The drive out to the facilities was very long yet relaxing in that lazy way a long summer country drive can be, the sun would have made it more enjoyable as it was raining on the day I'm supposed to visit SunMed Growers, God it seems has a sense of irony, but I digress.
As I got closer to the facilities I could start to see the outlines of the iconic roof structure and I knew I was getting drawn into the gravity and ecosystem of this HUGE cultivation facility... they are so large and complex organizations that they do tend to have their own "gravity" meaning everything around them tends to get sucked into their reality: resources, water, electricity, people etc.
In this case the ecosystem is in Warwick MD... where SunMed is bringing in jobs and opportunity to the local economy.
I was met by SunMed's President Jake Van Wingerden a very tall and imposing figure who is also very friendly and puts you at ease. We talked a bit about the business, particularly how this is a family run business, Jake told me the family history and I'll do my best to relate the story here.
Aart Van Wingerden the grandfather and patriarch emigrated to the USA in the 1940s and he brought with him a lifetime of knowledge in Dutch horticulture. Aart was successful in America and was fruitful and multiplied, he had 16 children, 12 boys and 4 girls and they all went into the family business... growing things.
Which leads me back to Jake and SunMed... As you can see Jake and his company already had a ton of background, history and knowledge of horticulture. Jake and his family have been supplying garden plants to places like Lowes and Home Depot for many years, they honed their skills supplying home plants at huge volume to the commercial market
So when Maryland decided to legalize medical cannabis it was a pretty easy to see how the Van Wingerden's decided to transfer their considerable family's skills into the new horticulture business in a big way.
Speaking of BIG... this Dutch Style cultivation facility is one of the largest on the East Coast @ 78,000 sq ft expandable to 320,000 sq ft on 67 acres of land with room for expansion. The city made sure they had their own natural gas supply! SunMed's goal... getting off the grid, quite honorable.
What really sets SunMed apart from its friendly competitors is they use the open "Dutch" greenhouse style. When I said "Iconic Roof" that's what I meant, you won't see this style grow operation in Maryland that much, in fact only one of other Maryland grower uses this style and they have not perfected it as SunMed has.
Jake provided an excellent tour of his facilities and after two hours or so my head was kind of swimming in facts and figures on how this huge operation with so many people and items always in constant movement stays organized. The answer is using their extensive family knowledge and some of the finest technology that marries labor intensive craft cannabis with the best green tech from Europe.... all working in beautiful harmony.
"SunMed Growers is honored to have the opportunity to provide a safe and natural alternative medicine to the residents of Maryland who suffer from debilitating medical conditions.
Our motivated and professional staff has a combined 70 years of horticultural growing experience and is dedicated to growing the highest quality medical cannabis for those who deserve compassionate care."
This really is a family affair.... Jake's brother Chris Van Wingerden is the site manager at this facility, they really love to get down in the "dirt" into the nitty gritty of growing, in fact I don't think much makes them more happier than this.... true horticultural connoisseurs.
While on-site I got to meet many on team SunMed, one person in particular who left a lasting impression on me was Paul Quill, who heads up security and sales... I spent a good amount of time talking to Paul, he is a former Police Detective who was tasked with rooting out illegal cannabis back in the day... Now Paul is an advocate for medical cannabis and works with Jake and his team to spread the word about holistic health and the benefits for all mankind... Quite a turn around but these stories don't surprise me anymore, I love this business and industry.
I could go more into the operations and science of growing at a facility like this at the scale they are over @ SunMed, but I think it's more important to understand the thought and philosophy behind Jake's and SunMeds reason for being their MO if you will:
The Van Wingerden's seem to have definitely inherited the "Dutch" egalitarian ethos of giving back to society, in this case using their considerable production capabilities to be on the leading edge of pricing and if you go out into the market, the dispensaries their progressive philosophy really shows, we do appreciate this and we know many other patients who do as well, so the word is getting out about SunMed.
All in all this was a great visit, my understanding of SunMed and their mission is fairly well developed now, and I got to start off a relationship with Jake and his great team out in Warwick MD.... and what i'll say is this:
SunMed has a ton of extensive family background in horticulture imported two generations ago from Holland via the family patriarch Aart Van Wingerden in Dutch Style horticulture operations and then they continued the family business by growing house plants @ huge scale for the commercial market for several years until Maryland legalized medical cannabis. Jake then applied his extensive knowledge and experience into the new industry using classic Subcool genetics:
SunMed currently have over 100 different strains in the greenhouse right now going through phenotype testing. They believe this long term project will allow them to bring the very best genetics to market for years to come.
All while keeping true to the mission... "High Quality Medicine, High Volume, Fair Prices".
Kudos SunMed Growers - We are fans @ Maryland Connoisseur