The Feminine Divine Highlights, Woman Owned and Operated: Pro Gro Farms
by Veronica Castillo
“Maintaining a small-batch standard by taking extra measures at each step to preserve quality and isolated control on a plant by plant basis.”
Founded by woman, operated by woman, cannabis grown by woman, Pro Gro Farms is an indoor cultivation growing cannabis in a controlled environment, while maintaining a naturalist philosophy. Pro Gro Farms offers legally compliant cannabis to dispensaries and processors within the state of Oklahoma.
Founder and Led Cultivator Kalli Keith, says she fell in love with gardening in her twenties after a breakup, and growing plants healed her. But before that, she has the experience of being raised in farming and ranching: “I spent time at the stockyards, at barrel races, even strapped to a pony on cattle drives before we evolved to using ATVs.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with and interview Pro Gro Farms owner, Kalli Keith. Hear from her below.
Q & A With Kalli Keith, Founder of Pro Gro Farms
Tell me about the woman owned and operated team at Pro Gro- was growing a passion and/or career goal?
“After the breakup, I started gardening and dreamed that I would give produce to all my neighbors in my small apartment complex. Gardening healed me more than it fed my neighbors, and I found myself obsessed with the whys and hows of plant life (and bug life), and I continued to adopt ‘em and read about each one of them. I eventually had serious square footage staked in this parking lot due to my expanding collection, and decided it needed a border to keep cars in check. I acquired bricks from a building demolition in my neighborhood and borrowed my neighbors skateboard to roll them all to my garden in these toe-smashing stacks. Then neighbors started leaving me flower pots, naturally I had to fill them with more plants, and I think I am still in that cycle somehow today.”
What was your childhood life like?
“We always had a garden growing up so the farm-to-table thing was kind of just the way of life. Nostalgia creates a deep connection with the land for me. I grew up in a farming and ranching family and spent years trying to escape it. I was always irritated about why conversations at the dinner table had to evolve around horses and cows and land. I was set on moving to NYC to become a world-renowned hairdresser. I already completed my licensing during high school and after graduation, but I started college 15 minutes away in Norman instead. I made it to 19 and was deflated by still being in a small town when I was scouted to model through a Facebook message. I changed my major as soon as that semester had ended and relocated to Miami, FL to follow a new dream for the next 10 years under my parents warning it was only acceptable if I finished school. I made it to NYC after all, then Los Angeles, and finally Dallas for a more comfortable last few years.”
Please tell me about the journey to build and launch the Pro Gro cultivation facility?
“I think it was 2017 when I started working toward being a part of the emerging hemp industry in Oklahoma. I worked to be included in the pilot program and cheered along the 2018 farm bill finally legalizing production. My trajectory had shifted somewhere in the meantime before seeing that through. I feared a lack of infrastructure for hemp when it came to harvesting through going to market and another lovely little thing had happened in the meantime which was the movement and passage of SQ788.
I redirected my efforts into a very small scale operation to see if I could even grow plants indoors! I had toured a fabulous and well-funded commercial grow in southern Colorado, but that was the limit of my experience in commercial gardening. It might have been the craziest or the coolest thing I ever did, but I wiped out my savings, developed an additional funding and repayment strategy and took a big ass borrowed trailer to Home Depot. That is when it set in that I really wasn’t turning back, the space was leased and half the building materials purchased so I was in this for real now.
With the help of my dad, other family, and friends, we were able to get about 1000 square feet built out.”
Do you all have a passion for cultivating indoors?
“I have a passion for the sun and the soil, actually. I have a passion for regenerative agriculture, and plans including and expanding from Pro Gro. I grow indoors, because frankly I am a perfectionist and a weed snob since back before I ever became interested in farming or growing cannabis. I want to be able to experiment with various cultivars in a controlled setting.
In my garden, I have the ability to formally trial side-by-side, more control for research, and development, and the advantage of getting to monitor everything that comes in contact with the end product from a sanitation perspective.
