Local craft cannabis grower readies to go to market

Early October promises to be a watershed moment for Tara Kirkpatrick.

She operates Backwoods BC Bud, which appears to be the first craft cannabis grower to be up and running in the Prince George area, and she is aiming to have four lines of her product on the market by that time.

"I'm excited, I'm living out my dream," she said during interview over the phone

Kirkpatrick is no newcomer to the industry. For 19 years she has grown medical marijuana and takes credit for a strain she says has helped reduce epileptic seizures.

"I've been a farmer my whole life," Kirkpatrick said. "I grew up on a farm and it was a natural gravitation, going from vegetables to different types of plants.

"Cannabis was one of the things I wanted to grow and study and research and develop because most of our medicines are made from plants. It was just one of my key interests and the fact that I really like to help people."

Charles Wentworth of Nibbler, a consulting firm who guided Kirkpatrick through the process of securing a licence for small-scale production from Health Canada, said his client is part of a trend across Canada of farms turning to cannabis to keep them in the family.

"It is a way to revitalize the existing legacy family farm that's been there for multiple generations by simply changing what the farm produces from one crop to another type of crop," he said.

"What it does is it allows these farms to become commercially viable again so they can be handed onto the next generation rather than being sold on to developers or being sold on and being made into one large operation."

Kirkpatrick's "canopy" covers 2,150 square feet, the maximum the federal government allows for so-called microcultivators. Her operation will produced a higher-quality product than that pushed out by the large-scale growers, Kirkpatrick and Wentworth went on to assert.

"No large company can say that their master grower hand picks and produces the bud all the way through the life cycle because you can't do that over 10 acres," Wentworth said. "That would be one tired person."

They likened the process to the difference between mass produced chocolate and that made by an artisan chocolatier involved in every stage of the process.

"Each and every plant is handled with love, right from the beginning through to harvest so that we're producing that top-quality cannabis for the craft consumers," Kirkpatrick said.