This is our panel recap from our Elevated discussion panel on our discord server from earlier this month. We had the opportunity to hang out with our propagation lead Megan Cote and learn more about her and her day to day at OGEN. Our Elevated Discussions happen once a month on our OGENauts discord channel, click here to join the community if you are a part already!
Santiago: Thank you, guys, for tuning in. and thank you guys for whoever was in the chat here today. Let's get started!
You know, I guess the first thing, I’ve never really had a chance to talk directly with you! I haven't been in Alberta in a while - it's been a hot minute actually! I'm interested to hear about how our journey began. What got you started? How long has it been? Walk me through it!
Megan: Yeah, for sure. I mean are we talking in terms of when I started using cannabis? Or when I started growing it? Or both?
Megan: Honestly, I probably didn’t start smoking until I was about 18 - and I was always just a joint girl. Definitely loved it, smoked daily pretty much from the time I was 18 until just recently. I went to culinary school in 2016 and I remember coming out of school, I was so broke. I got the opportunity to go to California with a few of my friends that had been going and making a decent amount of money and so I decided to tag along.
That was my first time ever really seeing a 13-foot sativa plant, we were growing sour diesel at the time. I could not believe how big these nugs were. Just all outdoor massive plants, nugs the size of my thighs just huge. We were pretty much just in the thick of it, we had to take care of the plants, prune them, and get them ready for harvest basically - and you know it was like the wild west out there. It is nothing like Canada and like our indoor super bougie beautiful rooms. It’s pretty wild west, we did everything, we harvested, we put all the plants up in this massive corridor basically - with just a bunch of fans everywhere. We’re all up on sketchy ladders, just hanging these massive plants. It had rained way too much and so the plants weighed way more than they should have.
There was like 20 or 30 of us sitting in like a tent on some guy's land just like completely trimming weed, listening to music hanging out in the middle of no where basically and it was quite the experience out there. I won't go into too much detail because a lot of the stuff that happened was pretty sketchy, but it was definitely eye-opening for me and it was nice to just finally be around a plant that I had smoked for so many years and just grew to love so much.
Santiago: So, your growing experience started during your time in California? Is that when your passion for growing started?
Megan: Yeah, that was like the very first time I had ever really seen any kind of large grow, you know other than like the odd plant here and there, throughout the years but it was pretty much like what sparked my interest in growing.
But then, COVID happened, and I was working in the service industry with food in the kitchen, and as you know everything shut down. Weed operations were still rolling and everyone was still working - it was definitely like a skeleton crew but I had applied to OGEN like previously to 2020 and never got a callback but luckily for me I had a friend working there at the time (shoutout Danielle!) and she said hey like if you want to come on and get a job with us you can work in the mother room it's like the best place in the in the grow and so yeah I played applied for it, got it right away and was immediately hooked!
Santiago: Nice, blessed absolutely blessed! That's actually amazing, I guess looking back at it now - and I kind of expect what you’re going to say, but - which do you prefer California or Alberta?
Megan: I like…hmm...honestly like as much as I loved my time in Cali, it was it was an experience for sure, but it was not super enjoyable - I haven't gone back since 2016. You know there was its ups and downs but I much prefer a clean environment. As much as I loved what was going on in California, like you're outside, you're in the elements, the plants are in the elements, so if you get like a crazy rain storm or if you get something that happens your plants are exposed to all of that.
There were times where it would pour rain for like 6 - 7 days, you go to take the plants down and they're full of mold. There was no like “let's throw these away!”, it was get your scissors out and trim around the mold, put it in a bag, and ship it off to whoever's going to buy it. So definitely, I would prefer the legal Alberta world of growing for sure that hands-down.
Santiago: I think so too - honestly, I think we’re blessed, to have this quality control to ensure the products we are getting are not moldy, or it’s gone through things where it might not be safe to consume. I think we've all kind of been there buying cannabis from the market back in the day before it was legal. We’re all kind of just like smoking this weed not knowing where it’s coming from, what's in it, who grew it, where they grew it, if it's even a good for you to put into your lungs and now we can just go to a legal dispensary and just be sure that we're going to be okay and safe really. That we’re not going to get some moldy weed, we might but we’ll see it.
Santiago: And I guess throughout this journey and maybe during your journey here in Canadian cannabis, are there any things that you would like to see change? anything that you like to see you stay the same? you know from what you've experienced, what you've seen. Are we in the right direction, do you think?
