by Anna Ervin
When Jason and Jennifer Hicks packed up their family and moved to Costa Rica for a few years, they learned to embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle. I recently had a chance to visit their facilities in Durant, Oklahoma, and found that Hicksford Farms is the perfect representation of “the pure life.” But what does that mean?
Hicksford Farms is owned and operated by the Hicks and Crawford families. I wanted to learn more about how these families were bringing Pura Vida to Oklahoma medical cannabis, so I took the opportunity to sit down with some of the crew; including Lead Cultivators Jory Hicks and Kory Bailey, Media Manager Brett Hicks, as well as two of the owners, Jason and Jennifer Hicks.
Jory explained that Pura Vida “is a part of Costa Rica’s culture. They don’t mean pure life when they say it. It literally translates to ‘pure life,’ but they use it in many situations as ‘it’s all good,’ or as a way to keep going and keep grinding through the hard times and the hard work.”
“It shows in their attitudes towards each other,” he continued, “and that spoke to us because we’re coming from a different culture where people aren’t necessarily that caring with each other. There’s nothing in our language that’s really deep in our culture like that. There, you’re going to hear it every two seconds. So it permeates. You’re saying it, and it becomes how people are.”
Jennifer added that “we feel like the cannabis culture has really adopted that for us here in Oklahoma. So that is where we tie that in, it helps us come together as a community. We’re reaching for something natural, helpful, and pure.”
Pura Vida is appropriately the name of Hicksford’s new CO2 extracted, full-spectrum oil, but we’ll dive more into that later.
A Day in the Life
As I toured their facilities, I couldn’t help but wonder what a typical day in such a large operation might look like. When I asked Jory, he informed me that the job involves a lot more plumbing and electrical work than actually getting to work with the plants.
“There are 20-30 HVAC units in all the rooms, so at any given point one of them is doing something weird,” Jory said, “so we’ll tinker with that, get our water made, record our temperatures and get all of our data recorded, then we set out and make a plan for the day. As far as taking care of the gardens, the building, there’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Hicksford Farms is currently working with over 3,000 plants in their 7,000 square foot operation. They offer 14 commercial strains at their CannaMed dispensary, with over 30 currently in testing. With that many different plants under their roof, I had to know if they play favorites. Which strain is their pride and joy?
Brett explained that picking a favorite is harder than it looks. “It’s so cool to be vertically integrated because the way that we sell it is actually a huge indicator of how we grow it. Our budtenders and our staff at our dispensary are always talking about the medical side of it, the terpenes. What are you trying to solve with this plant? What is this plant giving to you that you want more of? It then educates our grow that this is what’s missing. This is what’s missing from our lab, what’s missing from the market.
“So it’s hard for me to say which is my favorite,” she continued. “I mean, I have different ones that taste amazing one week or something that I use for pain at certain times… But all of them are so intentionally picked, that there aren’t any that we get bored of. They are all here for a really good reason. Everyone who grows it and sells it knows that reason.”
“Acai Gelato is my favorite thing right now because we’re about to harvest it, and when we’re about to harvest a plant it’s just so gorgeous. This is our first time getting to harvest a strain-specific room.”
Making a room strain-specific allows lead cultivators Jory Hicks and Kory Bailey to truly hone-in on the needs of that individual strain. Jory tells me that having more than one strain in a room makes it quite difficult to make adjustments between cycles. “The more rooms we get, the better the current strains we have will get because the more space they’ll have. Eventually, maybe it’ll just be two strains in a room.”
Clean & Simple
In addition to Hicksford Farms, Good Oil Boys processing and CannaMed dispensary are also licensed by the Hicks and Crawford families. Add a second dispensary expected to open in 2021, and an additional 35,000 square feet of grow facilities to build upon, and I think it’s safe to say that we can all expect to see big things coming from this crew in the next year.
But before we dive into that, I wanted to find out more about some of the advancements they had made since Herbage last visited the farms in 2018. According to Jory, creating the perfect full-spectrum oil has been at the top of their to-do list, but they weren’t always 100% sure if they should go with full-spectrum over what appeared to be the more popular alternative at the time, distillate.
“The full spectrum oil was a divide at a certain point because it was new,” he said. “We were all on different pages of, should we go with this darker colored oil? It’s all distillate right now.”
