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Celebrating Women’s Work With Plants in Rogue Valley: Infinite Tree’s Emily Gogol

Photo by Rhonda NowakEmily Gogol shows off hemp plants at her indoor breeding facility.

Courtesy photo Emily Gogol, co-founder and CEO of Infinite Tree, works with home gardeners who want to grow cannabis alongside other herbs in their garden.

Photo by Rhonda NowakEmily Gogol holds one of her Grow It From Home hemp seed packets, which includes organically grown seeds, instructions and a greeting card. Emily mails hemp plants and seeds to home gardeners across the country.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories about Rogue Valley planters.

“As I write, [cannabis] is expected to be a $5 billion industry in California alone. … Yet it has never been the subject of a modern breeding program to select for things like disease resistance or seed stability. … There is nothing else in the world so widely cultured but so little understood and yet to be studied.

– Johanna Silver, “Growing Weed in the Garden”, 2020

When I recently visited Emily Gogol’s cannabis farm in the Applegate Valley, some much needed rain was moving through the area, so we started the tour at her indoor breeding facility, which was filled with seed plants ready to be harvested for research.

Emily showed me 10 pollen isolation tents lined up against the wall, where they turned female hemp plants into male pollen-producing plants. I peeked through one of the tent flaps but saw nothing outrageous – just a pretty plant bathed in UV light.

We also toured the 100ft greenhouse, where hundreds of pots have recently been seeded with some of Emily’s organic cannabis range. I inhaled deeply the scent of fertile soil, in which all these seeds were germinating. Emily told me that if I came back in a few weeks the plants would be several inches tall by now.

Cannabis, which includes hemp and marijuana, grows like a weed because it’s a weed, but this particular weed has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. The Oregon Alcohol and Cannabis Commission reported that marijuana sales last year totaled $1.2 billion, and this figure does not include the millions of dollars generated by the hemp/CBD market . (Hemp production is overseen by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which does not track hemp/CBD sales.)

Yet, as Johanna Silver pointed out in her book “Growing Weed in the Garden”, the burgeoning cannabis field is just beginning to focus on research and development.

That’s exactly why Emily and her husband, Ryan Burns, moved to southern Oregon four years ago and started Infinite Tree, a cannabis research and production nursery.

“We saw a huge lack of rigorous testing and quality products on the market,” Emily said. “I thought, ‘We can bring together a team of scientists, engineers, and farmers to come up with something that’s going to help cannabis growers.'”

Emily has a doctorate. in microbiology and genetics from the University of San Francisco, and with Ryan’s background in engineering, they decided to combine their skills to help bring the cannabis industry into the 21st century. They bought 23 acres with water rights on the Applegate River, and they’ve spent the past four years operating one of the first USDA-certified organic hemp farms to develop new varieties of hemp, test them and send them to farmers all over the United States. as plant shoots and seeds. They ship the plants in packaging that Ryan developed from recycled cardboard.

Emily recently received an OLCC license and expanded her R&D and nursery services to include marijuana. The expansion made economic sense, as local hemp production has fallen dramatically since its peak in 2019. Federal restrictions prohibit shipping marijuana products out of state, but Emily loves that growers visit the farm so they can see what they are buying as it grows. field.

Whether it’s hemp or marijuana, Emily’s goal is to develop and grow “best in class” cannabis that meets high quality standards in terms of plant structure and quality. growth habits, as well as the uniformity of terpenes, CBD in hemp and THC in marijuana. “We specifically design lines for the craft market,” Emily said. “Our breeding program specializes in producing delicious, aromatic smoking and edible products made from the highest quality flowers.”

Part of her job is walking around the fields and taking notes as the plants grow outside. Last year, Emily tested 30 different cannabis cultivars. She said the number of cultivars changes from year to year depending on the number of partners they work with.

Another part of his job is to analyze the sugar levels of the harvested cannabis flower, much like winemakers test the sugar levels in grapes. “A lot of people think cannabis is very mysterious and different from other commercial crops,” Emily said. “But at the end of the day, cannabis has the same quantitative benchmarks that farmers need to meet to sell a quality product in the market.”

