By the ounce  

B.C. micro-cultivator Smoker Farms went from legacy to legal

Grower rooted in legacy

Jeff and Sheri Aubin are the passionate couple behind the mom-and-pop legal cannabis grower Smoker Farms.

In fact, you may have smoked a little something, something grown by Jeff before cannabis became legal. He’s been at it for 25 years and has brought his legacy experience to the legal market.

“Cannabis is my life,” he says. “All I’ve ever wanted to do is grow weed.”

Located in Beaverdell, B.C., Smoker Farms is a micro-cannabis producer able to grow about 500 pounds a year. The operation is tucked into in the West Kootenay woods off Highway 33 on a lot where the Aubins plan to build a home. They sold their place in Kelowna and uprooted their life in November 2020 to follow their cannabis dream.

“I was in the black market, hiding behind a medical licence like everybody,” says Jeff. “Obviously I was hoping one day it would lead to this, but never thought it would ever happen in our lives. When the legalization of cannabis came around we had to make quick decisions on what are we going to do because I was done with the black market; it’s a saturated market. I was sick of being afraid that everything I’d worked for so long would be taken away from us by illegalities.”

Smoker Farms’ first small-batch release was The Ultimate, which smells and smokes like the good stuff from back in the day. The Indica-dominant hybrid has 21.8% THC and 2.89% terpenes, mainly caryophyllene, limonene, and myrcene. It’s packaged and distributed through Joint Venture Craft Cannabis.

When I visited this past summer, their first batch of highly anticipated Master Kush Ultra was just harvested and hanging to dry, and a second batch was already flowering. Now, it’s hit the BC cannabis market—clocking in at over 26% THC, it’s getting lots of positive reviews.

Jeff says the strain is the couple’s all-time favourite and what he’s growing is truly unique to the legal market.

“Nobody has this Master Kush Ultra strain that I have,” says Jeff, adding they’re seeds from 15 years ago that he’s spent years perfecting.

“It’s such a unique Master Kush Ultra strain. It’s got such an addictive flavour. It hits like a hammer too.”

The Aubins got their micro-cultivation licence on June 26, 2020, after successfully fulfilling Health Canada’s arduous application process. They did a lot of the work themselves, but had guidance from Michael Ciardullo at dicentra Cannabis Consulting out of Toronto.

“My blood, sweat and tears are in every nail and every screw in this place,” says Jeff.

They’ve kept the facility relatively simple and had friends come help with the construction to keep costs down. Walls in the corridor are exposed plywood—a much different look than many of the larger scale producers.

Inside the grow rooms, however, Smoker Farms has tapped into modern cannabis-growing techniques. Instead of soil, they use much cleaner rock-wool blocks. They also employ a Dosatron system that allows Jeff to feed the plants exact amounts of food at specific times. He can control much of the operation from his cellphone.

They received help with their setup and techniques from master grower Daniel Saez, who helped them with genetics and guidance on growing.

“It entered a whole new world for us of growing with science,” says Jeff. “We can grow like the big boys.” As part of their process, they remove almost all the leaves and lower portions of the plants, so that only the top colas remain.

“Our concept here is that we want just to grow the flowers and we want all upper canopy flowers,” says Jeff. “Everything in testing always tests higher at the top of the plant.”

Their passion is evident in the care they take with the plants, from playing rock music in the grow rooms to ensuring the preservation of the trichomes as much as possible.

“Trichomes are everything,” he says. “We spend countless hours in our room sitting and manicuring, making sure all the leaves are off, making sure there are no stems there. We touch every bit of cannabis,” says Jeff.

“Only with gloves though,” adds Sheri with a laugh.

The couple met 27 years ago at Splash’s Nite Club, a Kelowna bar. They’ve been inseparable since—even through the immense challenges of building a cannabis facility and getting licensed.

“Most of our friends think we’re out of our mind a little bit for doing this,” says Jeff.

