Name: Thomas Klassen
Location: Baltimore, Md.
Title: Head Grower, Evermore Cannabis Company
One word to describe your cultivation style: Straightforward
Indoor, outdoor, greenhouse or a combination: Indoor
Can you share a bit of your background and how you and your company got to the present day?
I received a research-based education in Environmental Health and Sustainability, [which] has greatly influenced my thought process and approach to growing. I have been gardening since I could walk, and later worked professionally on diverse small farms followed [by] five years in high-end commercial nursery production, re-wholesaling and brokering of woody plants.
I grew to love collecting rare plants of all types and have always had an enthusiasm for cannabis, particularly rare genetics and the allure of the diverse globe-spanning history behind them. I was well informed about the developing medical program in Maryland and was able to secure a position as a day-one employee of Evermore [Cannabis Company]. I have been in my current role for nearly five years. We are a full vertical license with proud Baltimore roots, that I also share. I am constantly awed and grateful to be doing what I do in my hometown. We have always focused on offering a complete palette of genetic and product offerings and letting our own passion for cannabis drive us towards the highest standards and quality achievable.
What tool or software in your cultivation space can you not live without?
Portable conveyor belts.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your business in the last six months?
Data loggers, close enough to $100. They are critical for knowing and, for me, visualizing what’s happening as we move through our grow cycle. We have nine flower rooms, [where] we plant and harvest one every week. Because of our cycle, we are constantly manipulating our environmental and irrigation equipment to achieve the correct goals in each of these spaces as the crop progresses. Nothing in our facility is truly “set it and forget it” if we want the best results, and our data loggers have caught issues with humidity, temperature, or light that we were not aware of, even with spending ten-hour days in the crops.
What cultivation technique are you most interested in right now, and what are you actively studying (the most)?
Tissue culture techniques and banking of genetics. I want to preserve and perpetuate our heirloom and rare genetics and greatly expand our already sizable genetic library.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
We have learned expensive lessons through various equipment failures. We’ve seen it all from failed drying room environmentals, frozen coolant lines, [and] even grow room lighting controllers cross wired to outdoor site lights. Data loggers, diligence and familiarity with our facility have been the solution, and lessons learned.
We completed a phase two expansion about a year and a half ago, and in the design were able to successfully apply many lessons learned from our initial crops and rooms. My favorite failure was very early on, [when] a failed lighting timer caused a late flower crop to re-veg some before we caught it. The resin was great, but it messed up the bud structure significantly. It prompted us to build a walk-in freezer, and we turned this failure into an otherwise unavailable opportunity to harvest an entire 1,000-plant room for fresh, frozen, live resin, and we made the shift to running primarily live resin concentrates in one big move.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven grower about to enter the legal, regulated industry? What advice should they ignore?
I would say that as fast as the industry moves onto new concepts and technologies, don’t rush and get ahead of yourself by thinking that you need to be playing catch-up with every whim of the market. Do what you know best and learn as much as possible through a scientific thought process. Data is fantastic, but it’s only as good as your experiment design. I would ignore advice that bluntly treats cannabis as just another greenhouse crop. The best success, I think, comes from an even merging of the most thoughtful of traditional production techniques, with an experienced and frugal production horticulture mindset.
How do you deal with burnout?
I have always had a curiosity and passion for growing that keeps it deeply fun, even more so because I am able to have R&D projects, breeding projects and rare genetics going at all times. It’s still work, though, so I make sure to use all of my PTO to spend time with my family and put as much time as I can into hobbies outside of cannabis.
How do you motivate your employees/team?
Offering professional growth and learning opportunities, the best we can offer, even if they are small. I always try to be as open as possible and eager to answer questions to keep the work environment one where everyone learns and works thoughtfully with regards to what they are doing and how that accomplishes our greater goals.
What keeps you awake at night?
Free falling prices combined with the difficulty educating those new to retail cannabis and convincing them to pay more for a higher quality but possibly lower potency product. The majority of consumers in many newer markets are focused entirely on potency, which has cultivated a crisis of lab testing abuse and manipulation to satisfy a potency driven market.
What helps you sleep at night?
Long days on my feet and a good mattress, but I do also get peace of mind from confidence that I have the ability to learn any new skills required to thrive in this industry. I love growing itself enough to stick it out through all the challenges this industry faces, and that will continue to provide opportunity and growth.