obtained Clean Green Certified®, a designation certifying organic standards and testing that mirrors the USDA organic certification. Maggie’s Farm was the first cultivator in Colorado to earn the Clean Green certification.

We spoke with Bill Conkling, Founder and CEO of Maggie’s Farm to learn more about the benefits of outdoor growing, localism and their Clean Green certification. Bill started Maggie’s Farm in 2010 after growing up on cattle ranches and farms in Colorado.

Aaron Green: Bill, thanks for taking the time today. Tell me a bit about how you got involved in the cannabis industry.

Bill Conkling: I am a native of southern Colorado. I was a medical caregiver back in the early days of legalization, and I saw an opportunity to vertically align after my first legal crop in 2010. I opened up the store in 2011. I’ve been a lifelong proponent of medical, recreational and adult use of marijuana.

I come from a background of farmers and I had worked on cattle ranches and farms throughout childhood. As soon as I graduated from college, I went back to work on a large cattle ranch in the four corners area [of southern Colorado]. That’s where I started to incorporate my indoor cultivation experience and skills with outdoor.

Aaron: What trends are you following in the cannabis industry?

Bill: I was one of the first medical operators to support legalization, so I have certainly followed legalization trends. I’ve looked at some other states in our region in terms of growth and legalization.

Bill Conkling, Founder and CEO of Maggie’s Farm

We’re trying to stay a regional supplier and producer so that we are locally grown. We believe the southwest of Colorado is optimal for outdoor cannabis cultivation.

At Maggie’s Farm, we have followed an organic trend from the beginning and I think that’s becoming more of a trend now. We recently received Clean Green certification to that effect. Our goal is to try to provide the healthiest product at a good value to the market.

I believe that all of the products that are made in the cannabis world come from the flower. Downstream products are only as good as their ingredients. It all starts with the flower. So, we focus on producing a clean, top-shelf quality flower that is produced outdoors.

Aaron: How do you define local?

Bill: Local is staying in the climate that is optimal with the least amount of carbon footprint to the earth. That also means trying to operate so that we’re not moving a lot of product across long distances.

We’re trying to set up farms that are in optimal climates. There is a two or three-state region that I believe is the optimal climate for outdoor marijuana cultivation in our country.

Aaron: What states are those specifically?

Bill: I think Colorado and New Mexico, primarily.

Aaron: What geographies is Maggie’s farm currently in?

Bill: We’re in southern Colorado. We don’t go into the plains of Colorado.

Aaron: So Colorado state only right now?

Bill: Yes. The wet mountain range is one of the mountain ranges that we are in. I’ve also cultivated in the La Plata mountain range.

Aaron: What specifically is it about that region that makes it conducive to cannabis growing?

Bill: I think if you get the right elevation and the right microclimates within those elevations, and you have the number of sunny days that Colorado offers in those areas – the intensity of the sunlight, and the cool nights – all those things are factors that coincide in these areas that we like to cultivate in.

Aaron: We’ve been talking about outdoor growth. Does Maggie’s do any indoor?

Bill: No. We’re essentially an outdoor farm. We do a little bit of breeding and we’ve got starter houses, greenhouses and hoop houses for that purpose. We’ve got one greenhouse that we use for some wholesale, but we are primarily outdoors.

Aaron: How do you go about selecting the genetics or evolving the genetics to meet your local environment, given that you’re growing outdoors?

Bill: A lot of it is honestly through testing and experimentation, historically. You just cultivate and harvest and see how the genetics performed, you know? You test, you take test inputs, you take customer reviews, and blind test results from the team and from the customers and you consider all those facts.

Aaron: Do you produce and use your own seeds or are you purchasing those?

Bill: We have done both. I think I’ve probably created somewhere north of 800 different strains at this point. So, we’ve got a huge seed bank. We do also buy from vendors and experiment with some of those genetics as well.