Megan: I mean, I think so. I think they could lay off taxing us to death a little bit, I think it's pretty crazy the amount of taxes we do pay, but I mean other than that I would love to see a lot more women in cultivation. I think that you know having a really nice balance of women to men as we all know serves purpose and yeah, I would like to see a lot more women growing. I think we have a lot to bring but other wise I think we are going in the right direction.
It's been really hard for me watching a lot of these ma-and-pop shops, just like get eaten up by the big guys and you know. I'm grateful to work for a private company and we're trying to survive out here and trying to thrive and seems that like a lot of these big companies just eat up all the little guys. It's happening in America too you know, I would like to see a lot of smaller private grows flourish but I get how challenging this industry is for sure, it's tough.
Santiago: I definitely think that the industry wasn't really created with the little guys in mind - at least not yet. You know, you’re right it's mom-and-pop shops all over, I can imagine Alberta but here in Ontario they are disappearing like crazy - a lot of really great shops that I visited throughout my time and made great connections with. I've met the owners and they know what they're doing but even if you know you know what you're doing, and you have a good community, that can only go so far when you have these big stores beside you selling product for like, nothing because they can afford to.
They have millions, they have all this money, and they'll just wait you out. It's hard because I've watched these independent stores create this very unique vibe, something that reminds me more of cannabis, you know community focused, community building, just very chill vibes not being very serious - but they just keep disappearing.
A lot of my favourite LPs from when I was a manager myself, the smaller ones that I like to purchase and smoke my own time are gone and it keeps happening. And it's happening over and over and over again - I would agree with you.
Definitely would like to see more women overall in the space I think, more than just growing, but overall in cannabis. I think it's a very underrepresented industry and low-key a little bit of a boy's club at points.
Megan: A little bit.
Santiago: We need a little bit more balance, we need more people coming in, getting into this industry. We need the energy; we need more people passionate just overall more diversity.
Santiago: I'm not as familiar with all the details and aspects of growing - it's still a learning process for me. The industry is really a learning process as well, I still go around when I'm on my travels and love to ask people about what they do. I’ve never really grown cannabis myself mainly because I can't grow in the space I currently live, if I grow in my building, I'm going to get evicted, if I do anything weed related in this building, I'm going to get evicted so I can’t really do any of that stuff. But can you walk me through a day in the life? Your role, what you do, the most exciting part or what's the biggest challenge is?
Megan: Yes definitely!
I am the only department that runs a full hydroponic room, so we did switch over from using rock wool to a deep-water culture in...gosh...it would've been August of 2020. We've come a long way not in that regard even from our starting set-up to what we're running now in the room. Essentially, a day in the life would consist of getting in and making sure that my team has a really clear indication of what I expect to be done for the day or high priorities, we do also have like a veg table in my room as well, so it's a propagation/veg table room. Because of this I work very closely with the veg lead Riley!
The mother room is on the other side of my room, so our mother lead Marley and I also work very close together. The mother room and prop room are a little bit more restricted in the building - as it should be, two of the most important rooms in terms of all of the genetics are held out within our rooms at all times.
I just make sure my team is really up-to-date with what is a priority during the day we go through that list. We monitor a few hundred trays in my room of deep water culture, we test those for proper pH and EC - as well as temperature readings every day and record those. If anything is off in those numbers ever, we can look back on our trends and report back to mother plants to see if anything going on there.
We keep a pretty close eye on our pH and EC - it's probably the most important part of our deep-water culture system - other than that, we take notes on everything as the plants growing. If you're looking at a plant, you're essentially making a note about it, we make notes about every single thing that we do in there, when it comes to any of the plants.
When we set up for clone days we have two really amazing cultivation technicians that I work with in my department. We're also always in close collaboration with the mother team as well for cloning days. We work with them to take the needed number of clones and my team will clean them up in the mom room then come back in the prop room and turn on whatever kind of music we want to listen to, which I am so grateful for, it is really nice being able to play music while you work. It helps to enjoy the day!
I really I love my team, they are so solid, and we work so well together but essentially we're not cloning we are cleaning. I feel like a lot of people really they think that they want to get into the cannabis industry because they think it cool, because they think it's worth it for whatever reason, but when it comes down to it, it's hard work. You are cleaning your butt off almost all the time, everything needs to be pristine, especially my department because I look at it like we're performing surgery. In a way we have plants with "open-wounds" so we need to be tiptop super clean.
I take cleanliness really seriously in my department, if we're not cloning or helping any other departments, we are cleaning and it's not glorified work but it's hard work. If you're passionate about what you're doing, you see it in the quality of what you're doing and then it's great! You know, like, I love it and I've been so grateful for the opportunity to work with OGEN and to work with the people I get to see every day!
