Unhappy Croptober: Sungrown Prices Crash to Historic Lows

The mood was somber at this year’s Hall of Flowers, the annual early fall trade show in Santa Rosa, California that’s become a de-facto preview of the yearly sungrown cannabis harvest.

For years prior to legalization and the opening of California’s adult-use cannabis market in January 2018, even if indoor-grown buds glistening with trichomes commanded higher prices, outdoor farmers still enjoyed reliably healthy appetites for their lower-THC, distinctly aromatic cuts. A pound of trimmed outdoor could fetch thousands of dollars; trimmers could expect $100 and $150 for every pound they prepared for market.

Not anymore. Since the opening of legal markets, outdoor prices have fallen, but fluctuated just enough to keep people in business. But this year, with the early light-deprivation harvest competing with enormous auto-flowering hauls from the airliner-hangar-sized greenhouses in the Salinas Valley and Santa Barbara County, as well as the usual indoor supply, things were different.

As one outdoor entrepreneur grimly joked, someone could wear a t-shirt offering “$50 packs,” and instead of eliciting knowing, sad laughs, they would probably entertain serious offers.

For a pound of outdoor cannabis in 2021 in early October, before the annual “Croptober” harvest, a pound of outdoor is demanding around $500 on the market. But most are asking for even less.

“The average is probably $500, but the drop from $500 to $150 is super quick,” said Nicholas Smilgys, who owns a Mendocino County-based distribution company.

His estimates were confirmed with other outdoor growers and distributors contacted by Cannabis Now. If someone has the most gorgeous outdoor anyone has ever seen—truly flawless AAA-grade weed—that might fetch $800. But that would be for what most growers, just a few years ago, would have reserved for their private head stash. And that’s still a price so low as to make outdoor cannabis farming a losing value proposition, as Tina Gordon, the founder and CEO of southern Humboldt County-based Moonmade Farms said.

While the flooded market means wholesale buyers can be outrageously selective, for producers, production costs have increased. There’s state excise taxes to pay before a single gram has been sold to consumers as well as state and county licensing and permit fees. With all that, combined with prices this low, how does anyone using the sun to produce cannabis make money?

“You can’t,” Gordon said.

Though this is an economic disaster, none of this should come as a surprise. The slow-motion demise of California’s small craft cannabis growers has been documented in excruciating detail over the past few years.

In addition to market competition and regulatory burdens, a litany of natural disasters like wildfires and drought, added to farmers’ woes—though at least fires offered a mixed blessing: if one farmers’ crop was ruined by smoke damage, that meant less competition for the farmer on the next ridge over whose crop was untouched.

But with more and more large-scale greenhouses entering the market—a single 87-acre grow was approved in Santa Barbara County earlier this summer, and county authorities reported more than 1,575 total acres in unincorporated Santa Barbara devoted to cannabis production or cultivation—California may produce three times as much cannabis as it can consume, industry observers and experts have said.

Exactly how much legal cannabis California produces remains a literal state secret; state law allows industry regulators to keep those numbers known only to themselves and select others, including law enforcement.

That might not matter if small farmers could sell directly to consumers or market their crops across state lines—neither of which is legal under state and federal law.

Small farmers, then, have two options. They can return to the illicit market, chasing higher prices along with increased risk. After all, the high prices that some fondly remember from a decade ago were in a way artificial, inflated by the risk of prohibition. Or they can offer only a few drops into an onrushing river that’s threatening to carry away their mode of production, as well as their way of life.

“These big swings are tough for a smaller company,” Smilgys observed. “You have to scramble to make up that lost revenue somewhere else.” That might be cutting wages for workers (or releasing staffs entirely). That might be cutting corners on supplies like fertilizers. Or it might mean giving up entirely on trying to satisfy a market that, to date, simply hasn’t been efficient in the way a small, bootstrapped producer using the sun needs.

The post Unhappy Croptober: Sungrown Prices Crash to Historic Lows appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The Cannabis Now Croptober Harvest Roundup

There are signs that the most special time of year has come. The sun dips lower in the sky every day and the temperature drops. The leaves on the plants turn yellow and begin to die. The colas swell to almost forearm size – it must be harvest time!

We’ve curated a collection of harvest content spanning from how-tos to an inside, intimate look at a Northern California grower’s ever shifting harvest experience. We’ve also got you covered on the top strains.