Aaron: Do you market your seeds in Colorado? “I don’t think that you can get anywhere near the terpene value indoors that you can outdoors.”

Bill: We do not.

Aaron: How did you settle on outdoor-only as the strategy for Maggie’s?

Bill: I believe outdoor is a premium flower. I think it has less impact on the earth. I think that there is a lot less pest mitigation than there is indoors, which makes it a healthier, cleaner product. You don’t have to mitigate the concentration of pests that you get in temperate climates of stagnant corners of greenhouses and buildings that you cultivate indoors. Therefore, you never get into the situations as often or as intensely, where you might have to really work hard at mitigating your pests. You can use the natural predator insects you can introduce and oftentimes they survive and they create their own climates and it’s a more natural, healthier product.

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I don’t think that you can get anywhere near the terpene value indoors that you can outdoors. You just don’t have the value of the sun, which nothing compares to. You can hold up as many high wattage bulbs as you want and you don’t even pale to the sun and the effect that the sun has on the flower.

Aaron: What are some of the challenges of growing outdoors that you see frequently?

Bill: You have to be nimble. You can’t rely completely on a schedule. You’ve got to be able to shift around in your planting days and your harvest dates.

You’ve obviously got to be on your toes all the time for weather changes. Higher humidity years can tend to bring more insects or pests. Some years you’ve got higher winds than other years. This year, we had a snowstorm on September 9, which left nine inches of heavy wet snow on one of our farms. So, you’ve got to be nimble, very proactive and ready for those kinds of weather events that happen in very short notice.

Aaron: We mentioned Clean Green Certified® briefly. Can you explain more about the Clean Green certification and why that’s an important thing for you at Maggie’s?

Bill: The choice to become Clean Green Certified® was really an effort to validate the organic process that we have. We vetted out what we believe was and still is the premier, organic criteria certification endorsement in the market for cannabis. To this day, they really do an ethical, vetting-out process whereby if you fail the parts of any of the soils that are sent to federal-licensed labs, you do not get your endorsement. The owner of Clean Green also had a mother company that was an endorser of other agricultural products such as coffee, wheat and dairy.

Aaron: How would you compare Clean Green Certified® to USDA Organic?

Bill: Identical. When the federal government legalizes, we are poised to automatically convert to a USDA Organic certification and endorsement. The processes the founder and owner of Clean Green uses to test cannabis is the same process used to test other agricultural industries. For plants, he takes random samples of soils throughout a cultivation field and sends them to a federal-licensed lab where they test for impurities.

Aaron: Did you decide to get your Clean Green certification due to pulling from the market, or is this more something you decided to do internally as Maggie’s Farm?

Bill: I decided to do this internally. I wanted to be recognized for all of our organic efforts and I wanted to let people know that we have a safe product that doesn’t have synthetics in it. Even to this day, a lot of people in Colorado unlike the coastal states like maybe California are still pretty unaware of a Clean Green certification or even the fact that there is an organic process for cannabis or marijuana. So, it’s really just to let our customers know that there is value in a safe, healthy choice for them.

Aaron: What kind of products do you create at Maggie’s farm?

Bill: We grow flower. We are also a big producer of a very high-quality pre-roll. We are developing promoted products as well.

Aaron: Do you do fresh frozen?

Bill: We do some, yes.

Aaron: Are you selling direct to the dispensary or to manufacturers?

Bill: We finally had produced some excess. So, we started wholesaling flower this year and lots of high-quality shake for concentrates to concentrate makers. Our customer is typically a little more of a mature customer. I don’t want to say necessarily older, but I think we probably do hit a little bit of a higher, more experienced, health-conscious, connoisseur customer.

Aaron: Can you give me an idea of some of the regulatory challenges in Colorado that you’ve faced in the past or are facing today?

Bill: The perpetual change of regulation has been a challenge. Being a competent operator in cannabis means getting used to the change and having the resources to be nimble with compliance. We haven’t had common problems such as metals, mold or mildew issues. However, we have had some hardware issues, which required us to change cameras along with other technical intricacies.