Santiago: What kind of music do you like to listen to while you work?
Megan: This varies a lot, but I love electronic music, I've always been into everything from house, to drum and bass, to everything in between. I also love a lot of like classic dad rock I love, love everything! I love like old Motown blues, but don't really love any jazz or country music - sue me but.
Santiago: That’s fine - country music can stay over there.
Megan: I’m from Alberta and I don't like country music, like I'm just going to say it.
Santiago: So another question I had besides like you know the day in your life, what's the most challenging part, like what do you find is the hardest thing, obviously rewarding, but just the most challenging part of the prop stage?
Megan: Oh, my goodness. Honestly, I don't really have a lot of challenges as much these days as I have in the past. As I said we’ve come a long way with our deep-water culture system.
I would say one of the biggest challenges for me forever was, like I said, we are the only hydroponic area in the facility, you know, each material that we use, we have moved to using reusable products to become a greener facility, no pun intended. We washed every single piece of the dish by hand for years and have moved to a dishwasher (shout out to James for getting me a dishwasher!), but essentially my life has been made a lot easier in the last few months.
We have a full-on professional dishwasher, which we use every day, and I am so grateful. But you know with any plant growing that you do, there are still some challenges when there are pH fluctuations within trays. A lot of our initial solutions are homemade, pretty much our whole deep water culture system was initially built that way. We had a tray and a cell top but we’ve even cut every cell top; we’ve cut every single basket. We used to poke holes in tubes and that’s how we got aeration in our tray and now we use a professional air stone. So, lots of challenges, in that regard, but I do think that it’s never been better in my department, I’m just grateful for all the little things we’ve learned along the way. And yeah. I don’t want to say it’s easy because it’s not, but it has been quite the road getting to where we are now, and I just couldn’t be more stoked about my room!
Santiago: Absolutely. Do you have a favourite part?
Megan: My favourite part I would say probably cloning days honestly, it is really lovely to always be in the mother room. There's just something about big juicy plants that I love being around.
I deal with babies right, I have little, tiny babies in my room and so it’s quite the contrast. You know being in the mom room being around these gorgeous plants, being able to pick and choose our beautiful clones off of them and just the first few days you start seeing roots always makes me so happy.
I really love pheno hunting - it puts me in a different space where I get to pop seeds and see brand-new genetics in their earliest stages. So, I definitely love that part of it. It's a bit of a switch up from cloning and transplanting and I just love it, it's challenging and it creates a little bit more work on the side from my already full room, but I do love pheno hunting and just checking out new genetics in their seed form.
Santiago: Wonderful. I honestly I would love to see you guys work, last time I went, was the very first time I went to Alberta, we had a little walk through the mother room and Marley just kind of like took us through like what she does (shout out Marley!) and I don’t know I was kind of taken aback. Seeing you in your element, seeing you work, seeing you just love it - it just brings out that love and is absolutely incredible and honestly, I miss it! Hopefully, we will be up there soon again, and we will be able to chat about it more, and see where you’re at, what you’re doing, anything new that you’re working on.
It's been a hot minute and I do hope to see you guys, but I guess we’re going to get more into less serious questions. Oh, what did Denis say?
Megan: Oh, what’s he saying?
Denis message: Megan’s room is one of the two that requires a higher level of clearance to enter as well, in order to maintain cleanliness and room integrity. The Prop and Mom team get 2 doses of air showers to protect our babies.
Santiago: yeah, I remember last time I went you guys were installing a new checkpoint.
Megan: Yeah, so we did decide to lockdown a little bit more with our departments. As I said they are very sensitive areas to be in, so we do offer tours all the time, but they are don't come in to see the propagation or the mother room, we are locked up like Fort Knocks. We are trying to maintain an extremely clean area on top of the already clean facility that we maintain.
Santiago: When I first saw it, I was taken aback to see the walls being cleaned, the ceilings everything, every little corner was just spotless. I was like my mom. My mom would be the happiest here, she would be like holy shit.
Megan: Yeah, it’s nice.
Santiago: So, my other question, to get less into that and getting more into getting to know you as a person, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you be and why?
Megan: I’ve done quite a bit of travelling, but I would say you know, I really fell in love with Nicaragua when I visited in 2014, that is definitely a contender. If we’re talking about far-away living - I’m obsessed with Hawaii. I love the fresh fruits and vegetables there I am, they can pretty much grow anything. The ocean anywhere close to the ocean honestly, I lived in Vancouver for a year during culinary school and it wasn’t my city, but I did love living by the ocean so I was like a block away on Davie Street but yeah it was like seriously beautiful but I’m pretty content where I’m at now.