“Obviously this is a huge test for anyone. I know any business will test your strength and your bond with each other. This one it seems extra; it just seems around every corner there’s something new to deal with.”

“There’s been a lot of tears,” adds Sheri. “It’s not an easy journey. We were due for a complete life change.”

Jeff says there are big things yet to come from Smoker Farms.

“I have some of the best seeds on the planet in my vault. I’ve got some 30% seeds, I’ve got some crazy seeds, man. Just holding back a little bit. Don’t want to release them all just yet,” says Jeff.

“I always wanted to produce some of the best cannabis on the planet. That’s what I strive for every day—to produce a flower that when somebody opens that little tin, they look at it and go, ‘Holy! It’s a work of art and I don’t even want to smoke it it’s so beautiful.’”


Trio of cannabis reviews, including two made in Kelowna

Homegrown weed reviews

One of my favourite parts of covering cannabis is trying out new products.

In fact, I try out as many as I can so you can spend your money on the good stuff.

Here are three of the latest reviews over at theounce.ca, including two that are Okanagan grown:

BC Strawnana by Flowr

I had high hopes for BC Strawnana.

Kelowna-based Flowr promises consistently exceptional cannabis. At more than $40 an eighth, it should be exceptional. However, BC Strawnana is no standout.

All Flowr cannabis eighths come packed in a distinct and classy heavy blue glass jar. Flowr sets some pretty high expectations for its weed through its packaging and advertising.

But what’s inside the Strawnana jar doesn’t match the branding—a handful of small buds along with some shake. There’s a subtle smell that’s got a sweetness to it, though muted.

A cross of Banana Kush and Strawberry Bubble Gum, Strawnana has dense light-green buds.

It clocks in at 25.6% THC. Total terpenes are 2.94%, with a profile of beta-Caryophyllene, beta-Myrcene, and Limonene. It was packed on Aug. 24.

What Strawnana lacks in looks, it does somewhat make up for in personality. This strain hits extra hard.

Overall, however, I expect more from a premium brand.

Salted Caramels by Chüz

Salted caramels made by Chüz are a sugary treat.

They taste similar to popular old-school ones, but are less chewy; rather, they have a fudge-like texture. The effect hit quickly and lasted about four hours.

A package of Chüz costs about $6.99 and there are two caramels, which come individually packed in little plastic cups. The individual containers feel like packaging overkill, but are intended to keep the caramels easily portioned instead of mushing together while in transit.

Each one has 5 mg of THC, for a total of 10 mg. There is no CBD.

They are made in Cranbrook at Dycar Pharmaceuticals by a dessert and confectionery chef.

Chüz uses MCT oil to infuse cannabis extracted through a CO2 process. There are 50 calories and seven grams of sugar per pack.

If you like sweets, Chüz is worth a try.

K-Town Kish by Okanna Craft

K-Town Kish is an homage to Kelowna. Released under the BC Black label, it’s grown by micro-cultivator Okanna Craft.

Opening up the nitro-tin, the scent was surprisingly muted. It does intensify when the buds are ground up; they are rock-solid but still nicely sticky. There is a woodsy herbaceous scent.

Taste-wise, pulling on a joint before lighting it gives a minty basil flavour. Once it becomes smoke or vapour, the taste is peppery and pleasant; the ash burns grey.

K-Town Kish delivers on its promise of an intense high.

The Indica Hybrid disappointingly came in about half a gram underweight. Though the buds inside were beautifully trimmed and a nice size.

The cultivar clocks in at 21.4% THC and 2.65% total terpenes (they are unique ones, Ocimene, Farnesene, and Trans Caryophyllene).

The tin has a handy QR code on the bottom that links to info and photos.

David Wylie is founder of the oz. Reach him by email at [email protected].

Q&A with man behind new B.C. Cannabis Store in Kelowna

New B.C. pot shop

During a one-on-one tour of the B.C. Cannabis Stores’ new Kelowna location, I spoke to the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch’s director of retail operations, cannabis operations, Kevin Satterfield.