Brett added that “everything on the market was telling us that’s where the money was, distillate cartridges with terpenes added. So, it was a huge leap to say okay, it’s not the color, or taste, or the smell that anyone is used to, but if we put our heart in it and tell people about our heart for it, it will sell. We’ve seen people’s lives change completely. 100% different lives, 100% different medical routines, everything about it.”
So what makes the Good Oil Boys’ CO2 extracted full-spectrum oils so special?
“It all stems from the flower,” Jason tells me.
“At the end of the day the plants just need the bare minimum to stay happy,” Jory added. ”What you feed them, it doesn’t matter what color the bag or the barrel is… There’s way too much in the industry, it’s overdone with nutrients, products, and additives.”
“It kind of goes back to our lifestyle and how we feel about how we take care of our bodies. Simple, like in Costa Rica,” he said. “They don’t have Whole Foods for you to go buy all these different supplements. But you’re going to find all these happy, healthy people with just the bare minimum inputs going in. And then the nice environment, their lifestyle.
“It’s just like the plant,” Jory continued, “their environment, the light, everything is tuned in so all they need is just the right amount of nutrients.”
Brett took me into their lab to show me the process. “We do super cold CO2 extraction. It’s one of the cleanest ways to get the product that we’re looking for.”
“We do strain-specific pulls every single time, then we do native terpene pulls and reintroduction as well. So, the taste, the smell, the cannabinoids, the terpenes, everything from the plant is put back into the cartridge. Nothing is taken out, nothing’s added that doesn’t need to be added.”
“We’re passionate about it because we understand that the endocannabinoid system doesn’t just need one thing,” Brett said. “Your body has places for every little bit of what our full spectrum oil has to offer.”
Hicksford Farms will be introducing their full-spectrum oil early this year, but you can also purchase their strain-specific boom sticks or moon rocks, both infused with Pura Vida oil at CannaMed dispensary.
No Challenges, Only Solutions
At this point in the interview, I can’t help but admire the collective positive attitude shared by this group of canna-preneurs. While touring the facility, Jason had told me that “what makes Hicksford so special here as a team is that we have 13 family members, and each of us has a specific skill set. The greatest thing is that we all have the same passion in mind. With that, we’re moving mountains.”
Curious to find out how they resolved things as such a large group when faced with obstacles, I asked the crew what challenges they’ve faced in the last couple of years.
Kory’s response, “no challenges, we rock.” We all had a good laugh, but when the dust settled the rest of the group agreed.
“I think that the general attitude is that we don’t have a lot of challenges,” Jennifer added. “We just have solutions. We like to have that sort of attitude, that way we don’t get bogged down.”
Brett suggested that this attitude was a reflection of how the owners operate. “Jen, Jason, Kristin, and James are not only the leaders of two families but of the three businesses. When you have people who don’t back away from challenges, there’s no such thing as no, really.”
“If just any person on our staff has an idea,” she continued, “it has ears, it goes through people and we all discuss it. I feel like that collective, solution-based culture of our grow, dispensary and processing makes it to where looking back on the challenges you’re like, that was cool figuring that out. We all put our heads together and now it’s way better.”
“With commercial growing, there are a lot of challenges and if you bow down to every single one of them or you quit every single time, there are a lot of things you can miss out on. I think that the way this grow works is more-so about what makes the plants happy. Our growers are looking at the plant, not necessarily the highest yield they can possibly get out of it, or how they can get it to look best for Instagram clout or whatever. It’s more so, is this plant happy?”
Though a solution-based approach to problem-solving has helped this crew achieve great heights in their career, Jory pointed out that there is in fact a learning curve to growing indoor.
“We’re playing God with this, doing the whole indoor thing,” he said. “It’s a whole different animal from outdoor, and that’s something I think people underestimate greatly. The electrical load, the square foot is in the realm of 200x that of a regular residential electric and HVAC load. I would say, that’s probably one of the biggest challenges, to constantly be looking in the corners and crevasses at what’s really going on.”
With minimal studies and research on the effects of cannabis, I learned that the Hicksford family values the feedback they receive from patients. “We let our patients tell us what is working, mostly. That’s kind of how we learn,” Jen told me.
Brett added, “in a world where people are caring more and more about where things came from, we are in a good position to tell them where it came from. The same people who work at our dispensary work alongside the growers and all of the trim staff know the processing staff.”
“We are the same family, the same team,” she continued. “So if someone ever has a question about the way it was grown or how it was made, we’re never going to be stumped. We have the answer because we are a part of the creation process. Any person who is anywhere in any of the companies has the confidence of feeling good about who they work for because we stand behind one thing, which is clean medicine.”
