Selecting Marketable Cultivars for the Upcoming Season
As we approach summer, the time to choose cultivars for the fall harvest is here. If we’re being honest, this decision can be completely debilitating. Our farmers have described feeling overwhelmed at the matrix of options and considerations they have to make when selecting cultivars with one question driving more indecision than any other:
Which cannabis cultivars will be marketable to buyers after harvest?
We know what’s popular now doesn’t necessarily reflect what will be popular in November, December, January, and February. So how should we as craft cannabis farmers make this decision? At Hive Mendocino, we reflected on what we’ve learned about selecting marketable cannabis strains from our farmers and partners. At the top of our list of recommendations are paying attention to the trends, considering the specific needs of your customer base, and staying true to the genetics that work best for your cultivation approach and microclimate.
Watch the Trends:
Learning from the consumer trends in the market requires us to take off our farmer hats and put on our buyer hats. We have to think like the buyers behind a brand trying to attract customers. The pendulum of preferences in this industry continues to swing between large batch and small batch and between big, organic nugs to small, uniform nugs. What becomes in demand tends to be what fits current consumer
understanding of quality. Buyers look at the conversations happening at individual and industry levels to understand how budtenders and customers determine quality, seeking out the cannabis that meets the expectations of consumers. Today, there’s a growing conversation about regenerative cultivation that may indicate a future consumer preference for the rich cannabinoid and terpene profiles found in outdoor, small batch craft cannabis.
There are a lot of resources online to help you understand current trends and in-demand cultivars. Every January, publications release cannabis trend reports showing where they see consumer preferences headed. Reference these reports along with feedback from your partners to better understand where preferences are today and where they are heading tomorrow.
Consider your customer base:
While extremely valuable to consider, consumer preferences alone don’t indicate that what you cultivate you will be able to sell. It’s also important for both wholesale cannabis farmers and direct to consumer cultivators alike to consider who your specific customers are. We recommend reflecting on the product lines of your most engaged, loyal buyers. If their products are primarily edibles, consider cultivars ideal for making ice water hash, distillate, or rosin. If your buyers package your cannabis for flower sales, consider cultivars that are potent and aesthetically pleasing. For the direct to consumer cannabis brands, consider the needs of your consumers. Many dispensaries cater to a specific consumer segment with specific cannabis goals. When in doubt, ask your network what they anticipate needing. If you get ahead of the product development cycle, you can cater your cannabis cultivation to clients who guarantee a purchase. If you stumble upon a gap in the market or a product in demand that is not in supply, you’ve found an opportunity to fill the void and ultimately make sales.
Once you’ve narrowed down your selections, it’s time to consider your cultivation approach and microclimate. If you’re a regenerative cannabis farm you may want to choose genetics that are more resilient to pests. If you’re in a colder climate, choose cannabis strains known to thrive better in those temperatures. When harvest is complete and you’re showing off your inventory to buyers, the marketability of the cultivar will open the conversation, but quality is what will close the sale. If the quality or potency of your harvest is poor, no amount of sales persuasion will help you move your product regardless of if your buyer is a manufacturer, brand, or dispensary.
With the season for choosing your cultivars here, the time to research, reflect, and strategize is now. The path to choosing the best strains for optimizing sales is a delicate process of balancing consumer preferences with your specific piece of the market while never compromising quality. It sounds like threading a needle, but this process can actually be a great learning experience. At Hive Mendocino, we have the benefit of discussing these decisions among our members, helping all of us to make stronger choices. Our final recommendation for our fellow farmers is to seek out your own community of collaborators so you too can benefit from the wisdom of others.