If we’re talking within Canada, my heart is a Nelson always and forever and if you’ve never been to BC but you are going to Shambala - which is 40 minutes south of Nelson - after you’re done at Shambhala, you should decompress in Nelson for like a day or two or however long you have. I don know but like it is a little oasis and just one of the most gorgeous places and you don’t even really feel like you’re in Canada there are sandy beaches like you just don’t really get that in too many spots in Canada.
Santiago: I just googled it and I think I most definitely will be doing just that. Especially if it’s only 40 minutes. One hundred percent. It looks beautiful.
Megan: There are no big department stores, or Walmart. It’s like, I'm talking all really cute little restaurants, every place has character, and lots of hippies, lots of homemade stores and people walking around smoking weed openly. You know you get that in Calgary kind of, here and there. But there is nothing like the vibe of Nelson, especially after Shambhala.
Santiago: Damn, well thank you for that recommendation. I will definitely be sure to check it out, especially because it looks absolutely beautiful, and I do like to take ctures of beautiful things So I will most definitely be checking it out. The way I see it is, if I’m going to go to BC, I have to do it right, you know I have to go see more things. That was my mindset going into it.
*technical troubles with guest*
Santiago: Whoever is here right now you’re a real one , thank you for sitting in here and hearing us talk about weed and music.
What’s my favourite terpene? Woo. My favourite terpenes are either limonene or linalool. I say limonene or linalool because limonene and linalool mixed together bring about such a beautiful aroma. Shout out Lemon Z. And I have yet to find another strain with that same terpene profile to give me that same kind of smell.
When I used to smoke the Lemon Z, I would always just crack open that bad boy and literally just inhale. But yeah, limonene, linalool are my baes. Some people aren't big fans because they are everywhere in the legal market. However, I am not like most people, I know what I’m about.
What about you guys? Type in the chat! I feel like a Twitch streamer. Type in the chat what your favourite terpene is guys! Woo, subscribe, and support me on my journey to become the world's biggest streamer. Myrcene, nice! Myrcene is nice, but you don’t talk shit about linalool, do you know what Linalool has been through? A lot. Linalool has been through a lot.
Denis Message: What would be the smallest change that would have the biggest impact on the Ontario cannabis world?
Santiago: The smallest change. I mean, I know the simplest change would be more open distribution and less centralization, I think we would see massive, massive change. More research into the market - literally, cause everyone in the retail world is struggling because the central system. There is a different model in Ontario with flowthrough, it was implemented so people would have more of a guarantee to get certain products. However, when I'm out there I'm seeing stores who haven't got their products in 4 weeks, where it’s supposed to be like a 2–3-week lead time for you to get your stuff. Some people don’t get it for 5 weeks and maybe 5 weeks will hit, and they’ll get a notice with their order that they're not going to get the product that they put the money aside for. So, it’s just really not refined and efficient enough at this point. What do you think Denis? What do you think would be the simplest change? I feel like you have a little bit of a better understanding, so I would love to hear your opinion as well.
Santiago: Dennis asked a question for you.
Megan: What is Denis saying?
Denis Message: What does Megan look for to determine a Healthy Clone? What are some early signs that action needs to be taken to save the cut?
Megan: Honestly, your leaves tell you a lot, so if I walk in to my room and I see a tray or a single clone that looks droopy or the lower leaves are curled, first things I’m going to look for is, humidity, temperature, and light. I just had a little issue where I had some leaves yellowing and it turns out that the PPFU was too high and that my lights were essentially too strong so we did a little adjusting and yeah, I think I think you need to really just pay attention to your leaves and your roots as well.
That’s one thing I really love about deep water culture is you can lift up a tray and see the full root system versus like if you’re using Rockwool or soil or coco or whatever, you can only see portions of your root system, whereas with hydroponics you see the full 360 view of what they look like. I’ve seen like plants sitting in a tray where you know the pH was way too high, this was something we used to run into often and as soon as we swapped out the nutrients, the next day we saw an explosion of healthy roots and so you know the littlest tweaks can really make like a pretty big difference when it comes to hydroponics.
Thanks for the question, Denis!
Santiago: For anyone who has these types of questions, just type them in the chat! These are the kinds of things I would like to know as well because like I said the growing process is all very new to me and I’m just in the learning stages, so I love hearing all of this stuff.
