The Harvest Helper Trimmer store is one of the top resources for cultivators located in the Northwestern part of the United States for all of their automated trimming needs. Their team are experts on the setup and maintenance of trimming machines for home growers and larger scale operations.
1) What was your driving motivation in starting the Harvest Helper Trimmer Store? Are you the sole owner of the business?
We are family owned and there are three of us. My self, Scott and his dad Chris (retired veteran). Scott and I run both of the stores. Our motivation comes from a few things, first and foremost is our passion for the plant and all of the wonderful thing’s cannabis can do for our society and communities at a local level. Second would be our combined experience in large agriculture equipment maintenance, cleaning, and customer service. We also ran a medical marijuana delivery service during the years before recreation when our state depended on providers to get patients high quality and affordable products. That experience was an integral part of our decision to be a support system for cultivators instead of cultivating ourselves.
So, through all of the relationships we’ve built with that delivery service, we’ve seen the progression of commercial cannabis farming’s emergence into the mainstream. We knew that automation was coming and that there were going to be options that needed to be explored. Just like somebody buying a John Deere tractor, they can come in and they can demo it. That’s where we were born. There was an opportunity that we saw so, we just bought a fleet of machines for our first season in eastern Washington and it was awesome. We knew that eventually we would need to move our business to where there was a more concentrated number of commercial growers. Eastern Washington had a large population of black-market farmers so in 2015 we decided to move our business to the Olympia, WA location where we’re located now.
We opened our first store next to a lab that tests cannabis and we’ve been able to jump into the commercial end of it to meet the needs of all of the farmers. That’s how we got started, helping to not only find the equipment that works for farmers, but help streamline their processes so that they weren’t failing as far as microbial bacterial growth, mold contamination, things like that.
2) Since Washington state made cannabis recreationally legal to consume, have you noticed an increase in sales?
Right before last harvest season, I had an influx of calls from Oregon. I had already been servicing Oregon just by essentially loading up machines and driving down to southern Oregon just to accommodate their farmers. Last year I just had an influx from hemp CBD cultivators which is huge market out here. They needed options and coaching on how to dry, trim, and curing. Some farmers actually trim the CBD flower and sell it as usable flower without the THC. So, there was a huge number of farms that started calling me and I spent the majority of the past years of my life driving down here last harvest season every weekend, moving trimmers all over Oregon. Eventually, I knew that we had to have a second location to accommodate the farms in southern Oregon. We launched our second flagship stored down here on July 24th.
My business has definitely grown every year. I’m at a point now where my clientele is 90 percent licensed commercial farms, with the majority in Oregon and Washington. Right now, it is so cheap to walk into a store and get quality cannabis. Whether it be terrible quality or really good quality across the board. There’s a lot of options in recreational and medicinal dispensaries. Washington is definitely going to be successful in breaking the black market and I see that as a reflection in my business. There has been a transition in my clientele, a good majority of them are the same people that initially jumped on board and the rest of them are new people. I definitely can say that 90 percent of my Washington clients are licensed.
3) How have you seen technology involved with the cannabis and hemp harvesting industry progress over the course of the past 10 years?
Every year there is an exponential amount of new equipment, new trends and new technology. It might also be something older being modified to accommodate a more diverse need as far as the end user. Farms that have 30 or 40 strains which are all different in genetic make up. The differing characteristics require slightly different needs when harvesting.
The more versatile these pieces of equipment are, the better it is for the farmer, to accommodate their needs. The technology is always getting better. Whether it be controlling speed, section trimming, and workflow training is a big thing. A lot of this equipment has gotten a bad name because certain people didn’t know how to take care of it properly. That’s where my business has set me apart from others in the industry. I am determined to teach my clients about every piece of equipment that is purchased from our company so that the farmer knows how to maintain it and run it properly. If you don’t, it doesn’t work right and then it gets a bad reputation.
I am part of a Nonprofit group called SAGE (Sound Arisen Growing Ethics). The group is simply a small tight knit group of family farms. Most of which came from the medical marijuana sector. We assemble simply to share information on everything from industry trends to licensing rule changes. Unfortunately, in Washington state big business is rapidly taking over, the small family farm is quickly finding itself in a position where they can’t compete with the prices that multi-million dollar facilities can produce at. In the last 6 months 524 farms have thrown in the towel and not renewed their license.
4) Do you personally help people set up and maintain it? Do you guys offer services to fix machines and replace their broken parts?
