Canna Cribs Episode 4: Los Sueños Farms — Pueblo, Colorado


On the fourth episode of Canna Cribs, we interviewed Jarrod Mason and Matt Wheatley of Los Sueños Farms about what’s going on in Pueblo!

Editor’s Note: For those unfamiliar with Spanish, Los Sueños translates as “The Dreams.” The ñ is pronounced like a combination of the letters N and Y — so you pronounce Los Sueños as “Los Sway-Nyos.”

Jarrod Mason

The following is an interview with industry experts. Growers Network does not endorse nor evaluate the claims of our interviewees, nor do they influence our editorial process. We thank our interviewees for their time and effort so we can continue our exclusive Growers Spotlight service.


Trailers for Episode 4


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Abbreviated Article


Editor’s Note: Growers Network appreciates its readers! If you are limited on time, we are now offering abbreviated versions of our articles. Click below to view.


Grow Operation


Paint a picture of the farm for me.

Jarrod: The farm itself measures 36 acres as the total footprint, with about 28 of those acres as canopy. There’s a good chance in the future that we may double the size of our farm in the next year as well. The vast majority of our cannabis is sold as wholesale.

Matt: Our greenhouses are designed to provide cuttings for our large field grow, and keep our genetics fresh over the winter.

Most of what we grow is traditionally considered indoor varieties of cannabis, because that’s the direction the market has headed. We’re growing roughly 36,000 total plants in the field during the growing season, with 2400 in the greenhouses.


Since it’s in outdoor grow, do you use a lot of water?

Matt: We actually use a method called plasticulture to reduce our water usage. The way it works is we have a strip of plastic on top of the soil with small holes in it periodically. Our plants go into the holes with drip irrigation feeding them. This provides sufficient water to the plant, and any water in the soil underneath the plastic doesn’t evaporate.


Plants


How many strains are you growing, and how did you select them?

Matt: We have 15 strains growing out in the field, and 83 strains in the greenhouses. As time has gone on, and we cater more to our customer’s needs, the number of strains we’ve grown has decreased substantially. We’re potentially looking to grow half a dozen next year from our current winners.


How do you keep your soil quality high, since you’re growing outdoors?

Matt: Most of our technique follows permaculture principles, with an emphasis on growing organically and treating any pest problems with non-damaging solutions.

We consciously choose to use only OMRI-certified products, and we regularly take soil samples which we send to laboratories to get a nutrient analysis, pH, and EC. We’re firm believers that it’s better to underfeed than overfeed.


How do you harvest and dry your plants?

Matt: We use our greenhouses for some of that. We also currently have an electrical engineer building a semi-truck trailer that can be pulled around the farm as a portable drying room.

We have about 30 days to harvest 30 acres worth of plants before the frost hits. In order to stagger some of the drying, we plant our summer greenhouse turn to finish a week or two before we start the fall harvest.


What pests do you have to deal with?

Matt: Grasshoppers are our #1 enemy. We also have to deal with borer beetles, which are pretty awful. We’re pretty aggressive in our prevention and elimination regimen. We cleared a fire line around the farm and we also put out an insecticide called Nolo Bait, which is a consortium of bacteria that makes grasshoppers really sick until they die.

Our best biological control is the humble chicken! We’ve got a lot of chickens running around our farm, and they love eating grasshoppers. It’s not uncommon to trip over a chicken while you’re on the farm.

One other cool tool we have at our disposal is an electrostatic sprayer. It charges the fine mist it shoots out, causing any water, nutrient, or pesticide to adhere really tightly to all parts of the plant.


What’s your trimming strategy?

Matt: 90% of our cannabis is machine-trimmed for the purposes of selling to extractors and dispensaries. The remaining 10% is the best flower from our fields, which we wholesale to dispensaries around the state.


Guiding Philosophy


What are some challenges Los Sueños has faced?

Jarrod: Honestly, the scale of the farm has been our biggest challenge. We’re always coming up with custom solutions, since there’s almost nothing off the shelf for our scale.

Our farm is the size of a conventional agricultural farm. It’s tough to grow organically at that size, but cannabis also has special regulations. We comply with METRC, which can be difficult at our size since it doesn’t scale too easily.


