Grants Pass, OR
Before the sun rises, I wake to a dark, cool autumn morning. The dew is heavy, and the air is damp with the intoxicating aroma of mature cannabis in the air. I make my coffee and layer up for the brisk, headlamp-lit walk through the field to make our plans for the day. Today, like the next 30 days, we will be harvesting the plants that we have carefully selected and bred for this year’s market and then labored over since last November. It’s an exciting time and a fleeting moment.
We assess the maturity and peak ripeness and begin to strategize what will be harvested today, and what will wait until tomorrow. Some mornings bring more stress or strategy than others as the potential for rain or mold is always encroaching. Today, out of more than 40 cultivars, we choose Hash Plant.
She is rich with spice and her trichomes are just right. I head to Metrc, our compliance tracking software, to inform OLCC of our intended harvest.
The staff begins to trickle in before the sun has fully risen. It will take the full day and potentially a few hours tomorrow to harvest all of this cultivar. If it’s sunny and hot, we will stop harvesting by 11 and take a six-hour break until 5 p.m. when the sun has begun to set, and the plants have cooled down. Harvesting cannabis in the heat of the day causes trichomes to be sticky and hard to handle, but the critical factor for Alter is the sugar and terpene content and stability of the plant. Farmers growing berries pick them in the morning to ensure their highest sugar content. At Alter, we have seen this difference in our cannabis and align with this belief.
Our giant harvest tent is divided into different stations: harvesters, weighers, graders, checkers, leafers and hangers. We have the harvest crew head out 30 minutes before the others arrive. The ripe flowers are carefully hand-cut and placed into food-grade receptacles and transported to the tent. Once at the tent, flower is weighed and entered into Metrc. It is placed on the table, checked for botrytis, graded and staged to have the big leaves removed. After this step is complete, our hangers — who are just arriving — begin arranging the flowers onto the metal hangers to go on the lines in the drying rooms. This process repeats itself over and over the rest of the day and the rest of the month.
When the sun is high in the sky and we are finished with our morning shift, the staff is off to the river to relax, eat and siesta before returning for the night shift. This whole process is repetitive and tiresome, but the annual outdoor harvest is full of olfactory memories, tantalizing flowers and bountiful reward.
Waking from my afternoon nap, I grab a cup of coffee and head out into the dry, cool evening air. The staff are beginning to arrive back to the farm and the night shift begins. The moment we have all been waiting for is here and it will be gone in the blink of an eye.