Highlights from Grower’s Source Expo 2021

CANNABIS CULTURE – The “passionate fanatics” that have grown pot in their basements for decades were given a voice and an ear at the Growers Source 2021 Expo held in cyberspace due to Covid restrictions.

Make no mistake this virtual conference was sponsored by the corporate big guys with the purse strings–nutrient company CANNA and garden products distributor Biofloral–but by collaborating with Grower’s Source it provided a congenial platform for the growers to do a lot of the talking, sharing and, of course a little bragging!

“People across Canada are eager to talk about what they are doing,” says Franck Munn, Producer at Grower’s Source who played a large part in hosting the event. “One thing we found is that it is a really compassionate audience that makes this community unique compared to any other community.”

The Grower’s Source Expo is the first virtual conference for the cultivation of cannabis in Canada. The expo mirrors the Grower’s Source mission statement which is to establish a network for growers to share their experiences with other growers. It’s a spinoff event from live events sponsored by CANNA and Biofloral which, due to Covid restrictions, had to be postponed. A Grower’s Source app will eventually be available to help growers stay connected well after this event.

“Growers have been contained in their basements for so long being secretive and unable to share. Their only opportunity in the past was to go to their local grow shop and talk to their buddy,” says Jason Stanley, Sales and Marketing Director at Biofloral who admitted some conferences were becoming too corporate.

Stanley said that with the Growers Expo format growers of all shapes and sizes were given the chance to kick back, light a joint and show off their grow rooms in private discussion rooms that could be set up with attendees of your choosing. Or you could jump into one of the Growth Corners sessions and take part in discussions on specific topics including cultivation techniques, the challenges for licensed growers (LPs) and managing a dispensary.

Virtual Convenience

Unlike some of the virtual conferences that have taken place since Covid restrictions, the Grower’s Source Expo was spread out over a two week period, rather than trying to pack it in over three days like a traditional conference. Most of the sessions were held late in the afternoon, allowing attendees to jump on at the end of the workday.

“By the time you figure out the technology it’s too late,” says Niek Roovers, referring to the typical three-day format. Roovers is the Business Development Manager at CANNA and joined the conference from the Netherlands. He added that by spreading it out over a two-week period it gave people a chance to get comfortable with the technology and literally get into the groove of this next best thing to a face-to-face conference.

The Path to Cannabis

People come to this industry from all walks of life and a plethora of experiences. There were many informative and inspiring stories shared by attendees. On the business side of things, one grower spoke of hiring two 70 year-olds who grew ornamental plants in a greenhouse to help his fledgling business become more efficient and cost-effective. In this case he was able to tap into a lifetime of growing and business experience.

Meurig Murray, Director of Cultivation at Stewart Farms in New Brunswick had a little different story to share. Like many people, Murray, was brought up with the belief that marijuana was only used by sex-crazed lunatics. Fortunately, Murray who was born in Norway and now resides in Canada, questioned those beliefs and by the age of 14 was using cannabis to help relieve his ADHD symptoms. This led to a fascination with medicinal plants that could be foraged from the wild and used to relieve many different ailments.

Murray eventually met James Curran at Broken Coast on Vancouver Island. Curran had also questioned the pot smoking lunatic narrative of his youth. The two shared a belief in the medicinal potential of cannabis and collaborated to present “From Soil to OIl: How to Align Your Pheno Hunting with Extraction Goals.” Much of what they learned in the wild is applied to what they are doing now, which is selling cannabis oils for recreation and healing.

Taking a Deep Dive into Growing Methods

Attending the Grower’s Source Expo was not only a great chance to network and check out the showrooms of cannabis friendly products, it also featured sessions that took a deep dive into basic, but critical aspects of the science of growing. For instance, a CANNA rep presented separate sessions on understanding and monitoring pH and EC, complete with charts and graphs. It was about as close as you could get to a science course at a university, with a much lower cost. Most of the sessions were recorded for playback. There were several more such classes, including ones on high performance LEDs, the benefits of mycorrhizae and ones that examined watering and irrigation.

If you’re the interactive type who is likely to raise your hand during a training session, you would have liked CANNA’s Q&A they held during the second week of the Expo. This session provided an opportunity for small and large growers who are looking to tweak their operation or experiment with new techniques to ask questions of a panel of seasoned growers.

Happy to Get Together

As the old adage goes “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” To make sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously the Expo offered Happy Hour get-togethers in the evening where like-minded folks could crack open their favorite beverage, twist up a doobie or sample an edible and just hang out for a while and kick it with the other attendees. This event was well attended and as you may guess allowed attendees to get acquainted with the, shall we say “more colorful” part of people’s personality.

The conference also featured screenings of fairly recent documentaries that passionate growers salivate over while others may shake their heads in wonder. The first was a movie titled “The Need to Grow,” which included a live Q&A with the movie’s producer Tanna Stewart, co-founder of Stewart Farms. The movie was about regenerative agriculture and break through technology that combined water, CO2 and biomass. On the last day of the conference, attendees were treated to “The Scientist,” a movie about a man’s quest to discover the chemical compounds in cannabis which included a Q&A with its director Zach Klein.

As trade shows go, this one didn’t feature a lot of brands, 21 to be exact. However, the brands represented most of a grower’s needs, including nutrients (CANNA), retail distribution of garden-related products (Biofloral) and testing equipment (Blue Lab). These showrooms consisted of fairly brief, professionally produced videos promoting and explaining the company’s products and services, while company reps were available to chat about their products and services.

And if you think you might miss getting your swag from the booths you visit, these companies mailed it to folks who visited their showrooms. How about that? And you didn’t even have to carry it around with you until you got back to your room like a normal conference. So perhaps there are advantages to going virtual!

As much as everyone wants to get together again for a live event, the Growers Source Expo did allow a wider reach of attendees, from those who may be separated by an ocean to those who can’t afford to travel cross country to attend such an event. This appeared to make the conference more inclusive and accessible for smaller growers.

So will we ever meet again in person? Will there be another CANNA Cup? These are burning questions from attendees.

“We’ll do it again, hopefully live when we can actually shake hands and hug” said Erik Dujvenroorde, Brand Representative at CANNA.

Neil Moran is a horticulturist and freelance writer living in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

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