Aaron: How many acres do you have?

Bill: We have about 30 acres of secured premise cultivation.

Aaron: Is that all managed in-house or sublet?

Bill: It’s all managed and operated exclusively by Maggie’s Farm.

Aaron: What’s next for Maggie’s Farm? What are you excited about?

Bill: We want to continue to put a higher scale of a very healthy, quality, value flower out there and to be able to offer that to more states initially states that are within our region and eventually states across the US. Also, we will continue to do our best to meet the growing demand for healthier choices in general.

Aaron: Lastly, what are you personally interested in learning more about?

Bill: How we can continue to be as earth-conscious as we can be? How we can continue to look for ways to give back to our communities? How we can continue to operate as a view of made in the USA and to try to just support local regional and national products and vendors? Just how to be more aware and always look for opportunities for self-improvement.

Pioneering Colorado Cannabis Cultivator Maggie’s Farm Marks 10th Anniversary With Grow-Your-Own Initiative

PUEBLO, Colo.–( BUSINESS WIRE )–Maggie’s Farm, Southern Colorado’s original source for organically grown, Clean Green Certified ® craft cannabis, is celebrating the brand’s 10-year anniversary and its customers with a 10-day special event culminating on 4/20.

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To honor the company’s decade of success, Maggie’s Farm is giving away 2,000 seed packs per day for 10 days and providing tips and guidance for organic cultivation at home, along with education about the beneficial properties of the thousands of terpenes created by the cannabis plant.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve been inspired and humbled by the support of our deeply loyal Maggie’s Farm customers,” said Bill Conkling, CEO and founder of the brand established in 2010, at the dawn of Colorado’s medical marijuana era. “Our mission is to be good stewards to the land and sustainably grow cannabis that meets the many needs of the patients and adult-use customers we serve. We feel lucky to have seen approximately three million sales over the past decade. Now’s our opportunity to give back.”

Starting April 11, all seven Maggie’s Farm retail locations are celebrating the anniversary with in-store educational customer experiences, limited-edition commemorative merchandise, special brand deals and more. The special event concludes on 4/20 with special gifts for the first 100 customers in each store. Maggie’s Farm is partnering with brands such as Wana Brands, The Clear and #SaveTheTerps advocate Boveda to spotlight the nuances of outdoor craft cannabis cultivation, including how to maximize a strain’s terpenes, which are key to the unique flavor aspects of different cannabis cultivars.

Check out the Maggie’s Farm website for event details at retail locations in Pueblo, Manitou Springs, Cañon City and Colorado Springs (serving medical patients only).

About Maggie’s Farm

Maggie’s Farm is Colorado’s original all-natural craft cannabis brand. Established in 2010, Maggie’s Farm is Clean Green Certified® and prides itself on positive stewardship of the land. Plants are grown in organic, living soil and nourished by sunlight and mineral-rich spring water before being slow-cured for quality, terpene content and potency. Maggie’s Farm serves both medical and recreational markets. One of Colorado’s most award-winning brands, Maggie’s Farm showcases the best nature has to offer.

Contacts

Media Contact:
Madison Ware
Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency
[email protected]
509-879-9697

Our Farming Philosophy

As cannabis becomes more widespread and better studied, consumers are starting to demand higher-quality products that are safe, natural, and sustainable.

Maggie’s Farm works hard to produce organically grown flower that delivers superior taste and feel. That’s why we have actively sought and received Clean Green® certification for the past nine years — to show our customers that we are accountable for and committed to doing what’s best for them AND the environment.

Currently, there are only three Clean Green Certified® cannabis companies in the state of Colorado. Maggie’s Farm was the very first and remains the only outdoor operation to hold the certification. We truly live up to the rigor of this certification, and we test our soil and water consistently to prove it.

