Thrive Cannabis’ on-site storefront is gearing up to be Ontario’s first on-farm store, which will open this month in Simcoe, Ontario.
When customers visit Thrive Cannabis’ 184 acre farm in Simcoe. Ont., They’ll find three shipping containers turned into a pot store and a colorful team to make history.
This team is led by Thrive VP of Business Development and Ethics Bubba Nicholson, who jokes that he has facial hair that matches his company’s Greybeard brand, and founder Art Bluhm, who’s as fiery about the pot as he is about the brisket sandwiches he sometimes has. surprises farm visitors with.
“We’re not just a conference room brand that exists,” Nicholson said, during a video call from his parked car on a business trip to Vancouver. “We call it a team of misfits. “
But until recently, few people knew about the misfits behind the brand or how their products were made. That all changed on April 21, when Thrive became the first licensed producer in Ontario to sell cannabis products at the site where they are made.
The arrangement, which is being tested or considered by several provinces, is called on-farm cannabis because it involves taking the pot from the “seed for sale” to a single site and uniting customers with partners. people like Nicholson and Bluhm, who were deeply involved. in the journey.
According to the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, farm-gate sales are permitted in the province, but there are currently no retail stores located at production sites.
British Columbia is on track for a 2022 launch and several companies are hoping to join Thrive by offering on-farm products in Ontario later this year.
In order to begin farm-gate sales in Ontario, businesses must hold a Retail Operator’s License, a Retail Store Authorization for a proposed location, and pass multiple inspections.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario said in mid-April that it had received 14 applications for a retail operator’s license for farm gate sales and had approved six from Thrive, Tweed Inc., Dykstra Greenhouses, Medz Cannabis Inc., Muskoka Grown Ltd. and Level Up Infusions.
He had received nine retail store requests for the farm and has so far issued approvals to Thrive and Medz.
Canopy Growth Corp., whose brand Tweed Inc. wanted to start on the farm in Smiths Falls, Ontario. factory, said it had put its plan on hold until later this year.
However, many are moving forward as they believe that on-farm programs help consumers buy fresher cannabis faster, especially in rural areas where the nearest pot store can be a considerable distance away.
With Farm-Gate, shoppers will learn how their favorite products are grown and processed directly from the people who made them, building relationships, trust, transparency and brand recognition.
The opportunity to build brand loyalty and educate confused customers about products is a huge opportunity for pot companies, said Denis Gertler, senior regulatory advisor at consultancy CannDelta.
These businesses have been hampered by laws that severely limit their marketing opportunities and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many stores to operate in curbside recycling with little chance for brands to meet buyers.
A June 2020 survey of 3,000 Canadian cannabis consumers from research firm Brightfield Group suggested that these factors weighed on brand recognition. The survey found that most brands of jars were recognized by only one to 15 percent of those surveyed and that no brand had a recognition rate above 41 percent.
Farm-Gate can tackle this problem because “it’s an opportunity for a savvy company to build a brand” as craft brewers and distillers have done, but the model is not without its challenges, said Gertler.
“Distilleries are often found in those kinds of areas as well and a lot of them have factory outlets, which are basically farmers, but there isn’t the same kind of stigma around alcohol, like there is. there are some around cannabis, ”he said.
However, Robyn Rabinovich, vice president of strategic initiatives at Thrive, believes the company can create an on-farm customer base similar to wineries.
“They come home with a case and they are the biggest champions of these brands because of this experience that they got from learning the process,” she said.
“We are so delighted that people are wearing this Greybeard Badge of Honor. “
Customers who visit will have access to 12 Thrive products and about 10 other brands, although they will have to be content with purchasing them via curbside pickup until the pandemic subsides.
Williams Lake First Nation (WFLN) is monitoring the situation closely.
The community six hours outside of Vancouver began building a grow facility and on-farm store under the name Sugar Cane Cannabis earlier this year, after signing an agreement with the Government of Columbia. British to allow the farm sale of its potted artisan products.
Getting to this point involved negotiations between the Solicitor General, who was resilient due to the wickedness of the industry, and WFLN, who wanted Indigenous rights to be respected, said Kirk Dressler, director of legal and corporate services at the community.
Eventually, the province softened when it saw how serious the WFLN was about the farm.
“I think they saw a real opportunity there, a way for people who run small operations, who want to make the transition to the white marketto to make it viable,” Dressler said.
WFLN recently submitted requests to Health Canada for its growing facility and hopes to open it by July, but the retail store may not be ready for several months afterward, Dressler said.
Chef Willie Sellers already predicts it will create jobs, boost tourism and share a secret: Sugar Cane is experimenting with music to enhance the growth process.
He hopes visitors will enjoy such goodies and feel a deeper connection between the community, their cannabis, and the process it took to get started on the farm.
“Anyone who comes to our store will be able to hear about this trip we’ve been on and how we grow our cannabis,” he said.
“It’s exciting and fun to think about this cutting edge stuff. ”