Helen D. Demes, Dee Dee for short, is the founder of The Elite Growers. After high school graduation in 1981 she enlisted in the Air Force following in her father’s footsteps. Fascinated with Aerospace field she attended Embry Riddle University and earned a degree in aeronautical engineering.
She joined Lockheed Martin 1986 working on the Atlas Rocket Booster program. During this time she studied Tae Kwan Do and earned a second-degree black belt. She went on to teach the art to others in her own DoJo.
Always one thirsting for more knowledge she also studied and earned a degree as a Veterinarian Technician and is an accomplished bartender!
From Lockheed she went to work for a consulting firm in Washington DC in 2003. She left that firm in late 2015. She has two adult children that have fabulous careers and is a recent grandmother.
The Elite Growers was founded in December of 2016 as a premiere medical marijuana grower. The farm is located in Brownsville, Oregon a rural farming area 25 miles Northeast of Eugene.
Their principal products are highly effective proprietary medicinal strains of Sativa Cannabis. They also grow blueberries and truffles. The operation has three full time employees and two part timers. As part of “giving back to the Humanity” they operate an animal sanctuary for no longer wanted, abused and orphaned farm animals.
We are so blessed to catch up with Dee Dee and she had some delightful tidbits to tell us. Learn how to be a master grower, what is the state of the leaf in Oregon and what is the future of cannabis cultivation. Read the full interview below.
Ganjly: So when was Elite Growers originally founded and what was your role in its creation?
Helen D. Demes: Elite Growers, which was named by me because my father always encouraged me “to be the best” at everything I did, was founded in late 2016. My brother, who has grown his entire adult life was recently returned to the United States after 35 years in Latin America invited me to investigate the Medical Marijuana opportunities in Oregon so I jumped at the chance. He instilled me the knowledge of growing, breeding, harvesting, curing and caring for the plants he had learned from the native growers and Shamans in the different countries of Central and South America. Then he turned me loose with a good budget and the mandate to build twelve core strains that alleviated the symptoms of our new medical patients. I recognized early on that all of our patients were not only in pain for various reasons but were also depressed. So I spent the next 18 months organizing the lab and grow facility while developing twelve super euphoric sativa strains some crossed with known high CBD value strains. We maintain very close contact with our patients during each month. Since I have reached a continuous harvest stage I provide them with freshly harvested and cured cannabis according to their needs. Curing the pain and depression is more than half the battle with our patients as attested to by a simple text from one of them.
What was your career before getting into the cannabis industry?
Helen D. Demes: Using my aeronautical engineering degree I worked for Lockheed Martin on their Atlas Rocket program fifteen years before leaving to take a position in Washington DC at a consulting firm that worked closely with the Government. Everything you’ve ever heard or suspected about Washington is true, which eventually led to a fortuitous phone call to my brother to rescue me and the rest is the history that I am making as Woman Grower in a male dominated industry.
What cannabis opportunities do you offer as a Master Grower? Tell us also about the income opportunities.
Helen D. Demes: I am currently offering, 8 times a year, a four-week hands on apprentice grower program at the farm for two aspiring growers at a time that is fairly priced and literally teaches seed to dispensary. My growers leave knowing how to germinate, clone, pollinate and care for the plants in all of their different life stages, harvest, dry and cure. I teach nutrient programs, how to recognize pest and fungal problems early by handling all of your plants everyday.
I also instill in them that organic is better including using natural cures and beneficial microbes and bugs. When they leave they’re ready to start growing authoritatively or would be an asset to any other growing opportunity. They also leave with a license for one of our core strains and my personal cannabis guide to growing for easy reference when they go out on their own. Interested people may contact me directly about availability: [email protected]
Since we have proprietary strains, I have built a huge seed bank and will start releasing certain strains, by way of seed, to the general market this fall as I breed even more potent new ones to replace them.
We sell to few select high-end dispensaries our excess product, which has been well received. There is a second residence on the farm property that would make a wonderful Bud & Breakfast for the right investor. In August I will have our first tasting event at the farm and plan to do that twice a month thereafter. What I am really looking forward to is promoting local contests for growers (and I going to need some help with this) to get together and compare their cannabis products in hopes of getting them and us recognition and then moving up to the larger Cannabis Cup competitions.
If you are considering growing, your first consideration must be where. Many of the states that have legalized marijuana have opted for a small handful of larger, very well financed companies to do the growing. This leaves no room for craft growers and it is my belief and experience that will lead to an average quality product.
Currently Oregon has the best business climate for craft growers and should be at the top of your list. The second consideration should be ‘what’. Medical, Recreational, High End, Middle Market or Low End High Volume? In other words you need to define who you want to be! Your third major consideration must be ‘capital requirements’ to implement your plan. Remember things always cost more and take longer – the main reason most small business’s fail is undercapitalization. This is where some well-spent money on a consultant upfront will really pay off!