So why should you care? Because what you put in your body matters. Your consumption choices directly impact your quality of life. And while we can’t claim any health benefits associated with cannabis, we can say without a doubt that the exacting standards of our organic cultivation process produce an exquisite product that tastes and feels different than the others — every time.

Mother Knows Best

“Seems you can’t outsmart Mother Nature.”

Our commitment is to cooperate with nature, not compete against her. Our dedicated team takes enormous pride in cultivating our flower in sync with the process Mother Nature has already perfected. That’s why Maggie’s Farm only harvests one outdoor crop each year, using and sustaining the bountiful resources nature has made available.

Read on to learn more about how Mother Nature enables Maggie’s Farm to produce the highest-quality organic flower and provide you with the best buds under the sun.

Healthy, Living Soil

“Soil is a living ecosystem, and is a farmer’s most precious asset. A farmer’s productive capacity is directly related to the health of his or her soil.”

– Howard Warren Buffett

Our commitment is to cooperate with nature, not compete against her. Our dedicated team takes enormous pride in cultivating our flower in sync with the process Mother Nature has already perfected. That’s why Maggie’s Farm only harvests one outdoor crop each year, using and sustaining the bountiful resources nature has made available.

Read on to learn more about how Mother Nature enables Maggie’s Farm to produce the highest-quality organic flower and provide you with the best buds under the sun.

Organic Energy

Just like Mother Nature, we grow our cannabis in live soil. Not in water. Not in air. Not in rockwool. Only in living, organic soil. Maggie’s founder and expert grower, who comes from a long line of organic farmers, worked laboriously with cannabis in the Rocky Mountain region for nearly four decades until he got the Maggie’s Farm custom-blended, 100% organic soil recipe just right.

Sometimes referred to as true living organics, live soil is teeming with beneficial bacteria, fungi, archaea, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms that break down organic matter to make nutrients available for plant roots. Picture a subterranean microcosm of diverse organisms creating symbiotic exchanges of energy to help our plants to grow. This organic energy leads to growth stimulation and root disease prevention that other methods just can’t match.

Tea Time

One of the ways we promote our soil quality is through an infusion of microbial teas. Microbial tea is not a plant food, but a rich, aerobic, biological inoculum for the soil. By ensuring robust biodiversity, we guarantee that all nutrients can be cycled into the plant (and we outcompete microbial pathogens, eliminating the need for undesirable fungicides or soil treatments). As time goes on, this ever-growing diversity in the soil food web means that we are sequestering more and more carbon every year. Our agricultural practices are actually regenerative! Essentially, we are converting undeveloped farmland — land that’s located in optimal micro-climates — into a fertile paradise!

The Best Soil = The Best Product

With a thriving biome, optimum airflow and water retention, and none of the harsh chemicals associated with manufactured soil, our custom soil blend simply can’t be beat. What’s the mean for you? Well, the best soil equals the best plants, which equals the best final product in your hands. And not unlike whiskey or wine, soil (when kept alive and healthy) gets better with age, so Maggie’s Farm’s award-winning marijuana will only improve in the years to come.

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Pesticide- and Hormone-Free

“How could we have ever believed that it is a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

– Dr. Jane Goodall

Balanced Web of Outdoor Life

Growing outdoors means that Maggie’s Farm has far fewer pest issues than indoor grows. Colorado’s arid climate doesn’t allow for many bugs, but sometimes pests do make an appearance on the farm. Fortunately, since they’re not confined to an indoor environment, insect-eating predators like dragonflies, ladybugs, and mantids also show up. It’s all part of the balanced web of life that nature has perfected for us.

Maggie’s Farm uses only organic fertilizers to improve the quality and diversity of life in the soil we use. We strive to treat our customers and our planet with the same love and kindness they’ve shown us. And that means no poisonous pesticides and hormones… EVER.

