Plans for a large-scale cannabis production co-operative to be based out of Blewett’s Georama Growers have been scrapped in favour of a Salmo location.
Todd Veri, a board member with the Kootenay Outdoor Producer Co-op, said at a public meeting Saturday that a conditional offer for the 20.5-acre property had to be taken off the table in part because mortgages are not being given for cannabis operations prior to the Oct. 17 legalization.
Veri said the Georama location was likely too big and expensive for the group anyway.
“In the end, we don’t really need greenhouses. What we really need for our mother and clone production is a building,” said Veri.
He said the co-op has an agreement in place to lease a 5,000-square foot building in Salmo that will serve as a nursery. The deal is pending the co-op’s incorporation, which is expected to take place this week.
“I think it was good we went down that road and got some interest that way,” he said. “I think it got people to understand what we are envisioning isn’t a small operation. If all goes well in May, we will be, I think, in the top three or four companies in the world for production.”
The meeting, which was held at the Nelson Rod and Gun Club, included details for the co-op’s first-year plans and its expectations for the future.
Currently the three-member board is taking applications from land owners located in the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
The co-op has split its farm types into three sizes that prospective owners can run, each with its own requirements, expected plant production and share of the profits.
A 400-metre squared micro farm, for example, requires no prior growing experience while producing just 60 plants per season. The 2.97-acre estate farms, on the other hand, will need licensed irrigation while producing 2,000 plants.
“If this all goes, and why wouldn’t it, we expect to have an impact on land the same way that orchards and wineries had an impact on land value in the Okanagan,” said Veri.
The co-op hopes to have 60 farms running next year, and 200 to 300 operating within five years. Veri thinks the co-op taking the responsibilities of harvesting, trimming, marketing and selling will be a draw for growers who previously have had to do more than just put seeds in the ground.
“If you’re a grower, you don’t have to produce cones in the winter. You don’t have to worry about trimming or sales. Just go outside every day and tend to your plants for five months. We’ll pay you much better than you’ve ever been paid before, and you can get a mortgage on your house, you can buy property, you can get unemployment insurance.”
Veri said the co-op’s workforce will primarily be seasonal, part-time positions. He expects 150-to-200 growers will be hired the first year, along with 300-to-400 trimmer positions.
That number, Veri estimated, will double the following year and could end up being as big as 1,000 workers producing 200 metric tonnes of cannabis annually.