Inside Equinox Farm's first cannabis harvest

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SHEFFIELD — After meandering through rows of Christmas tree-like cannabis plants at Equinox Farm, Matt Gamble of Theory Wellness called a staff member over to one of the stalks and rubbed leaves between two gloved fingers.

"Smell this," he said Tuesday, holding up his hand to Thomas Winstanley, the company's marketing director.

"That is good," Gamble said, examining one of the freshly cut plants.

October is harvest season for Equinox Farm, where owner Ted Dobson has grown 1,800 cannabis plants for Theory Wellness. As one of the first outdoor grow facilities in the state, it's been a learning experience for the team, but a successful one.

Dobson, who has grown green leafy vegetables at Equinox for 21 years, partnered with Theory to grow a variety of marijuana that will eventually be sold at the company's stores around the state. Winstanley and other Theory staff members joined Dobson in July when the first plants went into the ground.

At first, the plants went into complete shock, but by October they were "beautiful," said Gamble, vice president of Operations at Theory.

"We've been happily surprised with how things turned out."

Dobson said that he's been excited about the project as it's a historic feat for New England. Most of the marijuana grown in Massachusetts is done indoors under hydroponic lighting. The plants at Equinox have less of an environmental impact, he said.

"I consider our hard work having paved the way for outdoor growing in the state," Dobson said while picking plants.

It will take about two weeks to complete the harvest at Equinox and it's not clear when products from these plants will make it into stores, Gamble said.

Winstanley said that even though his primary role is marketing, Theory's partnership with Dobson has allowed him to learn about and participate in the farming side of the operation.

Before meeting Dobson he didn't know how important it was to have a biodiversity on the land where cannabis is grown. At Equinox, broccolini, chard, wildflowers and tomatoes dot the perimeter of the land.

The cannabis plants themselves are diverse. Some were started from seeds. Others were planted as saplings started at other grow facilities, Winstanley said.

Because of that, the plants are at different stages of growth, he explained.

During a tour of the farm, Winstanley pointed out the difference between the shorter, darker indica plants and the taller, "leggier" sativa plants.

When consumed, sativa is "uplifting, more euphoric," Winstanley said. It's the kind of marijuana that people consume before weeding their garden or mowing their lawn, he said as an example.

Indica, on the other hand, is the kind of marijuana that prompts the physical sedation known as "couch lock."

Some of the strains at Equinox are hybrids of the two plants.

Dobson said some of his "best ideas" happened after consuming sativa with a touch of indica.

"We have so many strains out here," Winstanley said. "We're just looking to see which are the ones that take to this New England climate."

For Theory, working with someone like Dobson, who has organically curated his land for decades, is "invaluable," Winstanley said.

"I grew up in the Berkshires and to see the sunrise over a cannabis farm that's totally legit and legal is really a once in a lifetime ," Winstanley said. "This is the right place at the right time."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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