It’s about time we feature our friends over at The Fresh Connection (@thefreshconnectionbos), a licensed recreational grow facility based out of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The Fresh Connection is owned by Samantha Seagaard (@samanthasensi), her brother William Seagaard (@catch.me.if.you.cannabis), and their friend and Cultivation Manager, Zach Swanson (@zachswansonn). They invited us over to tour their facility a few months back to learn more about how they do what they do and to meet who makes it all happen! They opened just under ten months ago and have been able to get some major things accomplished within that time, not to mention the impressive remodel that they did to the space since taking it over.
We linked up with Samantha and Zach to deep dive into their story, learn more about their facility, and share it with the community; Here is what they had to say!
Tell us about how your business was started.
The Fresh Connection is a small family owned and operated grow with roots on the East Coast. Since high school, well before it was an industry, my brother and I have always had our eyes set on getting into this industry. Our father passed away of pancreatic cancer in 1999, and this was something that could have offered some comfort in his final days. It was also a tool used to combat the grief experienced after this grave loss. Further, it was often used medically to treat various ailments and it was clear it had lots of very potent uses.
I moved to Oregon in 2007 and quickly learned about the medical program there. I went out to Cali around 10 years ago and worked on my first farms there, starting with trimming and big leafing. Within a year I was growing and selling to dispensaries in the Oregon medical program. Meanwhile, Zach, our third partner, has deep grow roots and brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. He is a second-generation grower who learned family & biker secrets passed down only by word of mouth. He also grew under the Oregon medical program since its onset in 1996 and worked closely with many Oregon dispensaries.
The plan was always to bring the grow knowledge back to the East Coast; we have been working on going recreational in Massachusetts for about 5 years, and finally just had our first harvest in June. It has been a lot of hard work and determination, with Will spearheading the East Coast project.
How many team members do you have at this location?
3 partners (Samantha, William, and Zach) & 7-8 employees to start.
What sets you guys apart / makes you stand out from other facilities?
Samantha: We are a small self-funded (and partially woman-owned) grow where the owners are actually the operators, and we care more about putting out a quality product than the quantity we produce. Whereas most other producers in the state are large MSOs, we are small so we make the calls. We are able to let our strains run their full cycle rather than chopping early to adhere to hard calendar deadlines. Instead, we listen to the plant by meticulously checking trichome maturation daily under microscopes. We have our hands on every part of the process and are able to ensure quality by not cutting corners that someone who does not understand the plant would cut. There are so many small details that really matter, especially when you add them all up. We are all about the details.
Their facility before & during renovations:
How long have you been growing? What got you started?
Zach: I grew my first plant when I was 15, in 1985. I grew my first male plant, I should say. Shortly thereafter I found my mom’s Ed Rosenthal How to Grow Cannabis book in our house, sometime in the late 80s. I’m from Oregon, and my mom was a hippy, the Oregon Country fair type, so her friends had that old knowledge. I’d find bag seeds and pop them, and I learned to grow mostly through my mom's old hippie friends. I spent some time in Mendocino, where I learned more about outdoor growing techniques. I moved back to Oregon and got involved with the medical program there, growing indoor for dispensaries across the state as well as patients ranging from severe Asperger’s to bipolar disorder, as well as recovering addicts with pain issues who did not want to use opioids. I donated lots of raw plant material to the Asperberger’s society and they’d use that to make raw cannabis juice. Seeing the extreme effect the plant can have on a person made it all more gratifying.
What's your preferred style of growing / go-to methods?
Zach: We like to do a synganic blend of Athena Pro line and True Living Organics teas. The reality is with the strict Massachusetts testing limitations, it’s really hard to grow in a full organic style. We grow in soil as we like to support a more sustainable and local medium, and we believe growing in soil really does bring out the most diverse terps and cannabinoids. All the small little details that you can’t necessarily quantify, come from soil.
Tell us about your current setup here at The Fresh Connection.
Zach: We have two 45-light LED rooms, about 1250 square feet each. Both rooms have five 38’ by 4’ benches, with 50 five-gallon pots per bench. Everything is irrigated with @floraflex matrix line, and dab pumps; we mix nutrients daily so they’re fresh, and attuned to whatever the plants need that day/week. We decided to switch to LEDs several years ago. Bulbs are a real pain to change, and the quality really came around with the LEDs. We use @neocisionspectra LEDs.
Our veg space is a double stack with 28 LED lights and smaller strip lights over our clones. We decided to grow single tier for our flower rooms as we feel the quality isn’t quite there with the double stack. We have worked one in Oregon and it was uncomfortable to work and the quality of the flower was lacking.
We have 5 strains we started out with, Cookie Dog (breeder unknown), Apple Fritter (@lumpstatus), Sundae Driver (@reallycannarado), MAC (@guesswhosbackulator), and triple chocolate chip. We also just did a small pheno hunt with Moonbow 112 (@archiveseedbank), White Truffle (@freshcoastseedco_3), and Trufflez (@aficionadoestates). We have something like 150 strains in our genetic library and look forward to having the space to run more of them.
Do you have any short or long-term goals on your current grow journey?
Zach: Short-term expanding the veg space so we have more room for our current operation. Long-term Expanding the current grow to phase 2 where we build out another 6 grow rooms; there we will have space for bigger and more consistent pheno hunting. We also plan to get our manufacturing license so we can make our own products with our trim, and may dedicate one room to whole plant fresh frozen hash rosin.
How long have you been implementing Pulse monitors? How many units do you have and how are they distributed?
Zach: Since 2018, so 5 years. I move them around, but right now I have one in the veg, one in the dry room, and seven in one flower room. We monitor the four corners of the room and every point in between. We are actually working with a lot more sensors to determine how to balance our room correctly, as big huge rooms have pockets of stale air, heat, and humidity if you don’t dial them in correctly. We have been monitoring and tracking our data for months, shifting things around, adding fans and duct socks wherever needed to stabilize the environment.
We used the pulse to determine our main systems sensors were off and needed recalibrating. We have two systems so we can double-check everything. We also saved a whole [dry] room from rehydrating when the pulse alerted us the humidity was too high. The dehumidifier had gotten unplugged when cleaning. This could’ve caused serious damage to the crop.”
Any other fun details about your current location and build-out?
Samantha: Yes! Cleaning the room between cycles was always the worst part. Now, our grow rooms are fully pressure washable, so you can actually clean the whole room between cycles. The walls, ceilings, fans, lights, and outlets are all waterproof. There are sump pumps in the corners of the rooms submerged under the floor drains, so when we pressure wash the pumps automatically turn on when the drains fill with water. It’s pretty neat. We will be showing the cleaning process, as well as a lot of other interesting garden views through upcoming virtual tours, so stay tuned!
We couldn’t be more grateful to the entire team over at The Fresh Connection (@thefreshconnectionbos) for inviting us over and showing us everything they have in the works. They were welcoming, transparent, and their dedication and love for the plant was clearly displayed in their hard work and quality flower. Be sure to show their team and page some love; we have to support each other to grow!