The goal of every cultivator in Ohio is to produce the best possible medication for the patients. The process to go from seed to sale is longer and more involved than many people think. Every grow is different, but at Buckeye Relief, success is dependent on our multiple smaller teams communicating and working together towards the common goal of growing the best plants possible.
For the first part of the production chain, we invited one member of each sub-department of cultivation and post-harvest to explain what they do.
The first step is our nursery. We propagate our plants from clones, so we have a stock of mothers and a clone room. I asked our nursery manager to give a rundown of her responsibilities:
“Hi! My name is Haley Hershman. I have been at Buckeye Relief since July of 2018. I am currently the Nursery Manager. I oversee all the mothers, clones and veg plants which is around 15,000 plants. I have a team of 3 people who are responsible for topping all the veg plants and maintaining the mothers by pruning, defoliating and hand watering daily. I monitor the clones closely by adjusting environmentals and hand watering as needed. My team and I take care of all the plants for their first 55 days and then they are off to the flower room.”
Once the plants leave the nursery they are transferred into a freshly cleaned and sanitized flower room, where they spend the remainder of their lives. Those plants are taken care of by staff, managers, and section growers, so I’ve asked one person in each position to describe their jobs:
“Hello! My name is Alyssa Beck, and I am a Cultivation Manager at Buckeye Relief. Each day my job is to oversee the staff and make sure the department is running smoothly. This includes keeping on track with our three-week schedule and checking off tasks that are performed throughout the week. Another large aspect of my job is finding ways to improve our processes when it comes to performing our tasks. Keeping constant communication between the nursery, IPM (Integrated Pest Management), and other sub-departmental teams. It is not only necessary for all the moving parts that take place during a day’s work but is especially helpful when improving our processes. The main goal is to continue to optimize quality and health of our plants, so we can extend a worthy product to patients in Ohio.”
“My name is Shelby Hardin-Martinez. As a woman and section grower in the male dominated cannabis industry, I take pride in everything I do. One of my main tasks is to ensure the quality of our plants and that their environment is maintained. This includes pruning, defoliation, training, and daily supply tests. Helping lead our team and planning our strategy has also become a huge part of my job. When our team comes in, I ensure everyone is informed, motivated and in high spirits. The tasks we perform daily are not easy, but knowing how many people I am helping with medical conditions makes it worth the long days. I also gain a lot of motivation from my peers and those I work with. Their ambition in the cannabis industry pushes me to work harder to help the industry grow.”
“My name is Jessica Thompson and I have been with Buckeye Relief for nine months. I have been part of the cultivation team for five months. I have never experienced a team with so much passion and energy to succeed. Our cultivation staff is responsible for cleaning and preparing flower rooms for transfers, pruning, and defoliation. I especially love my time working in the veg nursery, working with the mother plants and the plants that are still in veg. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this team and look forward to many more harvests!”
On average our flower rooms house roughly 3,500 plants, on two levels. They are culled down, starting in clone and through veg to ensure that we only have the best plants set to flower. We have three flower rooms, and each one has two section growers. The managers and staff will move from room to room depending on which room is ready for its next major task. Cultivation also has several other sub-departments that are not directly involved in the production chain. Their jobs are critical to the success and health of our plants, and they have some of the most specialized jobs in cultivation:
“My name is Mackenzie Simmons and I’m the Crop Optimization Technician at Buckeye Relief. My primary roles include data collection and analysis, plant inventory, and overseeing/implementing trellis treatments. I measure heights of each cultivar in our department to determine appropriate trellis placements. I also collect data on bud widths and clone performance. I just recently received a helper so I can shift my attention towards updating and maintaining standard operating procedures for our cultivation department. The endless room for growth and respect for the team easily makes this company one of the best to work for.”
“My name is Zack Folino, and I am the Irrigation and Controls Manager at Buckeye Relief. The Irrigation and Controls department is responsible for monitoring the environment of all the grow rooms and watering the plants to maintain proper growing conditions throughout their life cycle. Some of the daily tasks that this team performs include adjusting temperature and humidity setpoints, preparing nutrient feeds, altering light intensities, checking supply water conditions, and much more. The sense of fulfillment and joy I receive from coming in to work every day is something that has been a goal of mine since pursuing a career in agriculture. The challenge that this role presents keeps me focused and driven to grow as an individual and as a team. It has been so much fun and a pleasure to obtain this knowledge surrounded by the amazing people that work at this company.”
“My name is Allison Johnson, I started with Buckeye Relief when the facility was in its infancy back in 2018. I’m our IPM Manager and oversee the health of nearly 25,000 plants. Our team spends an extensive amount of time monitoring the crop for pests and disease, handling foliar applications to the plants, and ensuring the biosecurity of the facility is maintained.”
Buckeye Relief uses a data-driven approach to growing, and much of the plant data collected is recorded by these three sub-departments. The data they record is then analyzed and used to steer environmental conditions, make decisions about what cultivars to keep and which to kill, and guide staff processes like trellising. We keep historical records of each generation, so progress and plant performance can be tracked over time.
After the plants are harvested, the plants are then passed to our postharvest department. This department is responsible for the drying, curing, and trimming of our flower and harvest of extract plants. They are the last stop for the flower before it is packaged and sent to the patients. Other plants are designated for use by our processing team and have a few more stops before they get to the consumer:
“Before starting at Buckeye Relief, I worked as a Medical Assistant. During that time, I became very close with many cancer patients who used cannabis to help them through their journey. I have known about cannabis and have been around it for many years, and after hearing their stories and knowing how much it helped them, I knew as soon as I had the chance, I wanted to make the cannabis industry my lifelong career. Working in the harvest department has truly been a dream come true for me. The involvement we have with the plants throughout the process is one of the things I love most about my department. From assisting cultivation with pre harvest defoliation, as well as processing harvest for our live fresh frozen products. To then be a part of the harvest, which is by far my favorite part of my job. During harvest we work fluently together as a team with cultivation to cut down, weigh, and hang all the plants. They will then hang to dry for 7-10 days. In that time, we will spend each day with the plants, fluffing them and ensuring they all dry properly and evenly while keeping track of the moisture content of the buds. Once those 7-10 days are passed, we will take down the plants and cut them into smaller stems and place them in totes to keep drying and be sent over to the trim section. We are always coming up with new ideas and performing new experiments to provide our patients with the best products possible. Being a part of this industry is not only interesting, but it is rewarding. Knowing that there are so many people out there that our products help make it even easier to come into work every day, loving what we do here at Buckeye Relief.” – Nicole Henry, Harvest staff
“My name is Alexus Vogel, and I am the manager in the Trim Department. This position has been beyond rewarding, and I truly love all aspects of my job. It has challenged me in many different and unique ways, and I’m excited to continue to grow with the industry and keep pushing my limits. Being in the middle of the building, I have had the privilege of learning processes in multiple departments such as Cultivation, Harvest, Packaging and Shipping. In Trim, we specialize in grooming and pampering each individual bud and handling the flower with care, ensuring a full inspection before going to Packaging. As we receive flower from our Harvest team, we will go through and separate the flower from the stems and trim. We take pride in tackling every harvest with a clean and thorough hand trim, giving our patients exactly the image and feel they are looking for.”
There you have it…that is the process from clone to patient ready flower, in the words of our team. The other flower set aside for extract has a few more steps before it is turned into a finished product. Check back soon for the rest of our production process!