By James Bridges
We pulled into the parking lot of what was obviously a structure built to move heavy machinery and vehicles, I noticed the sign for Wellevate Farms, but I couldn’t help but wonder. I thought to myself, “Why is that large, roughly 75 foot tall, gas rig blocking my parking space?” Then I took a good look around. I noticed more heavy equipment, trailers, and yes, even more rigs that stood tall and inoperable. I thought to myself again, “Maybe I should open my eyes and stop listening to that constant repetitive voice coming from my speakers?”
I felt as if I had driven into the wrong address until I recognized a smile. The smile was large and the man behind it couldn’t seem more welcoming. Adam Stockman presented himself as one of the directors. The man that wears many hats with a team of fellow multi-hatters designed to accomplish whatever is put in front of them. We were invited inside.
John Hughes himself would have been jealous and may have even made the motion to dial his attorney if he were to walk into the facilities at Wellevate Farms in Skiatook, OK. The large, almost circular interior structure with a maze/classroom aesthetic would have him screaming at the old troupe to gear up and shoot The Breakfast Club 2.0.
“So this room will soon be the house dispensary.” Adam pointed over my shoulder. “That’s why we picked the one with the exterior door.”
We met Adam during the Cowboy Cup in December 2022. One of the late nights of the cup led both myself and Brook Miller to a table where Adam and a new product awaited our introduction. The product is actually designed and offered by Wellevate Farms themselves. It’s called the WelleVape.
I will do my best to describe the product. The product is vaporized inside of the device. The vapor then flows and fills the chalice or glass. Then bottoms-up! You drink and repeat. It’s surprising, unique, and comes with an experience to accompany your meds.
We were invited to repeat as many times as desired. We made sure we had plenty of “introduction” time for one another.
“We found a way to procreate our own dispensary.” I listened as Adam opened up more. “Yeah. and, we’re about 60 days out. We were lucky for how we found ours though. I mean, I’ve heard $$$$ over and over, and we found something nowhere near those numbers. We were able to acquire this and even own the building. Most licenses are not available the way ours was, and for that we are very grateful.”
He must have noticed the twitch in my brow as he spoke and peaked my interest. Adam continued, “Yeah. The old owner just didn’t ever put anything together here. We took it off his hands. We think we can do something special with this place. That’s what we are here to do.”
The informed and intelligent Adam pointed out that the goal was to become more of an appointment only dispensary. They want to offer medicines to those specifically in the area that are in need. However, because that is where their cultivation and lab is located, they feel it best to keep the main gate closed to the public.
“Everyone always says they want to carry our product.” Adam showed that giant smile again. “We know we have the right product.” Adam’s confidence was sure. “Our sales have already given us a very positive projection. Now it’s time to network, continue marketing, and advertising so we can become more top of mind for patients when they choose.”
These guys definitely have a “There’s nothing in getting our way” attitude. They have a fully operational grow facility. They are smashing killer solventless hash rosin on a press made for giants. They have 120 Square Feet of freeze drying space. They even have their own CO2! Afterall, we were essentially standing on top of a natural gas well. I couldn’t have been more impressed.
Adam continued to show us around. “I mean, with the equipment that we have and the facility that we have, it’s been a long haul. We are all-in on the investment, time and money. More than I could have fathomed. So it’s a long game. We’re honest with ourselves though. We have an accountant. Other than accounting, we don’t really outsource anything. Everything is pretty much created in-house, even metric.”
The team at Wellevate was surprisingly small compared to the output of the facility. There’s Adam Stockman who is the general manager/all hats, and a very knowledgeable lead cultivator, Brandon Summers.
We ran into Devon Gaines and Chad Upton. Both are hash washers for Wellevate. They help press the magic, which is Wellevate Farms signature hash rosin. Fluid for the god’s, if you will. We actually had the opportunity to witness the making of said fluid.
