Article by Tom Morrison, Chatham This Week
With government approvals now out of the way, owners of a Merlin-based outdoor cannabis operation plan to have their seeds in the ground in the spring with harvesting expected in late summer.
Jason Guttridge, CEO of 7 Farms Down, said after receiving the cultivation license from Health Canada on Nov. 27 the business is ready to move forward. He said there were several barriers which delayed his expected timeline.
“Nobody could have predicted the pandemic in 2020, but we were pretty fortunate and able to keep pushing through,” he said. “We reduced our crew sizes, we had a lot less people on site, basically only one contractor at a time, so it slowed down our build out.”
As well, Guttridge said working through the Health Canada approvals was “a pretty involved process.”
“The amount of red tape in this industry is astronomical, so it’s a little bit of navigation on our part,” he said. “Luckily, we had a consultant that really guided us through, which made it a lot easier.”
The plan came with some pushback from neighbours. Sandy Maynard, who lives in a home next to the field, told Chatham This Week in 2019 that she was concerned about the potential smell, impact on property values, security and her quality of life.
Maynard did not want to comment on this story.
The name of the company comes from Guttridge and his brother’s childhood home being seven farms away from the poultry farm where they grew up. They own the business with their cousin, Jay Glasier.
Guttridge said they’ve fenced off five acres of their 80-acre property on Merlin Road near Silver Line for the first year. After factoring in rows, access roads and an irrigation pond, it will be “a little less” than five acres of cannabis in the end, he said.
“Right now, we’re going to focus on doing small hand-crafted, small-batch outdoor cannabis,” he said, adding he’s not looking to expand at the moment.
“I’m not planning on kicking my fence out … and covering my whole field with cannabis right now. I just want to prove to people that, ‘Hey, we can do this, we can do this well,’ and at the end of the day I’ve got a high-quality product that Canadian consumers can rely on.”
The company plans to send its product to processors, who will sell it to the Ontario Cannabis Store and eventually end up in retail stores with the 7 Farms Down logo, Guttridge said.
Jamie Rainbird, manager of economic development for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, said he welcomed the announcement.
“Agriculture in general is a huge, multi-billion – over $3-billion – industry in Chatham-Kent,” he said. “Obviously, we get excited whenever there is a new crop or new agri-business idea that comes to Chatham-Kent, so this is no different.”
The company worked with the economic development department throughout the process. Rainbird said the staff member on the file helped out with questions and research, which is what they “would do for any other business.”
He said he shouldn’t comment on other potential outdoor cannabis businesses in Chatham-Kent, but said there are always businesses applying for different licenses.
“Outdoor cannabis in Ontario has been a relatively new thing for the last couple years, and we’re certainly looking forward to finding out what the success of their crops were and seeing how best we can help encourage future growth of it,” Rainbird said.
Guttridge said he understands some may still not be happy to see the outdoor cannabis operation go forward, but he is trying to create opportunities for the community.