PHOTO Gracie Malley

When to Harvest: How to Achieve Peak Ripeness

The best time of the year is upon us. October, otherwise known as Croptober to those already in the know, is the month when the annual outdoor cannabis crop is harvested. Soon the marijuana marketplace will be flooded with choice outdoor herb, but knowing just when to harvest is not a straightforward proposition. To answer a question like “When’s the best time to harvest?” growers must take into account a plethora of factors and, ultimately, let Mother Nature take the wheel.


A Brief Guide to Harvest Time

It’s that time of year again!

All of the grower’s hard work culminates in an organized frenzy of chopping branches and moving them to the safety of a drying room. All manner of structures are used for drying, from yurts to containers and attics and spare rooms. Oftentimes harvest is dictated by when the rains come. If they hold off, people will let their plants go in order to get more weight and potency. Early rain leads to a mad dash for the hills and a frenzy of branch-chopping. Whether it rains or not, many of the delicate trichomes are lost at harvest. The best farmers are the ones who can be as careful as possible during takedown.

PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

An Unusual Harvest Season

Climate change is impacting the harvest season of cannabis in California.

Clearly we have yet to fully accept that climate change is real. As the weatherperson is prone to say, “Expect increasing frequency of random catastrophic meteorological events.” In other words, anything can happen. Last year it was the same thing only different. The drought had become such a constant reality that no one foresaw the rains that poured right through October, leaving lots of mold and mildew on cannabis plants in their wake. 

PHOTO Resinated Lens, Grown by Meraki Gardens, Bred by Capulator

Harvest Hype: 5 Strains Likely to Crush the Competition

In recent years, one of the most exciting things for me to work on has been whittling down the thousands of varieties of marijuana grown outdoors in California in a given year to find the top of the pack. I’m looking for where the real magic happens: when great genetics are put into the hands of above-average farmers.

Harvest season is now in full blast as farmers not only work to get the final sections of late running Sour Diesels and various landrace genetics chopped, but also to find space in the stuffed storehouses for the cannabis to dry and cure.

A New Harvest and a New Way to Do It
PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

A New Way to Harvest

Veteran grower Nikki Lastreto brings tidings from her latest harvest in this dispatch from the farm.

We’ve all felt it coming and talked about it for years, but this past season, the enforced changes in how we harvest our favorite plant were clearly evident.

The recurring mantra around here has been “Just one more crop the old way…” But that won’t work when you enter the legal realms of cannabis cultivation. For farmers like us up here in the Emerald Triangle, renowned for our autonomous nature, it has taken quite a while to accept the concept of being told what to do on our personal farms — it’s just not our style. But we are trying.

The post The Cannabis Now Croptober Harvest Roundup appeared first on Cannabis Now.

What is Croptober?

Although it may not garner the same recognition as beloved weed holidays like 4/20 or 7/10, the entire month of October marks one of the most joyous occasions for both cannabis cultivators and budget-conscious consumers. 

If you follow a handful of weed growers and cannabis connoisseurs on Twitter, you may notice the hashtag #Croptober trending once autumn rolls around. A quick scroll through your feed will yield an endless barrage of photos showcasing freshly harvested cannabis plants that would make any weed enthusiasts salivate with delight. But what, exactly, is Croptober and why is it so important to both growers and consumers?

“Croptober is the harvest season for the vast majority of sun-grown cannabis,” said Kevin Jodrey, founder of Wonderland Nursery, a Humboldt County, California-based farm. “Most cannabis we cultivate, it’s harvested in October.” 

Throughout October and even spanning into the early weeks of November, cannabis crops across the Northern Hemisphere are ready for harvesting. While there are certain strains that tend to flower earlier in September or later in November, Jodrey estimates that about 80% to 85% of cannabis varietals are ready to harvest during the traditional October cycle. 

After months of anticipation and providing tender loving care over their cannabis fields, outdoor cultivators will be spending most of late autumn cutting, drying, curing, and trimming their fresh bounty of buds. Soon after, an innumerable amount of cannabis from outdoor grows makes its way onto retail and delivery menus, where consumers eventually get to reap the benefits of Croptober, too.   

What Does Croptober Mean for Cultivators?

