A small county in northern Saskatchewan is tipping its hat to a local micro-producer for growing sustainable craft cannabis and creating jobs in the conservative community.
Based in the town of Nipawin, North 40 Cannabis has been nominated by the Carrot River & District Board of Trade for the 2020 Rural Roots Award — the first-ever nomination for a legal weed grower by the Moose Range county’s office.
Despite major setbacks brought on by a costly powdery mildew outbreak last November, the micro-producer has increased its staff count to 25 from 12 over the winter, making it the number-two employer in the community.
The recognition isn’t a big, glorious thing, says North 40 master grower and owner Gord Nichol.
“But still it’s the thought that counts. And we’re pretty important to the 25 families out here,” he said.
Might not seem like a big deal, but we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished and especially proud of the jobs we’ve created. We’re making a positive contribution to our neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/20YhaRZTyi
— North 40 Cannabis (@40Cannabis) March 11, 2021
The small company has injected almost $3.5 million into the local economy since launching in the summer of 2019, according to Nichol.
Around $1.5 million was spent to build its 2,000-square-foot facility, with the majority of supplies bought from a local hardware store. North 40 has generated around $1.5 million in revenue, all of which has been spent on staff wages and expenses like utility bills.
North 40’s contribution to the rural town’s economy represents a microcosm of how Canadian cannabis producers have been supporting economic growth since the country legalized recreational use in 2018.
According to Statistics Canada, legal growers contributed $8.14 billion to total gross domestic product in 2020, up from $5.45 billion in 2019.
The award nomination also recognizes the craft grower’s sustainable aeroponic production methods. It’s an efficient way of feeding the plants with very little waste, Nichol says, because his team composts all of its vegetative matter that goes to waste.
North 40 also spends around $10,000 a month on electricity that’s generated from the SaskPower’s hydroelectric dams.
North 40 praised for honesty in Canada’s highly competitive legal weed market
But it hasn’t always been easy for Nichol to keep the lights on.
After North 40 had to tear down operations late last year to eliminate the fungus outbreak, it’s taken four months to reboot production to full capacity.
Because the micro-cultivator always plants in each of its seven rooms in two-week intervals, the first room won’t be ready to harvest until the end of March.
It will take another 30 days to cure the craft buds, Nichol says, before he can begin packaging and shipping product out to provincial markets to sell his dried flower.
“This has been a nightmare, but we are up and running — our last room filled next week,” Nichol explains. “We’re coming back. We’ll be around for a while.”
Last year, the master grower received major industry support and praise for his transparency in handling its mildew outbreak.
North 40 has been able to keep operating through the ordeal by getting pre-roll and live cannabis rosin production contracts from his industry peers.
“The margins are tight on pre-rolls, so you really got to pound out as much as you can, which is why we hired more staff,” Nichol explains.
Nichol’s open nature about his business and dedication to quality has helped him cement leadership status among the country’s craft growers.
Back when North 40 was first applying for a production licence in 2018, Nichol presented to Health Canada the many challenges faced by micro-cultivators. That experience helped make it easier for everyone coming behind him.
When the Cannabis Act is reviewed in October, he now wants the federal government to consider reducing excise taxes for craft growers and eliminate the levy entirely for medical sales.
In Canada, both recreational and medical cannabis is taxed at 10 per cent of the final dried flower sale price, or $1 per gram – whichever is higher.
Because price compression has hit the Canadian cannabis market since early 2020 due to oversupply, Nichol says it’s hurting margins for smaller growers the most.
“So, I’m honest, transparent and engaged with the public every chance I can,” he says. “I hope that that can maybe add some value to what I’m bringing, because I simply can’t compete on a numbers basis.”
On April 14, Nichol will find out if his company wins at the 2020 Business Excellence Awards Gala, which will be held online and streamed via the Carrot River & District Recreation Board’s Facebook page starting at 6:30 p.m. CST.
Six awards will be handed out to members of the community, including the Rural Roots Award that North 40’s nominated for, which is given to a family farm that’s demonstrated innovative ideas and business practices that maximized productivity and profitability on their farm.
Top image via North 40