Megan: Absolutely, and you know it is sometimes hard to decipher what the issue is, when you know a lot of these deficiencies and excesses, they put out similar signs, they look similar in like the leaf colour. But you can really start to tell over time just what the issues are by kind of taking a leaf, looking at it, comparing it to your chart of deficiencies, and accessing it, and the first thing is just to try to really dial in your environment because you’re environments are everything, even if something is off just slightly in terms of you know humidity or temperature you know it can you can have pretty detrimental effects.
I think pH is everything in my area, if it’s too low though the plant's availability of nutrients it’s just not there and essentially it’s just it won’t grow if it’s not in the right environment to uptake nutrients.
Santiago: In an indoor facility, how badly does the outside weather affect it? Does it affect the air intake? Does it affect what you’re putting out?
Megan: It definitely does. You know it’s harder to keep your facility at the right humidity when the humidity is really high outside or even temperature. You’ve been to Alberta before but maybe you haven’t been like in the dead of winter when it's -30°, which is crazy. It affects ground water coming in and what the water temperature is. Luckily, we have a pretty great irrigation department that knows what they’re doing so it definitely helps shaving that, but I would say the outside definitely still does have an impact, but the rooms are pretty controlled. The controls are great, so I have no complaints in my room anyway. I somehow lucked out with an amazing room that doesn’t really ever fluctuate at all so I'm grateful for that.
Santiago: Nice. So, what is the best strain you’ve ever grown or the best strain you’ve ever grown? Maybe that you’ve grown, what's your crowning achievement?
Megan: oh my goodness that is such a hard question honestly the first time I smoked the dosi-GMOsi I pretty much like unintentionally clean my entire house right after I smoked it. I wasn’t like a huge sativa lover, I was always into like really heavy indicas because I want to be on my butt, can’t move, can barely open my eyes, kind of vibe but after I smoke that I really did I fall in love with it. I just love the like, danky, you know almost like it sounds gross but almost like that diaper funk like I like really I have a soft spot in my heart for all the berry lovers out there and then you know the super like watermelon vibes but like I am like just such a sucker for gassy danky gross smelling.
Yeah, I like the stanky stank, but there was this one. I cannot remember like the full strain name on it, but when I was in California, we smoke this one strain while we were trimming and I’m not even kidding you I would make this every single time I would like to be on the floor, laughing, like laughing so hard it was like uncontrollable, I know it doesn’t really help you with the not knowing the strain but it’s amazing. People say weed is weed but when you smoke enough of it, it’s like some of it does some different stuff.
Santiago: Yeah, one hundred percent. I love the dosi 6 as well. I love that sativa, some people say they don’t like it, they like the indica more, but I’m a sativa person. That is what I love to smoke. I am naturally already like, how do you say, I need something to bring me up! I’m naturally very calm right, I’m very chill, and laid back. So, if I smoke an Indica, I’m just going to be melting, melting on the floor.
After I smoke an indica - and the reason I don't like them - I get a really bad come down and I get really tired and so I literally fall asleep at 6 PM. I just hit my bed and I’m dead. However, sativas just keep me going, I like it when I’m playing video games or listening to music, or going for a walk, I like to be doing stuff and I don’t like to be tired, so sativa really just helps me be a little bit more upbeat, especially since the sun hasn’t been out for like God knows how long and so I just really need like an energy boost. Sativa just kind of gets that done for me overall.
However, the best strain I've ever smoked, and I know this might sound a little cheesy but on God is Gas Berries. Gas berries was my absolute favourite - it was the first strain, fun facts for anyone listening, the first strain I ever tried from OGEN and as a manager of a retail store, the first strain that I was ever able to bring in from OGEN - so, it all kind of just like a love story really. And then I just started bringing in all sorts of OGEN products, and then just having like a chance to work with y’all, is just kind of like a full circle moment, really kind of just like… this is like incredible. It's honestly incredible. So honestly gas berries kind of has that, besides, it being a really good weed, it has a deeper emotional connection. It got me started on this journey and it's just been there for me you know what I mean.
Santiago: Thank you so much for coming out! I’m not good in front of a camera I always get really nervous. Thank you for coming out and chatting with me and doing this for us and you know it’s really appreciated. Thank you, much love and I hope to see you in Alberta when I go up or to shams. Thank you so much for pulling up and then sharing everything!
Megan: Thank you so much for this opportunity and for being so easy to talk to and yeah sorry about the technical difficulties. I am not computer person, and I was also super nervous cause I hate being on video, but I feel like you just made this experience so much better so thanks for letting me ramble on.
Santiago: Thank you for rambling. Appreciate it. Have a good one!
Megan: Bye bye!