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Helping the Harvest

By Jeff Duewel of the Daily Courier

WILLIAMS — Neal Lauritsen dumped a handful of musky marijuana buds into an $8,500 EzTrim machine at the second annual SunGrowers Guild Trim-A-Thon on Wednesday.

The contraption looked a lot like the tornado sensor device named "Dorothy" in the movie Twister, cylindrical and metal.

A minute or so later the buds settled in a bag underneath, looking like their beards had been trimmed.

"If you're harvesting several hundred pounds a year, to hand trim would take 10 people a couple of months," said Lauritsen, Northwest district manager for EzTrim, based in Salem. "With one of these you can cut that down to three weeks. You don't have to have people hanging out at the farm."

Indeed, "trimmigrants" could have feared their job security had they scanned the six vendors selling trimmers at the event, put on by the Oregon SunGrowers Guild at Pacifica Gardens on Watergap Road.

Growers and vendors alike are all catching the wave of the marijuana boom in southern Oregon since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2015.

Soil amendment, packaging, and trim service businesses also attended.

"I think the business has doubled since I moved here two years ago," said Lauritsen, whose company started in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, then branched out to Washington and Oregon. "We've sold quite a few of these in Oregon. We should get a couple of orders for them today. Or at least a couple of leads."

EzTrim also displayed a debudder and a sorter on Wednesday. They're about half the cost of the trimmer.

"These days it's a connoisseur's market — you want the buds as pristine as possible," Lauritsen said "There's no need to settle for bottom-of-the-line buds.

 

"Some dispensaries want big nuggets, some want small ones," he said.

Jared Watters of the SunGrowers Guild estimates 90 percent of the marijuana sold in Oregon grows in Jackson and Josephine counties. He grows eight strains of marijuana plants at his Corner Creek Farms in Eagle Point.

"This is the only event we know of, dedicated to trimming machines," Watters said. "It's all about helping the harvest."

Which is going full bore now. Watters said people were likely having trouble tearing away from harvest to hit Wednesday's event, especially with rain expected to arrive today.

"Everyone's in a mad rush," he said.

The harvest should fare much better than a year ago, when record October rains resulted in 30 to 40 percent of the crop lost to mold, according to Watters.

Smoke from wildfires slowed growth, but not catastrophically.

"Most people are two weeks behind on harvest. That's farming," Watters said.

Grower Shayne Christen, a guild board member, can relate. He's battled mites and poor soil the last two years with his 48 plants, near Pacifica.

"I'm hoping I can take care of my patients and myself this next year," he said. "But that's farming. I've got dirt in my blood."

Watters' Corner Creek Farms sells to 17 dispensaries, in the Portland area and on the coast.

"It's a waste of my time to sell (in Southern Oregon), with such a saturation in the market," he said.

Competition among trim equipment businesses is fierce.

Less than 20 feet away from EzTrim's setup, Amy Beal hawked Tom's Tumblers, trimmers that use a lighter touch and are lighter on the wallet at $1,200 or $3,300 for two sizes. The big one trims 36 pounds an hour.

That's going to save 75 to 90 percent of total trimming time for growers, said Beal, Northwest sales rep for the Woodland Hills, Calif., company.

Redwood Nursery in Grants Pass and Applegate Soils in Applegate are two of the retail outlets for Tom's Tumblers.

It uses gravity only, unlike the EzTrim trimmer that had rubber fingers and a high-speed fan.

"It works like a rock polisher," Beal said. "It keeps the crystals and trichome structure intact.

"Our machine can pay for itself in one day," she added.

Colten Williamson and Robert Pardee Jr. farm marijuana between Grants Pass and Rogue River, and last year began selling specialized vacuum packers for product, at just over $4,000 apiece.

"We just sold 10 of them in the last three weeks," Williamson said.

"It's not just a sealing machine you buy at Wal-Mart," Pardee's father, Robert Sr., said. "This uses three different gases."

It's complicated, but their machine adds argon, carbon dioxide or nitrogen for cushioning, whereas just sucking all the oxygen out would smash the buds, Pardee Jr. said.

Despite the harvest in full bore, there were also growers in attendance.

Chelle Welsh of Grants Pass, who makes and sells topicals through Sun Horse Apothecary, wasn't going to buy any trimmers, but see who was there.

"It's about the connections in this industry," she said.

Entry fees from Wednesday's event help pay for the guild's one-person staff, Watters said. The guild exists to "protect the rights of growers and patients at the state level."

And it's a fast-moving business.

"This business evolves quickly, and there's a lot of competition," said Watters.

He believes growers will withstand the inroads from big corporations such as Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, which he says are buying land and sitting on it, waiting to dominate the market.

"Oregon is the craft beer capital of the West. It's going to be the same with marijuana."

Earlier Event: October 19
County Refines Cannabis Restrictions
Later Event: October 21
Drug Sweep Yields 9 Arrests