He has decades of experience in retail, including with Best Buy and SportMart. He pivoted into cannabis about four years ago.

Here is our Q&A:

the oz. — What look are you going for?

Satterfield — Our underlying theme has been a West Coast casual kind of feeling—the colours we use, the textures we use all lend themselves to BC, but really to the West Coast at the same time. When you first walk in, your immediate impression is ‘not what I expected from a cannabis store.’ It’s nice bright light colours; it allows you to be drawn into the store based on the cleanliness of the displays. We use the same fixtures in every single store, we just have to lay them out differently in order to make sure they fit.

the oz. — How did you find staff?

Satterfield — We’re very fortunate that 75% of the staff here are all transfers from other stores—Kamloops, Oliver, Vernon, Cranbrook—all transferred to be full-time regulars in the store. It’s a beautiful place. The fact that we could get so many OGs (experienced staff) to come to the store set us up for success. We’re all set, ready to go. Hiring auxiliaries was a little bit tougher. Getting part-time into the building was tough, with COVID and getting people who met the minimum qualifications was tough.

the oz. — What do you look for when it comes to products?

Satterfield — We have a great merchandising team that does the selection for us. They take a look at the top sellers that are going through the wholesale department and we are able to take those same items and bring them into these stores. Each one of our stores is classified a little different based on its size and projected sales. The assortment is catered to the market in order to make sure that we have the best selling items in the store and in stock. Convenience, discretion, availability, that’s what really selling it.

the oz. — How do you differentiate yourself from the private stores?

Satterfield — I’d probably say the breadth of stock that we carry is probably our biggest differentiator. We try to make sure that we have a good selection of all product lines. At the same time, we’re market priced—we’re either market leaders or market priced in order to be leaders in the different product categories. Our number one mandate is to remove the illicit market. So we want to make sure that we can supply to the community in order to make sure that we are meeting that mandate. That’s our number one goal.

the oz. — In the private stores, there’s a little bit of hostility toward BC Cannabis Stores because they view the BC Cannabis Store as competition to them. How do you smooth those relationships?

Satterfield — Again, we come back to our mandate, which is to remove the illicit market and we’re happy that private stores are also opening because that helps us with our mandate overall from a BC LDB perspective. We recognize that when we come into markets that the private stores may look at it as being competition, which we fully expect. But then it becomes very much a competition in a competitive market—not government versus private, it’s just another competitor. We go through exactly the same hoops that everyone else goes through: municipal approvals, provincial approvals, in order to open stores.

the oz. — It’s a rough sea to navigate…

Satterfield — Everybody anticipated it being a strong retail sector. I think it’s taking a while for it to find its supply chain, its pricing, its spot in the overall sector. Layer the COVID pandemic on top of that, and then later on a lack of tourism and forest fires, it’s been an interesting challenge for a lot of the sectors and I don’t think cannabis is any different from that challenge— and be able to say we’ve got the right product at the right price at the right location… where are the customers? Some of the customers dwindled away because people weren’t travelling. We’re positive the market is in a growth mode and we’ll see that continue as the market recovers.

the oz. — What was the challenge getting into Kelowna?

Satterfield — I’ve been working on this store for over two years, and going through lease negotiations, going through getting it ready, going through design, getting the tenant improvements done. It’s been a long time coming. Our original plan to open was back in 2020 then Covid hit and slowed everything down. We have to keep moving it out until we were satisfied we had the right product, we had the right pictures, had the right location built the way that we wanted it to be built based on the evolution of our stores. The location is just perfect.

the oz. — What’s the status with the store in West Kelowna?

Satterfield — We have put that on hold for right now. We’ll revisit it. I think this (Kelowna) store helps us connect the rest of the Okanagan—Now we’re Oliver, Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon. That connects the major markets within this area. I would say West Kelowna is on wait-and-see right now based on what’s happening with a number of other retailers there and how that bears out.

the oz. — Do you have plans for another store in Kelowna?

