CC Farms thrives with all-natural cultivation practices and genetics specifically suited to the Southern Oregon climate
Southern Oregon is often referred to as the northern extension of the famous Emerald Triangle region that includes California’s Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties.
Highly regarded for optimal climatic conditions that include warm springs, mild sunny summers and a long lazy autumn flower period, the Emerald Triangle is to outdoor cannabis what Napa is to quality wine. On the Oregon side of the Triangle, Josephine and Jackson counties are the epicenter of marijuana production. Both share a border with California and are known for their long history of producing superior marijuana flowers. Many in the community are farmers, ranchers and back-to-nature types who relish the opportunity to live where the water is clean, pollution is rare and big-city crime is 200 miles away. And except for the world-famous Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and the wild, scenic Rogue River, cannabis is what this remote corner of Oregon is most renowned for.
Chris Kehoe and his farm, Conscious Cannabis Oregon (CC Farms), are a great example of the type of grower and operation that represent the Southern Oregon ethos. Kehoe has been actively involved in the medical marijuana industry for years. He firmly believes that Southern Oregon is one of the world’s premiere locations for cannabis cultivation and has developed strains that are well-suited for the region. One he loves to talk about is a cross between Jack Herer, winner of eight Cannabis Cups, and Sour Diesel. The result, locally referred to as Valley Queen, is an exceptionally strong medical-grade cannabis variety that is great for creative thinking and clean energy. Kehoe believes that it also represents a plant that has been carefully cultivated to match the local growing conditions. This precise matching of genetics to geographical region results in a well-balanced and hardy plant that grows fast, produces big yields and is rich in both THC and terpenes.
“The strain is exceptional medicine that is both stimulating and meditative,” Kehoe says.
In more general terms, Kehoe believes that the ideal strains for the region are Afghani crosses that thrive in the warm, dry Southern Oregon summers.
At CC Farms, nothing is left to chance and Kehoe has dedicated many hours to improving the grow conditions at his facility, while adhering to the same guidelines that govern the production of organic fruits and vegetables. One example of this is the careful and painstaking process of soil improvement. “Feed the soil, not the plant” is evident in the way Kehoe has slowly, but significantly, made advances in the substrate that his cannabis crop depends on.
“As growers, we know that healthy soil holds the key to producing nutrient-rich and dense organic cannabis flowers,” Kehoe explains.
In a layering process that is based on traditional farming know-how, Kehoe created soil conditions that are ideal: “First we go deep and create a good layer of drainage under our primary soil. This drainage layer consists of coco-coir and pumice, and allows excess water and nutrients to drain from the soil. Next, our primary grow beds get a mix of A-grade worm castings, humic acids, compost, Acadian kelp, silica and rock dust. This carefully mixed blend is ideal for cannabis production and results in extremely vigorous plants that grow fast and strong,” Kehoe says.
The actual planting of his outdoor crop takes place in early spring after the beds are prepared. Kehoe likes to use 50% seed from his own stock and 50% cuttings from mother plants chosen for their output and suitability to local conditions.
“I look for vigorous phenotypes that exhibit a particular genetic trait, including specific cannabinoid profiles that I’m interested in,” Kehoe says.
When it comes to pests, Southern Oregon — like most regions — has had its share. Similar to the devastating 2016 outbreak in Washington state, Oregon was struck with a blight of russet and broad mites in 2015 and 2016. Some growers were nearly wiped out and entire crops came perilously close to destruction. In accordance with organic farming principles, Kehoe does not use synthetic chemicals or pesticides. Instead, he prefers active preventative measures, which include early applications of essential oils, green cleaner and OMRI-approved PyGanics. According to Kehoe, vigilance and a proactive early program, combined with a foliar application of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) can keep destructive mites in check.
While Kehoe is excited to be involved in Oregon’s legal, adult-use marijuana industry, he’s also hopeful that the rapid changes and advances sweeping the West Coast don’t entirely displace — or replace — the many old-school medical growers who have been involved in cannabis production for decades.
In his words, “the new rec industry is bringing both opportunity and opportunists, who in turn are replacing the outlaw culture that thrived here and pioneered cannabis activism as early as the 1960s.” Oregon, the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession (1973), was also the second one to legalize medical marijuana (1998). Kehoe is concerned that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program is in jeopardy and that the emergence of a taxed, adult-use business model might force out many of the local artisan growers who depend on a small, but dedicated base of medical consumers.
Growers like CC Farms owner Chris Kehoe represent a new type of cannabis entrepreneur: forward-thinking and excited about the new business opportunities, but also with one eye on the past and a reverence for a storied history in a part of America that is proud of the role it played in the slow but steady march toward a far more sane and pragmatic view of the Cannabis plant, and the role it will play in a county that is rapidly waking up to its many virtues.