As May kicks off in earnest, we at Sira Naturals reflect upon the hard work and dedication of our amazing staff.
The Sira Marketing Team sat down with our Head Grower, Mark Vlachos, to hear his story and learn about his critical role in overseeing Sira’s cultivation.
What is your role at Sira?
My name is Mark Vlachos, and while I’m sure many here think of me as “the curmudgeonly old man of Sira Naturals”, my title is Head Grower. I’m responsible for managing the teams and processes that bring Sira’s cannabis from seed to sale.
How long have you worked at Sira?
I’ve been with Sira since the very early days. I can still remember, on my first day back in 2014, there were no doors and no walls yet standing in the spot that would become our cultivation, production, and packaging facility. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.
Any notable fond memories from the early days?
For the first 6 months I was at Sira, we were still in the in the process of raising money and building our business, after receiving a provisional license to operate in Milford – all we had was a large, empty warehouse and a dream.
I remember the notable cast of characters that were the builders, electricians, plumbers, HVAC installers, and other sub-contractors that turned our facility from an empty warehouse and some drawings into the state-of-the-art production facility my team comes to work in every day.
I remember spending working through the night, filling pots so that we could get our first round of transplants done.
I remember our very first harvest of Flower Room #1 on January 11th, 2017. After being told that it was “impossible” to finish harvesting the entire room that day, we spent 15 straight hours cutting down plants. We cut the last plant down at 10:54pm.
When I think of all of the things I have experienced at Sira Naturals over these past 4 and a half years, I’m in equally inspired and grateful. I wake up each morning and go to a facility I’ve seen built from the ground up, where I love the work, where I’ve had the opportunity to be continuously part of the evolution of Sira, from its less-than-glamorous early days to what it is today, I’m extremely thankful.
What’s your favorite strain at Sira? Why?
The predictable answer would be “Chuck OG”. If you ask our Extractions staff, they’ll tell you it’s “C99 x Tangie” because there was a span of time where I grew quite a few crosses of both strains. But my favorite strain has always been Moonrise.
What is your process/philosophy when it comes to growing cannabis?
My philosophy when it comes to growing cannabis is essentially an application of the Pareto Principle (a.k.a. the 80/20 Rule). I believe that, as a crop, cannabis is 20% “unique” and the remaining 80% is like many other crops found in traditional horticulture – and that when it comes to growing quality cannabis one needs to know, understand, and respect that 20% portion.
What’s the single best piece of advice you would give to someone looking to grow their own cannabis for the first time?
You are going to make mistakes. And that’s okay.
There are two kinds of growers: those who make mistakes, and liars.
As one of my favorite quotes, incorrectly attributed to Mike Tyson, says: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Whether you’re growing 6 plants at home, or 6,000 plants in a warehouse, you’re going to inevitably run into a problem – whether it’s a nutrient deficiency or any number of other things. It’s a lot easier to deal with these problems if you’ve already had the experience of dealing with them before. And if you’re a professional grower, the last thing anyone wants to hear from their grower is “Oh, I’ve never seen that before.”
What excites you most about the Massachusetts grower space?
The opportunity for current farmers to create wealth for themselves, as well as the opportunity for a lot of communities that have traditionally not been involved in the agricultural process to begin involving themselves more in each component of the supply chain.
Additionally, the opportunity cannabis provides for younger generations to become engaged with agriculture as a profession. The average age of American farmer’s has been increasing steadily over the past several decades and I believe that cannabis becomes more common a crop it will provide the initial spark for a lot of young people to become involved in farming and expand to other crops they never thought they’d be interested in growing.
Growing good quality cannabis isn’t easy. But it’s a hell of a lot harder to grow orchids, and I’m sure the demand isn’t nearly as significant.
What makes Sira’s cultivation program different?
Our focus on common sense, transparency, and commitment to leveraging the lessons, experience, and techniques of traditional agriculture. At the same time, we have a tremendous amount of respect for the cannabis growers and breeders who were our predecessors and provided us with valuable lessons despite lacking the resources, research, and legality of traditional agriculture.
Any exciting developments coming to Sira’s cultivation program in the future?
I currently have strains from 3 different local breeders in various stages of trials and production runs – in the future, I hope to greatly increase the number of strains we offer from local breeders to better represent our community of growers in Massachusetts, New England, and the Northeast as a whole.