The cannabis business support side is wide open and opportunities abound in the field for anyone that is passionate about marijuana. You do not need to be a grower to make a really nice living in the cannabis industry.
Growers need better and faster natural cures, they need easy to use electronic platforms to get their messages out, affordable security systems that are easy to operate, improved – easy to administer nutrients, trained seasonal labor on demand, better options for growing mediums, packaging, publicity, funding, distribution, sales people, extractors, processors, etc. In other words support services and products that help them, which means there are small business opportunities for every kind of would be entrepreneur with modest startup capital requirements and a built in market.
What is the mission of Elite Growers and can you briefly explain the current projects that you are doing?
Helen D. Demes: Our mission is simple, to create some of the most potent new strains of marijuana on the planet. The farm is dedicated to growing super euphoric cannabis because everyone, patient or adult consumer, wants an experience that makes them feel happy, have a lot of energy and insight with a creative component that helps them focus on what is important to them. We build custom medical strains for each of our patients to alleviate their symptoms. We are making great strides in this area and specialize in treating our vets and wounded warriors. For many the chief complaint is depression, which is why we specialize in super euphoric sativa strains; if you feel happy then you are happy!
We are currently transitioning to a recreational license to increase our production substantially. The particular license we chose allows us to dedicate ten percent of our canopy to our medical patients so that they won’t become stranded. I am also in the planning stages of creating a tour of the facilities to help consumers better understand the experience and what they can do to make their own experience better; it’s not just about THC levels.
What is the current status of Sunset Farms and what is Sunset Farms Sanctuary?
Helen D. Demes: Ahhh, thank you for this question. My true love is caring for injured, abused or no longer wanted animals. We have dedicated half of the farm as a 501 C3 Animal Sanctuary and receive new animals weekly. We have a local country vet that gives our animals care at her cost, she is a true blessing to the farm. It’s a lot of work and I am always in search of unpaid (room and board only) interns who share this affinity for our furry and feathered companions. For any of the audience wanting to know more just follow the link. http://sunsetfarmssanctuary.org/
Yearly, in December, I go to Africa and work with the Anti-poaching rangers in various countries. Just giving back for all the universe has given me . . .
What do you think the future of cannabis cultivation looks like in Oregon State?
Helen D. Demes: A timely question, the industry, per recent legislation, is consolidating, which will leave a smaller number of medical grows most of which will have to report through the CTS (cannabis tracking system). The larger medical grows such as ours will be converting to Adult Use (recreational), a term preferred by our cannabis attorney Leland Berger. This was undertaken by the state government for three reasons, the first being more revenue, secondly more control and third to force out smaller growers thereby reducing the current over supply of cannabis.
What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by the cannabis industry in Oregon State? How can the cannabis industry work together to overcome it?
This is something that has bothered me about Oregon from the beginning! A lack of cohesiveness permeates the entire industry in Oregon. For me it’s a love/hate conundrum. I love how Oregonians are so independent and self-sufficient. Unfortunately those same great qualities, in large measure, prevent us from coming together to solve common problems related to our industry. We have a great champion in Oregon Norml http://ornorml.org/ that is perennially underfunded working on behalf of the entire industry from seed to sale. We all need to help them with generous donations to support our common causes and hire more lobbyists – let’s face it we must have more influence in the legislature to move forward.
What do you think the future of cannabis industry looks like in Oregon State, and later around the globe?
Helen D. Demes: I think that after the current consolidation is completed, I expect the supply to go down and the markets to return to better competitive values for the growers. I also expect the overall quality of cannabis in the dispensaries to improve and therefore the marijuana experience for the consumer to also improve. This article on that very subject may be viewed as controversial but we stand by it; http://www.theelitegrowers.com/2017/10/10/growing-great-cannabis/
My global outlook for cannabis is very favorable. I think that cannabis will continue to become more mainstream and eventually be de-criminalized in the short run. This will not occur for altruistic reasons, it will be about revenue. As more governments recognize the taxation implications, legislatures will want to tax sales to plug holes in their budgets. It will probably be messy as the regulations roll out but never the less it should be a net positive for the industry.
What are your long-term goals?
Helen D. Demes: We intend to continue improving our core strains making The Elite Growers http://www.theelitegrowers.com/ and our brands Fresh Baked Bud and Cannabisary household names in the Pacific Northwest. We invested in a Social Kush app, which should roll out in the fall for Beta testing.
On the medical side we will be applying for a research license to start quantifying and qualifying our results to add to the positive body of knowledge on cannabis.
Thank you so much Helen for doing the interview. We are looking forward to your Social Kush app. Check out cannabis opportunities and learn more about Helen and her company at The Elite Growers.