I stopped by CannaMed to chat with the team’s Sales Manager, Tristan Hicks. “It’s rare that you can actually come into a place and know the family that grows this flower, and that the crumble is coming from this flower.”
“It’s all about the experience here. We wouldn’t be here without the patients. There’s not enough love in the world, so we’re just trying to love people the way we love these plants.”
Transparency and Education
It’s that same level of transparency that helped Hicksford build social media platforms that keep patients informed. When I asked what drives their passion to help educate the public, Jason responded that “these days, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find the authenticity of these companies or the people that are running them.”
“So as a medical cannabis leader, we’re taking over, and want to get the medicine to the masses. Not just here in Oklahoma, but abroad. And that means sticking to high expectations and standards.”
Brett, who manages the company’s social media, added that “The education part is just fun. Breaking people’s minds open about their endocannabinoid system or the different ways they could be using the plant or the different way they could heal some spot on their skin. Seeing people’s mindset change and open up to more self-care, that is a cool transition to watch.”
Brett occasionally budtends at the CannaMed shop, where she always assures her patients that the products she sells are products the family consumes. ”I will never tell you about a product that I have not personally tried, or that hasn’t been vetted by not only our family but also testing labs.”
She continued, “it matters what you put in your body, and if it doesn’t matter to you yet, we need to talk to you about why it should matter. There is so much stuff on the market that is not created or thought of as a healer at all. If it’s not meant to heal, or the intentions of the person growing it or making it weren’t to heal, that could make it harder for you to heal using that product. Or harmful.”
Happy Plants, Happy Patients
As much as this team advocates for the quality of their medicine, I needed to find out just how they implemented that extra level of care into their operation. In Jason’s opinion, time and intention are key ingredients. Hicksford claims their plants as part of the family, and quality family time is important.
“I think it’s just spending the time that these guys do with our plants is everything,” he said. “You know, if you’re not spending time with the ones that you love, you’re just not going to have a relationship at the end of the day. So that’s really what it boils down to. We love our girls and we spend a lot of time with them.“
Everything at Hicksford is done by hand with a lot of careful intention and love. Brett pointed out that it’s actually really cool to see growers work with plants in this way. “The way that we move plants, the way that we move leaves, I mean you saw Jason doing it earlier, we’re gentle.”
“These are our baby girls, she continued. So every single person who touches it has terpene retention and end product in mind. Those girls and guys in the trim room have a certain finesse. This comes from a lot of training and intention.”
“We don’t do things sloppy at all. We don’t do things half-hearted. Any time we’re interacting with the plant at all it is super intentional. The littlest things can change the entire structure of the plant.”
Jory added, “You’re asking a lot from that plant. And it’s a weed, so anyone can grow it and people have that mindset coming out of the black market.”
”You’re literally stressing it, trying to get it to produce the medical product that we need before it ends its life. It’s kind of a sacred relationship between what we’re asking of it and what it’s giving us before it dies. It’s a special dance all the way through to the end of the cycle.”
“I can sleep good at night,” he continued, “knowing that those products will show themselves to the people. Once it’s done and we did what we did, we can know that patients are going to experience it that way when they consume it every time. The employees here have so much passion for it, the growers are just super into it.”
So, what’s next for the Hicksford Family?
Hicksford Farms has big plans in store for 2021. Keep an eye out for their new strain, Banana Mac, that will drop early March exclusively at CannaMed. You can also be on the lookout for a new CannaMed dispensary opening later in the year. But for now, this crew has some serious work to do.
Jason tells me “We’re currently experimenting with a lot of genetics and we’re so close to having this place built to where we can breed our own, and that’s where it’s at.”
“We’re at a point where before we do more flower rooms, we need to expand our veg room and expand our offices,” Jory added. “We need to get people set up, set up the front line so we can handle all of this growth.”
He continued, “there’s been a lot of boot-strapping it that’s got us here. But we don’t want to go crazy providing this medicine for people, so we’re going to try to build out the front, get the veg room expanded so we can bring more genetics without going crazy as well.”
After having the chance to witness the intention and love that this family puts into everything they do, I have to say that I’m looking forward to watching them continue to grow in the Oklahoma cannabis industry.
Hicksford Farms is raising the bar when it comes to growing, processing, and selling medical marijuana in our state. And if you care even a little bit about the quality of your medicine, you should keep this crew on your radar.