By James Bridges
“You can make higher yields and higher quality products, but also you want to make that product people are gonna come back and reorder. It is all about the Patient.” – Ray Tinsley, owner, The Gas Farm.
I looked up at him. Me. I’m not the tallest in the room, but I’m not too short either. I’m 6ft 2’ and I was looking up at Ray as his overwhelming smile paused slightly in order for the mouth to function as he spoke. He was happy. I could tell why as he opened the first flower room to show off his ladies.
“We have about 95 plants that are harvested every 3-4 days with our continuous harvest system.” Ray continued to smile as we walked inside. “We average about 4.2 pounds per light. I love my plants. I love what I do. I understand the business. But the patients are the ones that really matter.” I could sense the sincerity in his voice. “If we make something and we sell it to dispensaries and dispensaries don’t turn it, then it does no good for the patients. There’s no reason to keep it in production. Right?”
My thoughts immediately raced to someone putting all of their eggs into one basket, or one product, then it not moving at all. How does one prevent this extremely long failure process from occurring?
“Ideally when you entertain coming to the market and bringing the funds to build this, it’s all about the process, consistency, reducing risk and the ability for it to actually go to a recreational market.” Ray was directly to the point.
“I worked for large fortune 500 companies in the past. That is a little different than the cannabis business. When I left the corporate world, I told myself I was never going to work for anybody else again, and I would take the good from the corporate world – and leave behind the bad. We wanted to build a culture that folks wanted to be a part of.” Two quotes we use often at the Farm – “What is good for the Grow” this is a lens that helps drive many of our decisions. The second is, “We know it is Medicine.” This level of pride, our whole Team reflects on, they know our products could be used by one of their Family members.
He hasn’t since. Neither have some of Ray’s own family members. Two of his brothers Kevin and TJ are partners, but so are other family and long-time family friends like Renee, Eddy, and Michelle that are the bedrock to their success. They have formed a family unit of business minded people. I was absolutely impressed by their ability to recognize and utilize each one of their own special talents and skills to create this sustaining business.
“Our father had a stroke.” The tone of the room dampened for a few seconds. “His own doctor came in and said he’s a prime candidate for medical marijuana. The doctor talked about it helping his appetite and other ailments.” This was in the State of Delaware, and although, they were one of the first to approve medical cannabis, it took almost five years before the first grow license was awarded.
Ray and the group continued to research this industry further to find the most efficient ways to make this business a reality. Ray talked about the importance of having a strong foundation. He came across as being very comfortable in the position that they have carved out for themselves in this industry.
“I think that when you sit back and look at it, then yes, you can do it.” Ray was speaking about himself. “You know, there’s other businesses coming behind us. They have business plans and structures that could definitely be able to sustain in the market, however they seemed to only be concentrating on one sector. Our plan continues to focus on being a completely vertical business.”
Inspired and eager to see more we moved onto more rooms as I had hoped. The long stretching hallways and extremely tall sidewalls of each room were enormous. I felt as if I had walked into an underground fortress of solitude. Hell, even Ray’s brother TJ looked somewhat like a fictional superman, without the cape of course.
TJ is the CFO for The Gas Farm. “Ray leads the Relationship Managers, and the income aspects or our organization, my role is to take care of it from there.”
TJ seemed to be a bit more of a “behind the scenes” player on The Gas Farm team. His smile was contagious as it played itself off as something that doesn’t come out much. However, after getting to speak with TJ, I tend to think there’s a major soft side.
It brought a big smile to TJ’s face when I asked him about the employees working for them. “When we started we had 1 employee. Now we have 30. Plus we bring in temps.”
How many other small businesses do you know have the ability to take something that was non-existent, as a legal industry, in as little as 4 years, and employ over 30 people from our local community? It’s happening. It’s happening in Oklahoma and it is providing families with more than financial relief. The medicinal fall-out that is blanketing this land is becoming more and more pleasant to witness each and every day.
“I mean, it’s outstanding. We brought a lot of jobs to the market. We brought a lot considering all the work that we had to do to build it right. It totally impacts the community. We see it here and the people that we work with are like Family. We help each other, we help our neighbors and we all help serve the community.” “We can never can say it enough, but I would like to publicly say thank you to all of our Teammates, and everyone who has supported us on this journey – ‘THANK YOU ALL!’”
I knew the soft heart would come out eventually. It was fun to watch the brothers make eye contact as they spoke about their recent co-adventure. I imagine what it must be like to work with a close sibling. The fights would most assuredly proceed, however the overall close bond that it must form would, in my imagination, be something that cannot be described by words. Oh the joy and overwhelming pleasant hell of it all…
TJ continued speaking about the business as if I had unraveled a puzzle that he wanted to describe. I was glued to his speech. “It’s farm to table. So, our prices are less. This helps patients take advantage of the medicine. Okay. And we’re gonna do everything by volume. So if we have enough customers, everybody will be great.” TJ smiled, nodded, then drifted back into the background as if he said his peace.
We walked toward the next room. I was able to pick Ray’s brain a little more on the business structure and his obvious ability to form a very sustainable model.
“We pop seeds from time to time, but we work with other growers and acquire other genetics. I think it’s, you know, it’s all about if we all win as a team, you know, that’s how we really do it. It’s about teamwork.”
I wanted an example. Ray had several, but one stuck out to me.