What have been your biggest successes?

Jarrod: Our sales continue to increase year over year. We’ve nearly doubled sales every year we’ve been in business. Our innovation due to our scale has really impressed me, and I can’t wait until we expand soon. We’re going to have to implement more automation at some point too, because we won’t have enough labor for the farm, which is a problem of success.


What are you looking forward to in the future?

Matt: I’m excited about the expansion. Seeing the company grow and flourish has been amazing. And with that expansion comes the ability to finance more science and research. Some of my background is in tissue culture, and I’m super excited to get started on implementing it into our grow.


What advice would you give to somebody who wants to become a grower?

Matt: Get an education. Don’t be afraid to pursue a plant biology degree. It opens up a lot of doors.

And of course, hard work and thinking outside the box are important. A good education will allow you to take everything you learn and transform it into something magical.

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If you want to read more, you can read the full article below.


Grow Operation


Jarrod: The farm itself measures 36 acres as the total footprint, with about 28 of those acres as canopy. There’s a good chance in the future that we may double the size of our farm (36 -> 64 acres) in the next year as well. The vast majority of our cannabis is sold as wholesale, with only a small amount getting co-branded with retailers or extractors. Our target markets are primarily extractors and dispensaries.

Matt: The majority of our farm is outdoors. We only have around 43,000 square feet of greenhouses floor, split between 4 separate greenhouses. The greenhouses are designed to provide cuttings for our large field grow, and keep our genetics fresh over the winter. We do eventually flower out our mothers for a little bonus too.

Most of what we grow is traditionally considered indoor varieties of cannabis, because that’s the direction the market has headed. We’re growing roughly 36,000 total plants in the field during the growing season, with 2400 in the greenhouses (~38,400 plants total). During the winter, we’re growing around 2400-3000 plants. The plants that are grown outdoors aren’t autoflowering, and we don’t use light deprivation. We’re following the natural light cycle, so we only get one harvest per year. And these plants are so big at the end of the year, we have to cut them down with chainsaws.

Matt: We actually use a method called plasticulture to reduce our water usage. Water isn’t cheap here, so plasticulture methods allow us to save on it. The way it works is we have a strip of plastic on top of the soil with small holes in it periodically. Our plants go into the holes with drip irrigation feeding them. This provides sufficient water to the plant, and any water in the soil underneath the plastic doesn’t evaporate. The result is a decrease in our water usage.

Our drip system provides us with fertigation opportunities, and we run a proprietary blend of organic and inorganic salts through our watering lines. We use Dosatrons to meter out the nutrient solution.

The system itself is designed to be similar to a greenhouse setup with 3 inch PVC carrying the water, and a few big wells to drive everything. Our system is set up so that we have the ability to control every row in our plots with little valves nearly everywhere. 95% of the irrigation system is buried, and every year we disassemble it before we till and amend the soil in the winter, and reassemble it prior to spring.

Matt: Yes we do. We use Gavita lights to supplement our plants. They don’t see a whole lot of use during the summer when light levels are high, but they are programmed to kick on when light levels drop below a certain threshold. Our Link4 controller takes care of that. We target a DLI of 35 moles of light.

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about Daily Light Integral? Check it out in this article.

Matt: Not really. We monitor field watering manually, and that’s done by our field crew. We also do a lot of data collection, which we record in the software that came with our Link4 system. We have an in-house server that has a huge capacity to store all that data.

In the greenhouse, we try to enforce everything that we’ve learned from growing indoors. We’re big on keeping humidity at the right levels, and to that end we use a VPD chart which we follow religiously. Our Link4 system can determine when to vent depending on the humidity and heat, and we can set the season for particular seasons.

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about VPD? Check out our two articles on the subject here and here.


The Plants


Matt: We have 15 strains growing out in the field, and 83 strains in the greenhouses. As time has gone on, and we cater more to our customer’s needs, the number of strains we’ve grown has decreased substantially. We’re potentially looking to grow half a dozen next year from our current winners. This makes it easier to grow them, because we can focus on only a few strains. And while we love terpenes, we’re primarily focused on high THC levels for extracts.
Matt: That’s a great question. Since we’re growing outdoors in soil, we do have to worry about the soil quality.