The press was more than a press. We walked into the dedicated press room and sat back and watched as they prepped the product. At 180 degrees this beast will smash 3 full 15 gram pouches at one time. That is 45 grams in one press. They use a Low temp V2 Medusa. They have also fabricated a custom mechanical arm, which adds tilt to the base of the press to assist the drip. The team claims that they have noticed a slight change in quality since implementing this lift system. I was more than impressed.
“It’s a lot like a family around here.” Adam explained a common scenario in the cannabis industry. However, this one seemed to be run by individuals that have the mental capability to set boundaries around those emotions. They were there for business, and they all knew it. “Yeah. I wouldn’t say that on any given day, we all get along by any means. But at the end of the day, I also know that if I need something, I’m going to call one of these guys. We butt heads, because we all have real high expectations of what we want to happen. We know that we’re on the right team. We are like a bunch of brothers and sisters around here. We’d probably be better off with some boxing gloves some days. In the end we love and respect one another.”
Adam walked us through the place as if he were showing us his newly remodeled house. I felt that if Adam had a second home it would have been the apartment he slept in and paid rent for about an hour away. I even had the thought of asking him for random shop items. I had an inkling that he would be able to whisp off for a minute and retrieve anything that I requested.
I was curious about his thoughts on cleanliness and managing quality and testing. Knowing now of how small the crew was that operated such a large space, I wondered if there might be issues. As I looked around in every room there were signs of constant cleaning. Some of the spaces looked as if the equipment had just been installed. These guys had the process down for sure. The convincingly honest Adam opened an eye, “My strategy for taking lead for testing is to reach my hand into the big tub and get five grams of random nugs. I’m not cutting the top. I’m not cutting the nicest, prettiest bud off the top of the nicest, prettiest plant in the room. I literally want to take an honest sample. I think it causes us to get lower numbers sometimes. But, I’d rather somebody get a bud from us that says 25% and they get home and they get 30%.”
One of the largest factors keeping the overhead so low while also giving Wellevate Farms the ability to operate with a crew of only five is automation. “Whenever we harvest, we’ve got the bucker.” Adam started pointing at massive and sometimes intricate pieces of hardware inside the expansive main floor. “We’ve got the sorting table, I’ve got the machine trimmer, and we have a room over here that holds 288 plants. We can harvest that in one day with only three people. Our goal is always to go from a live plant to the freezer in a maximum of 45 minutes. If we can hit 30 to 40 minutes, that’s where I’m happy. An hour is acceptable, but not desired.”
After viewing the rooms, which included three mom rooms, a separate clone room, and 13 others used for cultivation, I was asked to enter another part of the building. As I walked through the doorway I felt as if I had entered a portion of the building which was its financial nucleus. It was warm and inviting, yet very much more formal than the rest of the building. I was introduced to two partners. Blaine Heg and Gary Lewis were welcoming and relaxed. I felt comfortable as we spoke.
“When you get the right people all pushing in the same direction it’s hard to stop.” Blaine seemed very savvy. His demeanor demanded respect, however I felt the desire to give respect even with my eyes closed. He seemed very well established and I could sense that any ventures that peaked his interest would certainly be solid.
“We’re more hands on.” Blaine took the lead, “We come from a world where we realize that everything mechanical is gonna break and it’s nice to know we can fix it. One of the biggest things for us is the ability to have everything right there. If we don’t we can usually find it or fabricate it ourselves.”
The owners at Wellevate Farms have been able to incorporate the use of other subcontractors. “We’ve brought subs in on our buildouts. These are local electricians, plumbers, contractors, builders, and more. We work side by side with them. Honestly the questions they’ve asked have been game changing. It’s valuable because I never thought of it the way they bring up specific issues.”
Many leaders in cannabis, as well as so many other industries, tend to think they can purchase success. Some go out and purchase the “best” lighting systems. Maybe go look for the most expensive starting quarterback when all they needed was to look around at the team. Blaine and Gary didn’t want that. They had no desire to go scouting. They wanted to build a strong and long lasting environment with people they knew and trusted. So they did both.
Fortunately they did, in-fact, find the experts fit for Wellevate Farms. However, in this case, they didn’t have to go out and seek it.