One of Emily’s favorite aspects of her job is demystifying cannabis cultivation best practices. She works with the ODA to offer free workshops to commercial growers on different aspects of organic growing and pest and disease control. She started Grow It From Home after gardeners contacted her about how to grow hemp with other herbs such as lavender, rosemary and thyme.

“My work with Grow It From Home helps people across the country gain access and education about growing hemp plants at home,” Emily said. “We provide USDA certified organic plants and seeds straight from our farm to their doorstep, along with instructions to help everyone on their gardening journey. I’m also passionate about connecting gardeners with expert chefs, mixologists and herbalists so they can get the most out of their plants and realize that hemp is like using other herbs, fruits and garden vegetables.

For Emily, her work with home gardeners brings her back to her gardening roots. She grew up in San Jose, California, where she and her twin sister gardened with their mother. “My earliest memory of gardening is pulling mint under the rose bushes,” Emily recalls.

When she moved to San Francisco for her Ph.D. program, Emily signed up for a community garden plot. “One day, as I walked towards this garden, I saw a ‘guerrilla garden’ unfolding on a vacant lot in the neighborhood. I found out who was gardening there and contacted them. Fast forward a few years, and we’ve established a thriving volunteer organization, built two street parks, and received numerous accolades, including one from the State of California for our work.

The awards helped her nonprofit group receive grants, but Emily said the real reward came from providing the community with access to plants and an opportunity to be part of a project that beautified their urban neighborhood.

I asked Emily what she thought of the illegal cannabis crops that are currently proliferating in southern Oregon. Local law enforcement officials estimate there are more than 1,000 illegal cannabis farms operating in the area, leading state lawmakers last week to pass SB 1564 aimed at preventing the illegal cultivation of marijuana is considered hemp. While cannabis production is tightly regulated by the OLCC, hemp production is legalized under a broader federal mandate and has become an easier front for black market growers.

Illicit operations gave the nascent legalized cannabis industry in southern Oregon a bad name. Additionally, the bill allows county commissioners to ask the ODA to impose a moratorium on hemp grower licenses.

“Some of the bad reputation is justified because these growers don’t farm sustainably and misuse natural resources,” Emily said. “Major criminal organizations are moving into the valley, renting the land and destroying it by stripping topsoil, over-fertilizing, using a ton of plastic and illegally drawing water from rivers and streams. It’s a real concern. »

Emily hopes the federal legalization of marijuana will reduce illegal grows and help the cannabis market stabilize and mature.

“There is still a lot of work to be done around using best practices for growing cannabis,” Emily said. “My goal is to guide legitimate commercial growers and home gardeners to grow high-quality cannabis responsibly.”

Favorite landscape

“I love seeing a beloved garden, whether it’s a set of planters on a small porch or a wild quarter-acre garden on a farm. I love all landscapes where people clearly care and appreciate their plants. I especially love the “lawnless” front yards and dry gardens with native plants.

inspiring women

“I’m inspired by everyone who farms for their friends and family, and every free farm stand. When it comes to women in particular, I think Penny Barthel, Johanna Silver and Jenny Saling (@thehappyherban) really help gardeners feel more comfortable with cannabis as another plant that can be grown in the garden. Many people grow lavender just for the sake of lavender, and these women show how gardeners can do the same with cannabis.

Inspirational garden literature

“All Flesh Is Grass: The Pleasures and Promises of Pastoral Agriculture” by Gene Logsdon (2004)

“Growing Weed in the Garden: A Simple Seed to Stash Guide to Outdoor Cannabis” by Johanna Silver and Rachel Weill (2020)

“The Cannabis Gardener: A Beginners Guide to Growing Vibrant, Healthy Plants in Every Region” by Penny Barthel (2021)

Learn more about Infinite Tree at https://infinite-tree.com/. Check out more of my conversation with Emily in the February 2022 episode of my “Celebrating Women’s Work with Plants” podcast at https://mailtribune.com/podcasts/the-literary-gardener.

Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, teacher, and writer. Email him at [email protected]

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