FROM POTATOES TO POT: Rural Manitoba family farm gets into growing cannabis

By 2005, the Carritt family had moved away from potato farming; today, they’re farming cannabis from their Manitoba property.

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, WINNIPEG SUN

Adam Carritt got one of the biggest shocks of his life when his dad called him a few years ago and said he was thinking of growing something much different on the family farm, than the crops his family had been growing for more than a century.

“He called me up and just said, `I am thinking of changing the family farm to grow cannabis’, and it honestly just blew me away when he said it,” Carritt, the current co-owner of Prairie Trichomes said.

“And then he said `Would you like to work on it with me?,’ and I said `When can I quit my job and get started?’ “

Generations of Carritt’s family have been farming in the same area near Carberry, about 180 kilometres west of Winnipeg, since way back in the 1890s, first growing crops like wheat and other standard farm crops, before converting to potato farming in the early 1980s.

But by 2005, the family had moved away from potato farming, and Carritt said a large 6,000 square foot building on the farm that was once used for potato farming sat empty and abandoned for years.

Carritt said his dad envisioned a new use for the old potato shed, after the federal government first announced in 2017 that they planned to legalize recreational cannabis before the end of 2018, because he knew cannabis growers would soon be in demand.

“After legalization, we realized pretty quickly there was an opportunity to jump into a new market that was just being born,” Carritt said. “So we liked the idea, and we loved that it was something that was brand new, because that made it all very exciting.”

Along with his dad and his brother, Carritt is now the co-owner of Prairie Trichomes, a business venture that has seen them transform their old potato shed into a `micro-cultivator’ cannabis growing operation.

Any cannabis grower working under a micro-cultivator license can’t grow more than 200 square metres of plant surface area at any one time, and Carritt said their operation typically grows about 1,400 cannabis plants at a time, which he said has them “maxed out,” as far as what they can grow under their license.

The operation inside what was once a potato shed, now consists of several shipping containers inside the building, with each of those containers used as a `growing pod’ where cannabis plants are grown.

Carritt said some days he can’t believe when he is at work that he is standing in the same building that was once an abandoned potato shed.

“It still amazes me to look around and think about what this looked like three years ago,” he said.

“It really blows my mind.”

According to Carritt, they currently have contracts to sell their product with a few big names in the retail cannabis industry including retailer Delta 9, which operates a chain of recreational cannabis stores in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Working in the cannabis business has also opened up a whole new side business for the family, as they now also run their own cannabis retail stores, all in small rural Manitoba communities.

Since 2020, Prairie Trichomes has opened recreational cannabis retail stores in Neepawa, Killarney, Gimli, and Onanole.

“We’re in smaller places, and more of the cabin country areas,” Carritt said. “And we find there are a lot of people that come in to buy things, but also just to hang out and ask questions because they are curious about cannabis, and we love that, because we feel we get to educate people too.”

Carritt says they also had an interest in getting into the retail side of the business, because they knew there would be opportunities to sell far more than just cannabis itself.

“There are so many accessories and so much merchandise now, so it’s fun because there are just some really cool products.”

And since getting into the cannabis business, Carritt said Prairie Trichomes has had its successes and its challenges, but they are proud of the business they have created so far, and of the product they are growing.

“Being able to see our products in stores and on shelves is just the best feeling ever.” he said. “It’s been challenging but also exciting, and really rewarding.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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