High Country: The Green Joint gives an exclusive look inside its cultivation HQ
In this week’s ‘Harvest Series’ installment, get to know the growers behind Aspen’s favorite family-owned cannabis dispensary
It’s increasingly rare for cannabis companies that started at the dawn of Colorado’s legal era to endure as family-owned and -operated businesses. But for The Green Joint, the Glenwood Springs-based dispensary chain founded in 2009, husband-and-wife founders Dan and Cheryl Sullivan remain at the helm with their son, Brian Sullivan, serving as executive vice president.
Over the past 12 years, the Sullivans have grown what started as a single medical store, Green Medicine Wellness, into one of the largest and longest-running independent cannabis conglomerates on the Western Slope with nine licenses including four recreational stores in Parachute, Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Aspen.
The Sullivans were originally inspired to make the medicinal qualities of cannabis available to the masses after cancer took Dan’s brother, who they witnessed experiencing the healing benefits during his treatment first-hand.
In 2014, they transitioned the brand into The Green Joint, eventually opening an Aspen location in 2018. Since then, the store has stood out among a crowded cannabis shopping scene; currently there are nine dispensaries operating in the downtown core.
“What really sets The Green Joint apart from others is our devotion and commitment to our proprietary cultivation production that strives for perfection and excellence each step of the way,” explained Brian Sullivan. “We specialize in growing award- winning, high-quality cannabis strains that have been appropriately selected and sought out for their cannabinoid contents and strong genetic traits. Each plant is nurtured, harvested and trimmed by hand to ensure every nug is well cared for and properly maintained.”
Matched with a staff of seasoned cannabis connoisseurs, The Green Joint’s customer service is equally impressive and has deservedly earned first place accolades three years in a row from the annual “Best of Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt” contest presented by The Aspen Times.
“Our veteran budtenders, cultivators and managers are deeply connected to the ever-evolving industry of cannabis, which we are extremely passionate about,” added Sullivan. “Each team member possesses a vast knowledge of the cannabis plant along with its life-enhancing properties, benefits and cannabinoids. Our dedicated cultivation team is technical and talented with decades of expertise — these guys and gals love what they do! The final result is our unrivaled, A+ grade flower.”
Welcome to the inaugural and annual Harvest Series, where each week in October, High Country will introduce you to leading local cannabis cultivators and entrepreneurs as a celebration of the season. Synonymous with a final gathering of fruits and vegetables before the first frost, autumn is equally as ripe for cannabis farming — it’s a crop, too, after all.
For this week’s installment of High Country’s monthlong “Harvest Series,” director of cultivation Austin Drewes — who oversees a staff of 15 — shared an exclusive look inside the company’s greenhouse headquarters in Rifle with insight on how he gets The Green Joint’s flower to pack more power.
Katie Shapiro: What is your approach to growing cannabis?
Austin Drewes: We are passionate about our locally grown cannabis. This isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle — we’re farmers. We hand water on a daily basis and nurture each plant’s needs like a parent would. Our cultivation team is meticulous about what our plants eat, their sleep schedules and all the small things that make them the finest buds available. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality of cannabis possible and take extreme care throughout our entire process to ensure this happens. We truly are, your local farmer.
KS: How did you get into the cannabis industry?
AD: My growing background is legit. I was raised on farms as a child in the deep Midwest and I’m a fourth generation row crop farmer. In 2009, I excitedly moved to Colorado, as I was extremely interested in the newly forming cannabis industry that was in its infancy. To get my foot in the cultivation business, I opened a hydroponics store that I successfully ran for several years. Through mutual friends, I was introduced to The Green Joint team, who brought me in to consult and work with current staff members on how to successfully cultivate indoor cannabis. I quickly fell in love with the job and the ownership team, and in 2011, I was brought on full time as the director of cultivation. After 10 amazing years on the team, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
KS: What sets The Green Joint’s flower apart from competitors?
AD: The majority (of retailers) does not grow their own cannabis — they purchase most or all of it from non-affiliated grows that are generally located on the Front Range. The Green Joint’s proprietary methods of growing, harvesting and curing flower has been crafted over the years and is second to none. The individual attention that each plant receives is extremely hands-on and our strains were sought out for specific cannabinoid content and medical purposes. Producing our own cannabis has always been a huge focal point for us, as it allows us to control our final quality and ensure we always have product on our shelves. Over time, we’ve perfected our process internally, which continues to thrive as we expand our efforts. We’ve been really fortunate to have dedicated employees that stick around — we have several members on the grow team that have been with us for 10 years.
The Green Joint
720 E Durant Ave., Aspen
KS: Let’s talk numbers. How much are you producing for your stores?
AD: Our indoor, state-of-the-art facility is made up of 12,000 square feet of growing capacity. We are authorized by the State of Colorado to grow up to 6,000 plants at any given time, and our grow team produces roughly 120 pounds of flower each month, which is all consumed internally at our locations. In a few short months, we’ll have added an additional 6,000 square feet of greenhouse grow space — a 30% boost in overall harvest production. This will add a new level of automation that includes fertigation and intelligent controls to collect and test data to proactively make improvements across the facility. We’ve also added a commercial reverse osmosis system that regulates and repurposes all of the water we use through high-efficiency filtration systems.
KS: What other sustainability practices do you incorporate into the process?
AD: Our new greenhouses utilize smart technology that is designed to limit resources, compute data and intelligence, and be more sustainable over time. By cultivating in greenhouses with advanced technology, we are able to reduce our consumption of water and nutrients, limit the amount of electricity we use and increase plant production by using climate control methods. We also use intelligent sensors and tools that sample plant soil on a regular basis, which ensures we don’t over water or over feed our crops. With our new utilization of LED lights, we’ve increased yield production while greatly cutting down on the amount of energy we use
KS: What’s your favorite strain?
AD: Tough question! Our cultivation rotates through around 25 different strains that all get distributed accordingly to each of our four retail locations. My favorite strain is a toss up between our beloved Gelato and our incredibly popular Headband. Headband, which is one of our old-school favorites, is extremely smooth, but packs a strong punch. It’s one of those strains that is thoroughly balanced with the right amount of energy without being racing or overwhelming.
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