Yes, we do. We just opened down here in Grants Pass, Oregon. One of our customers came in to take a look at our equipment and essentially spread the rumor that we have a really clean machine. I’ve had a number of farmers coming in and saying, “Hey, my trimming machine is totally trashed, and I just put it in a garage last season. Can you bring it back to life?” We absolutely do that. We restore them even if they’ve been completely trashed. We have even been able to switch out parts for ones that got stuck in the forest fires.
In both of my locations I don’t exactly have a huge amount of foot traffic. Most of these people call me, some of them will come into my store and I have a nice showroom set up. But, the majority of them they want me to come to them and I do demos. I will end up bringing a couple pieces of equipment out and spending a couple hours with their team and their product because, each and every farm has a different budget structure and different strains, a different style of growing, process with trimming and s the drying process. It makes for a better outcome with me going to the farm, setting up a couple of different pieces of equipment and having a one on one with that individual piece of equipment. I help prepping it, running it, maintaining it, and assist in training of your employees to use the machine. Sometimes, I even leave it with them for a couple hours so that they can take it for a test run because, sometimes the people need get their hands on it and try it out before renting or buying it.
5) What is the process like when a cultivator comes to rent equipment with your company?
When someone comes to my store to rent a piece of equipment the cultivator can expect to spend as much time with us as they need to make the right choice for them. We take the time to go through each of our pieces of equipment to be sure they are making a good choice. This is followed up by a small application and a liability waiver. In Washington I have regular deliveries scheduled twice a week, if delivery is needed outside of those days I recommend the farmers use one of the many marijuana delivery services available in Washington. In Oregon we do deliveries as well but not on a regular schedule, those deliveries are made by appointment. We have done a great job of spreading our online presence so we are able to do coaching over the phone to help farmers from the East coast, to Canada and beyond to streamline their harvesting choices and practices.
6) What sort of capacity can your trimmers handle for cultivators?
I sell table top trimmers capable of trimming two to four pounds per hour or I have large equipment that can trim up to 45 pounds per hour. It really depends on the facilities work flow. You can have a huge farm really organized that harvests every week or you can have a large outdoor facility that harvests once a year. When I am working with a farm I ask a lot of questions to narrow down their true needs as a cultivator.
7) What are some of the most important fundamentals to keep in mind when harvesting a crop?
First of all, when I’m dealing with a commercial grower, it’s ideal if you can get them in the beginning stages of setting up their operations. Often people don’t plan for adequate space for drying and they focus more on their temperatures and humidity. People never planned for space when cultivation and they’re overcrowding their plants. Then they’re not getting enough air and they’re getting mold.
So, if you can get them to start prepping and couple weeks before harvest everything ends up cleaner and smoother from the trimming to the curing. Prepping their environments is essential. Cool down your room and slow down your drying if you can and your end product will have a better flavor than the next guy down the street. Those are the things that are going to start distinguishing people apart from one another. Knowing all of that from the beginning helps me to help them make better decisions that are going to best fit or grow.
8) Are there any plans for expansion?
It’s interesting. This second store that I opened, I have had an increase of calls from people interested in franchising, especially on the east coast. This new location in Oregon I set up everything exactly how I wanted it. We have a beautiful show room and a great area for maintaining and cleaning the equipment. I planned everything including the type of floors we would be using because I knew I was going to be getting residue on them. Like I stated before I just opened this store in July and I think by the end of the year we’ll know if we want to expand again or if we want to just offer a franchise model. We have a business plan, but things changing constantly. As of right now today, my Southern Oregon store is definitely being flooded by northern California growers.
9) Any advice you can give to other business owners involved in the industry?
For other businesses out there, that might be reading this or paying attention to this as a small business owner, social media has been my driving point. Print marketing does not work for me. Any print marketing I’ve ever done has been a total waste of money. So social media, I just can’t stress enough how important social media is in this cannabis industry where we’re not given the same opportunities as other businesses are. You know, you can’t just throw up a commercial during the super bowl.
My social media platforms have just given me kind of a leg up. When it comes to Youtube I have videos that good, bad and ugly. But, most importantly it enables me to build a relationship with the end user. Everybody thinks those involved in the industry have a good amount of money to spend on marketing but, in fact everything’s more expensive from insurance to banking services.
Cash Crop Today would like to give a special thanks to Baylee Sweet and the entire team at The Harvest Helper Trimmer Store.