I know indoor cultivation is not as sustainable as other methods and that does weigh on me, but I do my best to compensate by constantly making small changes: reusable products, water filtration modifications, electricity pull at off-hours, etc.”
What’s your favorite strain to grow and consume?
“I certainly don’t have a favorite for either. My main obsession with cannabis comes from variety and what range internal and external factors can allow it to span. My quick answer would be something like a chem or diesel cross to consume and to grow would be simply anything beautiful!”
How many plants do you all grow at once?
“I flower 80 at a time.”
Any mentors in the industry?
“Not really, no. If I did have a mentor, I am the type to ask then secretly not trust their answer anyways and go try my idea instead. I only learn the hard way and it’s a curse.”
Any partnerships or collaborations coming?
Pro Gro is collaborating with Bear Essentials on a rosin release. I feel like it’s a milestone for Pro Gro to not only branch into rosin, but to be noticed by respected hash artists. I can claim I’m a “weed snob” all day, but these solventless people are drop dead serious about what flowers they will and won’t work with.”
What has been the hardest lesson learned so far?
“You can’t do everything by yourself. I am deeply independent and thought if I would just build a micro grow small enough that I could manage it entirely myself, then I could just listen to my audiobooks all day and grind out some stanky danky flowers. I thought I’d snap some pics and send some emails and could stay hidden in the garden, and people would learn it was great and be waiting to buy it. WRONG!
It takes help from reliable teammates to guarantee product consistency, it takes cherry picking the hand trimmers that manicure bud to perfection, it takes relationships with your clients that develop into friendships, it takes giving up control and learning to delegate tasks to others to better your business overall, humility to consult with other growers and giving free advice to the next guy in return for the good deeds done to you, it takes patients demanding your flower at their favorite shop over and over again, and friends and family understanding why you fell off the map a couple years ago and miss important events.”
Where can customers find you and what Pro Gro Farms grown strain is highest in demand?
Safe bets for a good selection would be: Likewise Craft OKC, Likewise Broadway in Edmond, Top Notch Medz in Shawnee, and/or Pharm788 in Roland.
Feel free to DM or email me and ask, because there are single strains or rotating stores that might be closer to where you live.
Our highest demand has been for the Blueberry Mandarin Cookies #14. It’s a happy all day strain with an easy THC level and a woodsy, bready terp profile. If you catch me out and about, it’s the strain I almost always have on me. I think a close contender is the MP3 pheno of Mandarin Punch, but she just hasn’t been around my garden as long to challenge the BMC popularity.”
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring women cultivators?
“My advice would be to stop acting like men are against you because you’re a woman in a male dominated industry. I am often asked, “what’s it like?” to which I say ‘pretty much like every other industry’. I have actually felt more judged or disliked by other women than men in this industry, and we have a tendency to kind of lift other women up as long and were still standing on her dress hem.
Men are excited to meet a woman running a garden, because it’s refreshing to not have the same bros or hired hot girls coming in to sell weed all day. Sure, we experience weird advances and mansplaining, but these types of bizarre exchanges happen outside of cannabis too, because weird people are weird people no matter who dominantes your line of work.
Don’t hide the fact you’re a female stepping onto the scene. I spent a long time not stating that I was woman-owned and operated, because I didn’t want people to care. I had a false idea that purchasing managers would think I was some growers girlfriend he sent in. I wanted my product to speak for itself no matter who grew it. My guy friends actually encouraged me to add more personality to my brand and let people know who is behind it and I am so glad that I did.
I have had a mom-and-daughter store reach out to me wanting to buy from other women or others. I get messages like ‘Love to see it, I’m a girl and I grow too’, from as far away as South Africa!
Being woman owned isn’t going to compensate for bad weed, (at least it shouldn’t) so it doesn’t hurt to put it out there and let people know who you are and what you’re proud of accomplishing when it’s against a statistic.”