We have a lot of different techniques to improve our soil and reduce the amount of waste we produce. Most of our techniques follow permaculture principles, with an emphasis on growing organically and treating any pest problems with non-damaging solutions.

We consciously choose to use only OMRI-certified products, and we regularly take soil samples which we send to laboratories to get a nutrient analysis, pH, and EC. We’re very conscious about not putting on too many nutrients, and we’re firm believers that it’s better to underfeed than overfeed. We add nutrients during the winter, when we till and amend the soil between growing cycles.

Matt: We’re in a state of flux at the farm right now. We take our cannabis plants down with a chainsaw, but we haven’t had a dedicated drying space. We use our greenhouses for some of that. However, we currently have an electrical engineer building a semi-truck trailer that can be pulled around the farm as a portable drying room. The plants are supposed to go in on one end, then come out the other in a nearly powdered form that’s useful to extractors.

One thing I want to note is that we have about 30 days to harvest about 30 acres worth of plants before the frost hits. So, in order to stagger some of the drying so we don’t run out of space in the greenhouses, we plant our summer greenhouse turn to finish a week or two before we start the fall harvest.

Matt: Grasshoppers are our #1 enemy. We also have to deal with borer beetles, which are pretty awful. Beyond those two though, it’s very dry here, so we don’t typically see mites or soft-bodied insects.

In order to deal with these pests, we’re pretty aggressive in our prevention and elimination regimen. We cleared a fire line around the farm, preventing anything outside the farm from serving as a host plant for these insects. We also put out an insecticide called Nolo Bait, which is actually an OMRI-certified consortia of bacteria that makes grasshoppers really sick until they die.

And our best biological control? The humble chicken! We’ve got a lot of chickens running around our farm, and they love eating grasshoppers. It’s not uncommon to trip over a chicken while you’re on the farm. They even roost in the cannabis plants. We don’t get any eggs, and that’s probably because they’re never old enough to produce them. See, every spring we get a new batch of chicks, and every fall we have a big old roast.

The humble chicken, seen here by cannabis.

One other cool tool we have at our disposal is an electrostatic sprayer. The electrostatic sprayer charges the fine mist it shoots out, causing any water, nutrient, or pesticides to adhere really tightly to all parts of the plant, instead of drifting everywhere and only hitting the tops of the leaves. The electrostatic sprayer causes the sprayed material to drift all the way around the plant pretty evenly. And any material that doesn’t adhere to the plant adheres to the ground, so there’s virtually no drift.


How electrostatic spraying works.
Matt: 90% of our cannabis is machine-trimmed for the purposes of selling to extractors and dispensaries. The remaining 10% is the best flower from our fields, which we wholesale to dispensaries around the state.

Jarrod: As Matt mentioned, about 10% of the flower is sold to stores, which we don’t explicitly brand. Most people know it’s our flower because of all the specials that pop up across the state at that particular time of the year. We are planning to release a brand of prerolls in October.


Guiding Philosophy


Jarrod: Pueblo, Colorado, is in the “banana belt” of Colorado. The area is generally warmer, and the elevation allows us to grow a wide variety of plant types, including both sativas and indicas. If we were any higher up, we might only be able to grow indicas. Because the area is warmer, we have a longer growing period, and that extra few weeks towards the end of the growing period really helps bring out the terpenes in our crops. The environment as a whole stresses the plants just enough to bring out the best in them without overstressing them.

Additionally, our location has easy access to water, a university, and a labor market. Pueblo is a pretty big city, so we do have access to all sorts of resources that might be harder to find in a more remote location. And since we’re not in Denver, land is available at a pretty reasonable price.

Jarrod: Honestly, the scale of the farm has been our biggest challenge. There’s no manual to follow when it comes to this sort of thing, so we’re always coming up with custom solutions, since there’s almost nothing off the shelf for our scale. If there had been a manual, step one would’ve told us to buy land with water rights!

Our farm is the size of a conventional agricultural farm. It’s tough to grow organically on this kind of scale for normal crops, but cannabis also has special regulations on it too. We comply with METRC for everything, which can be difficult at our size, since it doesn’t scale too easily. These last three years have functionally been a giant R&D session to figure out what works and coming up with a game plan of where we want to be. And we’re still evolving every day.