Satterfield — Not yet. I think the market’s reaching that point where we’ll see what happens in the market and see what happens in the overall store growth and how the store performs overall before making any decisions. We’ve got other markets we’re looking at closer to the Lower Mainland.

Talking to federal candidates about marijuana

My vote goes to pot

I’m personally interested—and invested—in Okanagan cannabis.

How each local candidate approaches weed in this federal election has a say in how I will vote.

(I hope I’m not alone in that thinking.) To that end, I reached out to four candidates from different parties in the Okanagan to get their thoughts on pot:

• Dan Albas of the Conservative Party

• Tim Krupa of the Liberal Party

• Richard Cannings of the NDP

• Imre Szeman of the Green Party.

The challenges for the industry are complex and numerous. There are a lot of federal issues that require proper policy and attention. This is, after all, a regulated industry on a global scale.

Issues I asked candidates about included:

• THC limits on drinks and edibles

• Sustainable packaging and practices

• Strict advertising and marketing rules

• Pardons vs. expungements

• How they’d support Canada on the global level

Weed is big business. In May, 2021, cannabis added more than $18 billion to Canada’s GDP—that’s on par with auto manufacturing in this country.

Some licensed producers located in the Okanagan, including The Valens Company and The Flowr Corporation, are global in scope. Weed powers the economy. It employs thousands of people in retail, production, distribution, government and service industries throughout our communities.

Each politician had varying degrees of knowledge and comfort speaking about the issues facing the cannabis industry and its consumers.

Conservative Dan Albas, the incumbent in Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, opted not to answer questions. He explained he couldn’t speak to the issues but invited cannabis companies to reach out to him.

The three other candidates agreed to interviews.

The first question to each was: What’s the most important issue for you/your party when it comes to cannabis.

Tim Krupa, Liberal candidate in Kelowna-Lake Country

“I’m really proud that our government legalized and regulated marijuana. I think it helps keep kids safe and keep millions of dollars out of the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.

“I think one thing that’s important is to ensure Canadians who do have possession charges can be pardoned. They have serious lifelong implications from that, even if it’s a minor charge. This can also help reduce the burden on our court systems.”

“Overall, regulation can lead to a safer product for Canadians.”

Richard Cannings, NDP incumbent in South Okanagan—West Kootenay

“This riding has maybe a different focus on cannabis than many ridings in Canada because it was really one of the hearts of the legacy production, as we call it now.

“There are still a lot of producers out there on the black market. Many of them would like to get into the legal market. There are real hurdles to that both in terms of investments, money, and a huge amount of bureaucracy. We have Community Futures projects in the Kootenays that are helping some of those producers get over those hurdles.

“During the whole process of legalization, I did a lot of lobbying and advocacy for people like that who felt that they were being pushed out of the market by multinational corporate growers… instead of the craft cannabis market.

“That’s where most of my issues lie in this riding, more in the production side and trying to keep some if that legacy that made BC famous.”

Imre Szeman, Green Party candidate in Kelowna-Lake Country

“I think some of what the Green Party is worried about is the legal repercussions for people who have simple possession of cannabis. Trying to think about cannabis in relation to public health in the same way that governments do with alcohol and tobacco. But that public health being connected with evidence-based research and the experience of those who have worked in the field. Those are the two things that the Green Party has in its current platform.”

For more in-depth coverage of these interviews, subscribe to receive this Friday’s edition of the oz. at theounce.ca

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About the Author

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. — a cannabis newsletter that covers the growing legal weed industry from the Okanagan Valley.

He has been a journalist for nearly two decades, working in newsrooms all over Canada.  

David is active as okanaganz on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. Subscribe to the email newsletter at okanaganz.com.

An ounce of info goes a long way.



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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