The skunky sweet smell of fresh cannabis hangs in the air as workers trim and tend to plants at Heartland Farms’ new building, an expansion from its current location, both south of Tulsa. The staff has grown to 27 people.
Rooms are being outfitted with climate-control technology to create the optimal growing environment for cannabis plants in the “flower rooms” — from the refrigerator-grade insulated panel walls to the humidifiers, high-pressure sodium lights and LEDs.
The lights are on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours, explains Chris Elias, Heartland Farms’ head grower. Depending on how much light they receive, the plants create a hormone that triggers the flowering process, so controlling light is key. Humidity is changed as the bud, or flower, develops, Elias explains. “Plants like it humid, and then (we) slowly taper down into cooler and drier temperatures as soon as the bud starts forming.”
Construction on the new flower rooms should be finished in a week or so, Elias says. When a room is full, it will be home to 400-600 plants. In about nine weeks, one room could yield around 100 pounds — or more or less; it just depends on the strain, Elias says.
It’s toasty in “the veg room” where the mother plants and their clones, or baby plants, are kept. Lights are on for 18 hours a day to keep plants in their vegetative state, preventing them from flowering too early. When they’re the desired size, the plants are transferred to the flower rooms, where the temperature starts high and then is tapered down.
Elias uses the mother plants to propagate new plants. A cutting from the mother plant is placed in a substrate of rock wool and taken to another room, where clones grow until they’re rooted. When white roots shoot out in 12-14 days, the plant is ready to be transferred to the veg room, Elias explains.
While Elias spends most of his time tending to the plants, his partner Patrick Dickey spends his time tending to the business. Elias and Dickey run Heartland Farms together, along with some other partners. Elias manages the home front, and Dickey spends most of his day on the road looking for places to distribute Heartland Farms cannabis. One of its more popular strains is the XJ-13, a sativa-
dominant hybrid, Dickey says.
Dickey and Elias grew up in the same neighborhood and have been friends since elementary school. The duo has been growing for about 15 years, starting with small grow operations in Colorado. “About six years ago, we moved out to California and started growing on a large scale, started building out big warehouses,” Elias says. They helped build a Los Angeles cannabis company, which started with four employees and has grown to more than 160 employees. “Some of the best growers out in California are from Tulsa,” Dickey says.