The significance of the Croptober is heavily contingent on the type of grow setup that is being utilized. For outdoor growers such as Jodrey, this is the moment that they’ve all been waiting for since the previous harvest. This is the time for sun-grown cannabis to shine, the time of the year where outdoor plants are sprouting gorgeous trichome-laden buds that emit a tantalizing aroma. 

“It’s an unbelievable celebratory time because everyone reaches fruition of the cycle,” Jodrey said. “You get the full effect of what it’s like to have a field of cannabis releasing aromatic esters and terpenes in the air, and people get to see the quality of the finished product.” 

(Photo by Kristen Angelo)
Croptober marks the September, October, and November season when outdoor growers reap the rewards of their hard work, but indoor growers used to be frustrated during the fall harvest season. As outdoor-grown crops became available, the market price of a pound of cannabis could fall by as much as $500.

The main benefit of Croptober for outdoor cultivators is pretty clear. This is the season where the benefits of their hard work, which begins early in the summer, finally comes to fruition. Fields of cannabis plants are harvested and eventually sold to dispensaries and retailers. 

However, as Jodrey explained, it’s also a moment of reckoning for outdoor cultivators, as they must be prepared for potential rainstorms that could cause mold to wreak havoc on their flowering plants. In order to avoid these harsh weather conditions, which could cause an outdoor cultivator to not make back production costs for the season, Jodrey and other cultivators strategize to grow several strains that are ready to harvest during different times of the month. 

On the other hand, indoor growers have — at least historically speaking — had a much different perception of this harvesting period. In the past, Croptober was a frightening time for those running indoor operations, as the massive influx of outdoor-grown cannabis could cause the market price of a pound to drop by $400 to $500, according to Jodrey. 

“Croptober was scary for a lot of producers in the past who were indoor cultivators because when the outdoor came out it would come in such a massive quantity that it would change pricing,” he explained. “Now, you have a more balanced flow through the year. So I don’t think Croptober is going to have the same incredible impact on pricing that it once did.” 

But Jordrey believes that this fear has slowly dissipated as the cannabis cultivation market has become more diversified with more indoor and greenhouse operations. In California, according to Jodrey, there’s now a barrage of cannabis operations that pump out products year-round, which in turn has reduced the outsized effect that Croptober once had on the market. While this might not seem to bode well for frugally minded cannabis user looking to get discounted top-shelf products, the outdoor harvesting season still has a multi-faceted impact on the consumer. 

What Does Croptober Mean for Consumers? 

Although Croptober may seem to have the most direct impact on cultivators, consumers also benefit during this time as they can purchase high-grade cannabis flower at a lower price. After harvesting is completed during October, retailers will soon be stocked to the brim with fresh, sun-grown cannabis come November and December. 

People that are on a budget, which is actually a majority of buyers, they look forward to this time because it allows you to get a better price point on the sale.
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“People that are on a budget, which is actually a majority of buyers, they look forward to this time because it allows you to get a better price point on the sale,” Jodrey said. “The overall permitting costs of outdoor is less, and the quantity of outdoor is more, so it creates a little bit of a better margin for the farmer, and that trickles down to the buyer.”

(Photo by Kristen Angelo)
Some cannabis farmers are allowing tourists to experience the Croptober harvest season, which includes September and November. A highlight is getting to smell the fragrant terpenes during the flowering cycle.

In order to find this top-quality, sun-grown flower, Jodrey recommends that shoppers look at the harvesting date on the packaging and aim to purchase flower two months after that time. For example, if you find cannabis product that was harvested in mid-October, it will be at peak quality if packaged and purchased around mid-December. 

Although the price drop from Croptober isn’t as significant as it once was, there’s another reason for the weed lovers and canna-curious tourists to get excited about. During the October season, people can visit these farms and get up close and personal with fully grown cannabis, accompanied by the aromatic terpenes and esters that are emitted during the flowering cycle. As cannabis legalization spreads and the general public becomes more educated about the plant, cultivators such as Jodrey see Croptober as a chance to give tourists a firsthand look at this magnificent plant before it hits the market.

“Croptober is not as impactful [to the market] as it once was, but it’s still culturally impactful.” Jodrey said. “I think the familiarity with that is what’s wonderful about outdoor cannabis, because it starts to connect the normalcy of cannabis cultivation as farming, the same as any other crop being farmed.”  

Featured image by Kristen Angelo.

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