Growing at the Highest Caliber Humanly Possible: The Art of Small Batch
No, that is not a typo. Rare, designer cannabis products have been popping up more and more in the last couple of years. If you haven’t yet come across one of these super heady black miron jars in the wild, that’s because they’re very hard to find and typically only available in, dare I say, small batches.
The first time one of my friends, who is about as heady as they come, told me he willingly paid $1,500 for an ounce of flower my jaw hit the floor. I could not fathom a world in which somebody with access to all the cheap and/or free weed he could smoke straight from multiple different farmers would choose to do that. The ounce was from a brand/person called Norcal Nemo and all I know about him is his weed comes highly recommended from many different industry staples whose opinions on quality I tend to trust. It is also worth noting here that my friend bought that ounce a few years ago and I assumed the price might be less by now, but one of his distributors on the east coast actually quoted me $1,600-$1,800 and even as high as $2K for a competitor brand. I got in touch with Nemo, who turned me down for a full interview but he did choose to share his thoughts on what he considers to be small batch flower:
“In my personal opinion, I believe small batch cannabis is just as much an art as a science, slightly leaning towards the art side. If I were to really narrow it down to what matters most to me the grow room would be no larger than a 14-light room, 100% organic through every step of the process and only hand watering,” Nemo said. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about growing at the highest caliber humanly possible. There should be absolutely no corners cut within any step of the process, even if that means spending more time, money, or physical energy to do so.”
That seemed like a pretty good general definition to me, but “not cutting corners” is something every cannabis grower from here to Hanoi tends to pride themself on. It has to actually mean something for the consumer to be willing to pay such a high price point and the custy premium only gets you so far.
In order to gain a better understanding of the microprocesses that must surely go into preparing such a high-value product, I spoke to “No Till Hank Hill,” a small batch grower from Nevada who first showed up on my radar in 2022 when I saw the late Jesse the Chef post a jar on his Instagram story. No Till Hank Hill told me he runs only two lights of production and five lights total, which to me feels like more or less the “floor price,” if you will, to be considered more than a grow tent grommet. Any less than that feels like a hobby grower to me but the branding and the way the product is presented to the consumer also play a huge role here, which No Till Hank Hill was kind enough to expand on for me.
“I definitely have certain ways of doing things,” NTHH said. “I’m particular about how I package my jars. When you open it up, you’re gonna have that nice beautiful top cola right at the top of the jar and as you go down, you’re gonna have the shoulders, not the lowers or the bottoms, but you’ll have those nice dense shoulders. Then at the very bottom, you have a gram or two of some smalls, but it’s good smalls that are very nice and dense.”
I briefly spoke to another small batch grower, Elephant’s Growth, who chose not to be interviewed for sake of minimal exposure but one thing they chose to share with me was that they refuse to kill male plants in front of female plants so that the female plants don’t experience any bad energy during the grow cycle, which I thought was a bit of a reach but hey, I’m not the one getting $1,000/ounce for my weed, which I was lucky enough to stick my nose into a jar of and for what it’s worth it was indeed some ultra-fuego.
Above and beyond, everyone I talked to stressed organic growing methods as the number one requirement for cannabis flower to be true small batch. Most people gave an arbitrary number of fewer than 100 lights. One person said 10-15 lbs per batch, No Till Hank Hill said it should be more of a question of how hard the jars are to find.
“There’s just so many people that can’t read between the lines of it. Like these people, they don’t ever post their grow. They don’t ever post pictures of any of their plants, only their jars. And yet, somehow they’re small batch but 1500 people have jars,” NTHH said
In order to gauge how well consumers understand what they’re buying, I opened the question up to all the industry folk willing to let me bother them about it, and the answers I received to the question “what do you consider small batch” were all over the board. Some of the companies people chose to name have never written the words small batch on a single jar and run well over 500 lights. My initial reaction to this was to crawl back into bed and weep like a child for God has truly forsaken the rec market, but the part of me that was raised in a capitalist country quickly took over and I realized there might be hope for us yet.
If consumers have no idea what the term “small batch” actually means and small batch growers themselves all have different definitions but they’re all getting the same top dollar amount for their jars, all that means to me is that there is still a comfortable place in the legacy market for garage growers who are worth their…. I don’t want to say salt because they’re growing organically but… salt. To me, minutiae in the differences between the growing techniques don’t matter if the consumer is willing to pay for it either way. That said, I would like to personally congratulate anybody out there who has managed to custy people to the tune of a $16K pound because you’re my fucking hero no matter how you got there.
Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news for the grow tent guys but if you throw your one or two light harvest of the same boof F4 flavors everyone else is running into some ziplocks, safe to say you’re not getting the small batch price. From what I gleamed in the conversations I had for this article, it boils down to a blend of top shelf, organic flower grown at the largest scale possible without sacrificing a shred of quality or the smallest amount possible without going bankrupt, whichever comes first. That kind of quality is only achievable with years of proper growing experience. The flower must also be properly branded and exist in small enough quantities to remain a bit mythical amongst the heads. If growers don’t want it in their personal headstash, it doesn’t qualify.
“As far as price goes, that’s relative to the quality and time spent. There is a high-end space in almost every industry, whether it’s wine and spirits, luxury fashion, fine art, cars, watches, even Japanese luxury fruits,” Norcal Nemo said. “So long as the creator of the goods is truly pushing to the absolute limit of their ability to create, I believe it’s worth it in the end. It might not be for everyone. Some people just want something affordable that will get the job done. I can’t hate on that, I’m just not the one. In my opinion life’s too short to not experience the finer things from time to time, someone putting their everything into creating something truly special is a beautiful thing to me.”