If you want something done right …
By Patrick Wagner
The contractors have finished and left. The head grower, gone without warning. Insurance remains uncertain. And worst of all, a couple thousand plants have been destroyed.
One might think the mood around the Colorado Leaf grow facility in Pueblo would be getting gloomy.
Yet, brothers Brett and Keith Sprau, operating the entire 23,000-square-foot greenhouse on their own, sound happier than ever. They find satisfaction in self-reliance, and have confidence in the old adage that if you want something done right, it’s best to do it yourself.
Music can be heard all the way from the road that runs past the farm. Every morning, the two brothers race to the greenhouse to decide which Spotify playlist will be the soundtrack for the next 12 hours.
“I think it’s exciting as hell,” Brett said. “It’s a lot of fun for us because it’s new and just to see how well all the plants are growing every day.”
“The nice thing is the beautiful weather,” Keith added. “It’s been in the high 70s for the past month.”
Despite recent challenges, the company’s outlook remains positive. But in order to achieve their goals, the Sprau brothers first have to learn how to fill the void of not having a head grower.
Thanks to the outpouring of support from friends and neighbors, Colorado Leaf was able to start fresh with a small cache of donated plants after the company’s stock of 2,000 clones were destroyed in the winter.
Brett had some experience with cloning, but Keith had only learned the process through osmosis. Neither had taken a clone through its entire lifespan.
“We’re figuring it out,” Keith said.
Realizing they would need more help than what simple Internet searches could provide, the Spraus turned to a nearby friend whose head grower walked them through the beginning stages of cloning. Taking what they could from the lessons and trusting in research to fill in the gaps, the brothers had no choice but to begin cloning.
At first, they took 150 clones to experiment with and returned with 130.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” Keith said. “We’ve never cloned before, but after that we were comfortable enough so we have just been going to town.”
However, the regular maintenance of running a farm demanded the majority of their time. Since both brothers live on the property, they would regularly work from dawn until the late hours of the night, cutting new clones to stay on schedule.
But haste led to problems. After moving 100 of the early clones, the Spraus realized the plants’ roots hadn’t been developed enough to sustain the intense heat of Colorado’s early spring.
“We learned pretty quickly not to do that,” Keith said.
The mistake forced them to adopt a more intensive watering schedule, where the brothers had to make frequent trips to feed the dehydrated clones so they wouldn’t wither and die.
By the beginning of April, the brothers had successfully met their goal of 3,200 maturing plants and 400 clones.
At times, Brett and Keith are able to take lunch breaks. Their schedule runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day. Depending on the weather, the plants at Colorado Leaf need as much as 600 gallons of water every two to three days. The clones require extra attention. At least three times a day, the Sprau brothers revisit the clones to continue cropping, cleaning and feeding.
“On top of that, there is a 23,000-square-foot building that we need to keep clean,” Keith said.
They initially tried to split responsibilities, but Brett estimates it would take one person nearly 16 hours to feed all of the plants on the farm.
“It’s one of those things where you just get caught up,” Keith said. “You prep early, you go in there and think you can feed the plants and get done by 10:30 to 11. But before you know it, it’s 2 o’clock and you’re like, ‘Well, I might as well finish the day down here.’”
So rather than splitting responsibilities, the brothers found it more efficient to work together to finish each necessary task. But as harvest season approaches, the workload could be more than the team of two could handle, raising the question of hiring a new head grower.
“We keep sitting down at the end of the night thinking, maybe we just need an assistant that has the knowledge,” Keith said. “Just so there’s not too many chefs in the kitchen.”
“Once we get our first batch through flower and we know what we’re doing, then I’ll feel 100% confident,” Brett said.
The first 700 plants were expected to begin flowering in late April, providing only a small window for the Spraus to establish a standard production cycle for the plants and resume their personal lives.