For the last few years, Yield Farms has built a solid reputation for its pre-rolls and its savory infused Firecrackers, which deliver the spicy taste of cheddar or ranch.
Today, both products still sell well, but customers now are demanding more from the Tier 2 producer, especially extracts used in their vape pen cartridges.
“Last January, our pre-rolls were about 25 percent of our business, and now they’re at about 5,” said Clay Schueman, who co-owns the Spokane-based Yield Farms with Colin Lukey. “Our Firecrackers have held steady at 5 percent too.”
What’s really gaining in popularity are concentrates, not just here, but industry-wide.
“The market has shifted away from flower, and more people now want products like cartridges, disposable pens and dabs,” Schueman said. “We’re small and we always have our ear to the ground so we can shift as needed.”
Schueman and Lukey enjoy making their own deliveries to retailers around the state, which allows them to hear feedback about current customer preferences and needs.
“We’ve been really fortunate,” he said. “We also work real hard.”
Though there are plenty of processors, what Yield Farms does is particularly unique: Schueman has figured out a way to put flavors back into its 710 OIL brand.
In the typical CO2 extraction process, cannabis flower is put into a machine where it’s blasted by high-pressure liquid carbon dioxide, which separates the oil from the rest of the plant matter. The oil is then used to create a variety of potent products.
However, the extraction process strips out other things, including terpenes, which are individual natural scents and flavors unique to each strain of cannabis. All fruits and vegetables contain terpenes, which create the differences between oranges and apples, oranges and limes, and even between types of oranges.
When terpenes are removed, partakers can still get high from their cannabis but won’t experience any of a strain’s subtle unique flavor and specific effects.
Schueman has developed exact combinations of terpenes for certain strains, which he adds to the oil once the CO2 extraction process is complete. He currently has created recipes for about 20 common and exotic strains.
This delivers something more flavorful and enjoyable than other extracts, plus more appealing than other extracts that focus just on the highest THC percentage. (THC is the compound that produces the psychoactive “high” associated with cannabis use.)
“Consumers have been told that the best cannabis has the highest THC, just like alcohol content,” he said. “But if you look at it this way, this makes Everclear the best alcohol product around simply because it has the highest number on the bottle.”
Liquor sales have shown that craft beer, wine, and other spirits with unique flavors are much more popular, largely because of their special characteristics, not because of alcohol content.
“We can mix any terpenes and strains to order,” Schueman said. “Our formulas are consistent too – so if you try something, like it, and get it again and again, it will be exactly the same.”
Lukey has managed this year’s harvest, which included seven strains. These should yield about 300 pounds of product, of which 70 percent will be used in extracts and the rest will be used in pre-rolls.
“This has been a great learning year,” he said. “We’re excited to take the improvements we’ve made this year and make next year even better.”
Schueman thinks it’s vital to build relationships with other growers, retailers, even local printers and packaging companies. Maintaining these relationships helps the farm stay flexible in a moving market.
Along with its own grow area, the company also uses plants from four other farms around Spokane that share similar philosophies about quality and grow practices.
It’s especially important that budtenders become familiar with a product, since this has a role in what they recommend to customers.
“Educating budtenders about the importance of quality cartridges with a quality battery goes a long way towards ensuring that their customers have a great experience,” Schueman said.
Next year, Yield Farms wants to be even more accessible to cannabis customers
“Are we the biggest? We don’t want to be. I don’t want to try to manage 400 employees,” Schueman said. “ Is our oil the best? Maybe, maybe not, but it does taste better since we try to find flavors that customers will enjoy.”
It recently launched a budget-friendly brand called YES with a lower price point, like suggested retail price of $30 for a pen instead of $40. But it also maintains the same high quality and great flavor.
“We’re always looking for cost-effective ways to do things, and help and expand our sales,” Schueman said. “We also like to keep learning, so next year we’re going to be bigger and better,”
Following the successful 2018 fall harvest, Yield Farms is already making plans for what and how to plant in 2019.
“The knowledge we picked up just this year alone has been just tremendous,” he said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.