Magical Water

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”

Okay, so our water isn’t magical. But it is from 100% natural sources, free of the contaminants often found in tap water, such as chlorine, fluoride, copper, and other metals leaching from pipes. Our spring water is just right, naturally maintaining the perfect pH balance for growing cannabis.

Sunshine Is Delicious…

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

Okay, so our water isn’t magical. But it is from 100% natural sources, free of the contaminants often found in tap water, such as chlorine, fluoride, copper, and other metals leaching from pipes. Our spring water is just right, naturally maintaining the perfect pH balance for growing cannabis.

…High Pressure Sodium Is Not

What can be grown without the blessings of the sun? Quite a bit lately. The use of high pressure sodium (HPS) lights, ceramic metal halide (CMH) lights, and LED lights has become the norm for indoor grow operations.

No Substitutes

But that’s not how Mother Nature rolls. Sunshine is delicious, and it exposes our plants to the entire light spectrum. There’s simply no substitute for natural sunlight. Maggie’s Farm grows outdoors, where a plant’s light exposure period changes gradually and naturally over the course of several months. The color and intensity of the sun changes each day and throughout the seasons. The days shorten. The temperature drops a little. The plant gathers all of this information and has time to comply with these various natural changes. And so begins the transition to a strong, vibrant, natural flower.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

With their complicated lighting and feeding systems, indoor and greenhouse grow operations consume massive amounts of energy, releasing dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because Maggie’s Farm relies on the power of natural sunlight and airflow, we can easily fulfil our commitment to minimizing our carbon footprint. Mother Nature has been unfailingly good to us, and we want to be just as good to her.

Enlighten Yourself

We encourage you to shed some light on how your current buds are being grown. If you find they’re grown under artificial light, there’s an alternative. We use the wonders of nature to grow the best buds under the sun — literally.

Perfected by the Hands of Time…

“Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hands of time.”

Cured to Perfection

An important aspect of cultivating top-quality, organically grown flower is the curing process. In the fast-paced world of indoor, industrial grow operations, plants can go from harvest to sale in mere days. Not here at Maggie’s Farm. We understand that the best buds require proper, patient curing.

Temperature Control

Keeping freshly harvested cannabis at optimal temperature and humidity levels promotes the conversion of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to THC, increasing the potency of the buds. We carefully monitor the curing process from start to finish to ensure that things are done right. We don’t spend the whole year growing a single crop only to turn our backs on it at this final and vital stage!

Aromatic Preservation

Our curing process also allows simple, early-stage aromatic compounds to develop in complexity. Maggie’s low-temp slow-cure process is the most effective at preserving these indispensable terpenes. Learn more about why terpenes are so important.

Smooth Flavor

You know that harsh, throat-burning sensation you get from some cannabis? That’s caused by the leftover minerals produced when drying synthetic nutrient-infused plants.

Organic plants, like those cultivated at Maggie’s Farm, don’t have to “flush” those leftover minerals, because they’re sequestered in the living biomass of the soil food web. We haven’t used any synthetic fertilizers to force unnecessary compounds into the plants, so they’ve only absorbed and metabolized the nutrients they need from the soil. There’s literally nothing to flush, meaning that our flower is guaranteed to provide a smoother, more enjoyable smoke.

…And the Hands of Carefully Trained Trim Artists

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

– Francis of Assisi

Respect the Bud

Only after our flower is fully cured does the trimming process begin. Real people (artists, if you will) trim Maggie’s buds by hand with the care and respect they deserve. Our meticulously trained trim artists carefully remove what you don’t need, leaving only the most valuable parts of our premium cannabis.

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CLEAN GREEN CERTIFIED

We were the first Colorado company to receive Clean Green® certification, and we’ve been seamlessly recertified every year since. Clean Green is the only nationally recognized third-party cannabis certification program, and Clean Green Certified products are the closest you can get to organic in the cannabis industry. Click here to learn about our commitment to responsible, organic farming.