“ I was talking to a farmer from Chandler. He was having a challenge. And even though it’s a simple solution, we got connected from mutual colleague we both know in Colorado. End result, his issue is resolved, and we have a new relationship to work with towards our goals. Helping each other is the way to do it. Right? We’re all stuck with challenges like banking, regulations, and even Metrc and all other learning curves in the industry. But you know, you have to work inside of a system and his farm and our farm run very parallel in our systems. So that similarity between our companies gives us the platform to form a relationship. To work together, make genetics work, and we know often an outdoor farmer would not engage an indoor farmer for help – yet it was what was needed.”
Ray continued. “From time-to-time, you have to make compromises. You have to step back and navigate instead of making the waves. I always like to introduce everybody to these.” Ray opened the door. “These are my handicapped ADA bathrooms that cost me $1/2 million a year. The reason being is the city asked us to put them in, but it took out our 19th Flower room. Okay? But you have to make a compromise. We wanted to do everything right. We’ve completely integrated with the city of Oklahoma city from day one. We’ve had over 160 inspections.”
“We had a longer start period, but we knew it would take us a longer period of time to get to where we needed to go. But when we did it we did everything the way they liked it. That’s the focus for us. The city likes it. The state likes it. Same with OMMA. OMMA has trained over 75 of their grow inspectors here at this facility. They trained all of their 40 processing inspectors here at this facility and a large portion of their dispensary inspectors here at this facility, as well as their auditors.”
I then realized the enormity of the place which I was standing inside. It caught me off guard a bit. Everything from the cleanliness of the place down to the friendliness of each worker I encountered was spectacular. One couldn’t ask for a more informative and near perfect tour of a fully vertical grow operation. The business minded “gentle giant” that walked next to me was impressive. His ability to see past obstacles that could potentially damage his pathway to success was incredible. I was, let’s say, intrigued.
“You know, you have to work with these organizations or these departments.” Ray simply couldn’t stop giving me quality lessons to ponder. You can’t work against them. So we came here to work with the city, with the state, with the departments too. It gave us a few hiccups in the beginning. But, the end result is you got a fully manufacturing facility that harvests 95 plants every three days.” There would be nothing that would have taken the smile off of Ray’s face at that very moment.
“Yeah.” Ray comfortably explained, “So that’s what we’re really doing. There you go. We do it for the patients. It seems more seamless that way. That’s it? I mean, if you look at us compared to other growers, we sell the product to our dispensaries below the market price. We give them more, for less money so they can make it more affordable for the patients..”
I still couldn’t get over the enormity of the space.
TJ let me know that they use enough electricity in here to run a 63 bedroom complex with two bath houses. “Literally that much electricity.” TJ snickered and sighed. “There’s almost 14 miles of wire running inside here. There’s four miles of piping in here. We use about 5,000 gallons of water a day.”
“In business you’re always having setbacks – failing means growth. You have to constantly be learning from your challenges to grow.’ Ray mentioned, “You’re always having things come up. You’re not growing if you’re not embracing challenges and turning them into solutions. It is always a challenge. I always talk about growing. One part about growing is that every day, even though the tasks are set on the calendar, something will come up that needs attention. You know then that it’s gonna be more challenging for you that particular day. It always is. That’s what farming’s all about.”
“I think if you surround yourself with the right support system and you give them the right tools and you reward them correctly, then you will gain loyalty as well as give it. Then you help one another be the best that you can be.” Ray smiled once more.
Ray was headed into another room as he spoke. “We’re gonna expand on our existing facility, open up another large amount of rooms. So we’re planning to add another 17 million to the economy to Oklahoma City and we’ll end up harvesting 95-100 plants every day.”
I was curious about his work force. I wanted to know more about his vendors as well. Were they looking to work with Oklahoma residents? How are they going to fill these positions in the future?
“I interviewed someone today, for example. The only reason he wants to get in this business is because he got out of football and he was so beat up and he was on so many prescriptions and whatnot. Cannabis literally helped save him. You know, we hear that story. We read about stories like that. But when somebody sits across from you five feet away, and they share that personalized story, it makes an impact, and you know you are in the right business – We know it is medicine.”
I noticed an even softer spot by the look on Ray’s face as he explained.
“Yeah. That is a huge difference, a big difference, it inspires me, and motivates me to get up and come to work every day. That’s why we do it. That’s how we have to do it. We know it is medicine, otherwise we’re just going to work. What’s the point in that?”
“We just reached a goal of being in over 450 dispensaries.” Ray mentioned. Our future plan is to expand our dispensary business and expand the processing product line. We are planning to have our own branded dispensaries and involve other brands inside. Future announcements to come.”
I looked across the room full of flowers. I wanted to lay down and live in them. I was in heaven for one brief moment. I was able to witness what it feels like to be amongst 3,537 plants that would one day help thousands and thousands of people live a better life.
I’ll have to admit. I was intimidated by venturing into what I thought was possibly the belly of a beast. I imagined walking into a very nice clean medical vibe atmosphere that only cared about pushing products and making profits. I was pleasantly surprised to find a group of like-minded individuals that cared so much about the people that supported their efforts, yet also the people who that live in this world.
For folks interested in learning more about the Gas Farm OKC, you can contact them on Instagram, facebook, Leaf Link, or the web – their office number is 405-594-3375.