Matt: One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to adapt to was growing in soil. As a scientist and a grower, I’ve always been a big fan of soilless growing. Regardless of scale, if you’re growing indoors, hydro is easier because you can control everything down to the most minute detail. Taking my scientific and growing backgrounds and applying them to outdoor growing has been a challenge.

Matt: You know, one of my biggest successes has been the satisfaction of seeing the theory I learned in the classroom applied to the real world. For example, soilborne fungus and pests are big problems for conventional ag in this area. We used many of the strategies I learned to combat them, and it shows. No problems with them whatsoever. Additionally, in spite of our soil being really saline and heavy in clay, we’ve managed to grow some truly beautiful plants.

Jarrod: Our sales continue to increase year over year. We’ve nearly doubled sales every year we’ve been in business. Our innovation due to our scale has really impressed me, and I can’t wait until we expand soon. We’re going to have to implement more automation at some point too, because we won’t have enough labor for the farm, which is a problem of success.

Matt: I’m excited about the expansion. Seeing the company grow and flourish has been amazing. And with that expansion comes the ability to finance more science and research. Some of my background is in tissue culture, and I’m super excited to get started on implementing it into our grow. And of course, as a science guy, getting the kind of equipment you find in a molecular bio lab is just plain exciting.

Jarrod: I’m looking forward to becoming a major supplier to other states, and potentially the international market if cannabis goes federally legal. I want to see sungrown, sustainable cannabis become the grow of choice, rather than indoors. Indoors simply requires too many resources, and hopefully consumers will recognize that.

Matt: Get an education. Don’t be afraid to pursue a plant biology degree. It opens up a lot of doors.

And of course, hard work and thinking outside the box are important. Don’t trust conventional thinking, don’t trust the magazines. We have better information available today thanks to the internet, and there’s a lot of talented growers out there, but many don’t understand plants. A good education will allow you to take their best tips and take them a step above.


About Matt and Jarrod


Jarrod: I am the Director of Business Development for Los Sueños Farms. That means I help manage the sales and marketing teams, and I help the farm out with many of its processes, including accounting and any special projects that may be occurring.

Matt: I am a geneticist and grower for Los Sueños. I am greatly involved in the research and breeding parts of Los Sueños, as well as the growing cycles for the farm.

As for my history, I’ve been growing for over 25 years now, and it may sound kind of corny, but I wanted to be the best grower possible. I got a degree in botany so I could take those lessons home to my grow room. After my bachelor’s degree, I went to grad school and spent over 10 years in a biochemistry lab that was focused on plant stress responses in wine grapes. I learned a lot about how abiotic stresses can bring out terpenes and other flavors in grapes, and how that applied to cannabis.

We’re able to pull some really high percentages of cannabinoids in our outdoor crops because we’re stressing them just right. The plants are growing in the high desert, which is hot with 15% humidity, and a clay soil. These plants really pump out as much as they can.

Jarrod: The things that set us apart are our scale and our focus. We’re one of the largest grow operations in North America at 36 acres, and many grows simply can’t compare with the consistency of our quality and our supply.

Because of our scale and the fact that we’re growing outdoors, we’re able to reduce our costs significantly, keeping us competitive as prices for Cannabis drop. We’re incredibly consistent as a part of the supply chain, allowing extractors and dispensaries to focus on their work, rather than worry about sourcing their cannabis.

Matt: One of the things we’ve observed in Colorado is that the price per pound of Cannabis has dropped precipitously. About half of the licensed growers in Pueblo aren’t even growing because the market has gotten too competitive for them. Because we’re an outdoor farm running with a lot of people from conventional agriculture, we’re able to run with smaller profit margins and continue competing.

Jarrod: I’m excited to show off what sungrown cannabis is all about. There’s a stigma against sungrown, and I think that’s because people don’t really understand it. I want to show how people like Matt and science can make cannabis better outdoors.


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Want to get in touch with Los Sueños?

You can reach them via the following methods:

  1. Website: https://lsf.farm/
  2. Phone: 719-766-9093


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About the Author

Hunter Wilson is a community builder with Growers Network. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Masters in Teaching and in 2007 with a Bachelors in Biology.