‘I owe this plant everything’: Victoria cannabis pioneers share passion for cultivation and education

Kyp Rowe attributes the success he’s had socially and professionally to the 30 years he’s spent advocating for Cannabis. Travis Devonport / Canadian Evergreen

Located in the heart of downtown Victoria, near the Galloping Goose Trail and Moon Underwater Brewery, the Victoria Cannabis Company has made a home for itself in an incredibly rare scenario as a farm-to-consumer cannabis nursery and cultivation facility.

For Kyp Rowe, VCC’s vice president of brand development, it was the culmination of a longstanding passion for many on the team.

Through the combination of good fortune, hard work and adversity, Rowe says he’s grateful for a lifelong journey that has given him everything he has today.

“I owe this plant everything. This plant has brought me all of my relationships, it’s given me jobs, it’s put food on my table, it has taken me around the world to places I would have never gone to,” he says.

One of the many places cannabis has brought Rowe to is Victoria, B.C. where he joined a team of like-minded friends and business partners to establish a hub for cannabis production and education, and create a legitimate and flourishing business.

Initially established as a cultivation site in 2020 with two cultivation rooms and a nursery, VCC soon expanded its operations. By July 2023, the facility had secured its standard processing license, marking a significant milestone in the company’s development.

The transition to a fully operational processing site has allowed them to bring their own retail brand to markets across British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan over the last year, with their own retail location – Farmgate – expected to open later this summer.

In 2018, the Federal Government legalized the use of marijuana in Canada. By 2020, the Victoria Cannabis Company was established with a mission to break down barriers between suppliers and consumers. Travis Devonport / Canadian Evergreen

The art and science of cultivation

When it comes to the tall task of producing farm-to-table cannabis, Rowe emphasizes the complexity involved in growing exceptional cannabis.

“The plant is tricky,” he says.

Successful cultivation requires an intimate understanding of numerous factors, including a controlled environment that allows for meticulous monitoring of each plant, a luxury not afforded to large-scale operations. “To grow it at its peak quality, it has to be grown in areas of less than 2,000 square feet.”

Small-scale cultivation has distinct advantages, primarily in quality control. “We can get eyes on just about every plant,” Rowe says.

Left: What would take the average grower anywhere from four to six months to grow, the Victoria Cannabis Company can raise in as little as 6 to 12 weeks before harvest. Right: Once harvested, the cannabis branches are hung to dry for 12 to 16 days before the buds are extracted. Travis Devonport / Canadian Evergreen photos

Community integration and education

The Victoria Cannabis Company venture – built upon failure and success – is the product of 30 years of industry experience spanning vastly changing cultural shifts, where marijuana consumption and sale were considered a criminal pursuit shunned by some and secretly enjoyed by many.

Striving to demystify cannabis and position their operation alongside other local craft industries, Rowe says, “we’re no different than a brewery or a winery. We’re purveyors of flavourful intoxicants.”

This comparison aims to normalize the cannabis industry and foster a community that feels welcome and accepted.

To that end, the facility also serves as an educational hub. An education centre on-site provides consumers with knowledge about the diverse applications and benefits of cannabis. “We want to be able to raise the level of education and awareness in the consumer to make them a better buyer,” he explains.

By educating the public, they hope to dispel myths and highlight the versatility of cannabis products, from topicals and concentrates to edibles and drinks.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow in Victoria, VCC is poised to make a lasting impact, with the next step for the the micro cultivation facility coming with its own cannabis retail store, Farmgate.

“There are currently only two stores in B.C. that are operating under a production retail license. One is in Williams Lake and the other is located in Salmon Arm. What this allows us to do is sell outside products from different local growers while also being able to sell our own,” Rowe says.

With an expected launch near the end of August, this project will complete the VCC’s farm-to-consumer approach, being able to serve communities across Canada and in their own backyard.

“Our vision for the store is that it will be just as much of an education centre as it will be a retail entity. We want to be able to raise the education of the consumer to help make them a better buyer. In doing so, we will help our consumers better understand the cannabis culture and the variability of cannabis. It’s not just one product. There’s so many wonderful things the plant can do for us as far giving us relief and enjoyment.”