Citing zero sales, a N.S. craft cannabis grower is calling it quits

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A craft cannabis grower in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley is quitting the business after going through two harvests without making a sale. 

Adam Webster of Olde Furrow Farm in Port Williams, N.S., said he grew a total of 230 pounds of no-spray cannabis in his outdoor plot, but could not find any buyers. 

"The market's so bad," he said.

"Everyone has product and no one's moving it."

Webster said the consultant who helped prepare his business plan in 2019 told him to expect a price of $1 to $3 per gram for cannabis grown with his micro-cultivator license from Health Canada. 

Webster said he needs to earn 50 cents per gram to turn a minimal profit for cultivating, curing and trimming the buds. 

But instead, he's been offered a maximum of 20 cents per gram, and prices have continued to fall. 

"It was going to be an extra source of income for our farm. It was supposed to be more for stability, but that didn't happen," he said.

"It actually took time and energy and money, and it was just mostly a waste of time," he said. 

Cheaper to destroy than sell

A cannabis policy expert in British Columbia said all craft cannabis farmers who grow outdoors are facing the same tough business landscape. 

David Brown of the online publication Stratcann said large industrial growers who can cultivate dozens of hectares of outdoor cannabis are flooding the market.

By comparison, Webster's craft license allows him to cultivate 200 square meters of plants, just two per cent of a single hectare. 

David Brown is a cannabis policy expert with Stratcann Inc. of Maple Ridge, B.C. (David Brown)

Brown said some industrial producers are finding that it's cheaper to destroy their crops rather than bearing the expense of storing it and look for a buyer. 

"In the short term, I think we will see a lot of folks falter. It's not an easy time right now. Prices are very low," he said. 

Plenty of local interest

Adam Webster said other aspects of his farm business are doing well, and he often sells out of fruit, vegetables and fresh salad greens at the farmers' market in Wolfville, N.S. 

He said many customers were eager to buy his cannabis directly. But because licensed cannabis growers can only sell to licensed processors, he couldn't do it. 

"I'm a vegetable farmer, so lots of people were like, wait, where can we buy your cannabis?" Webster said.

"I would just have to say, 'No, you can't buy it from me because I can't get it to the legal market.'"

Adam Webster says his cannabis plants flourished in the summer of 2021 due to the hot, humid conditions in the Annapolis Valley. (Adam Webster)

Instead, Webster has given his entire crop to a licensed processor for free.

"I know a processor. We have a kind of mutual trust. So I just said, just take it free of charge. And if you sell it, then, you know, throw some money back my way," he said. 

Webster said he's lost hundreds of hours of his time, and roughly $10,000 in setup costs. 

He said he will start growing micro-greens in the heated, secure shipping containers he bought to store and process cannabis.

Brown said despite plummeting prices, micro-cultivators and micro-processors continue to enter the marketplace, with roughly 100 new licenses issued in the past year. 

He said another major challenge is that provincial cannabis buyers such as the NSLC say that consumers just aren't interested in outdoor craft cannabis, which tends to have less of the active ingredient, THC. 

Provinces need to streamline sales process

Brown said both Ontario and B.C. have started "farm-gate" programs, which allow farmers to sell their products at the farm, much like microbreweries and wineries. 

But he said provincial regulations could be further amended to help micro-growers sell at farmers' markets to reach customers who value fresh, local products. 

"There's certainly options that provinces could take to streamline that sales process so that in theory, he could sell it straight on the farm, straight to consumers," he said. 

Meanwhile, the NSLC continues to operate under existing federal rules, which allows it to purchase cannabis only from licensed processors.

"I think maybe by next year, we'll start to see those supply chains opening up a little bit more and it being a little bit easier to sell," Webster said.

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