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PLEASANTREES – HARVESTING A NEW FUTURE

One of Michigan's largest growers and retailers digs into the data to produce the best buds...
By Gretchen Van-Monette
COURTESY OF PLEASANTREES
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COURTESY OF PLEASANTREES

How does one celebrate something so auspicious as a 200th harvest? 

For the crew at Pleasantrees, one of Michigan’s largest cannabis growers and retailers, they rolled up their sleeves (and possibly a joint) and kept doing what they do best—cultivating impressive strains of cannabis for a waiting and wanting Michigan market. 

Weekly harvest  

Every week since 2020, the Pleasantrees team harvests more than 500 plants bursting with majestic, sticky buds. Once every other month, a double harvest requires all hands on deck. 

Pleasantrees CEO Randall Buchman and Jeff Swanson, General Manager of Cultivation, estimate they have harvested more than 87,000 plants over the past three years. 

It’s a complex schedule with 10 grow rooms in various stages of cultivation, but they’ve streamlined the process over the years using a lot of data. 

The large dry-erase boards attached to the doors outside each room offer a blueprint of the lifecycle of the plants within. Notes include lighting cycles, organic nutrient details, silly drawings from staff, and, of course, the all-important harvest date.  With so many crops in rotation, having critical details available at a glance keeps things running smoothly.  

Out of the 540 baby plants tenderly brought into the room nine weeks earlier, approximately 504 will make the cut at the hand of a Pleasantrees professional. 

 

Digging the data

Since beginning growing operations at the Harrison Township location, Pleasantrees set itself up to be a different type of cannabis business. 

“I tend to be over-compliant and excessively monitor everything,” says Swanson. But the approach works for him, the state Cannabis Regulatory Agency, and cannabis connoisseurs across Michigan.  

“For us, data is almost as important as the bud,” says Buchman. “We learn from every single harvest.”

As required by the state, each plant must be tracked from seedling to product. The Pleasantrees team turns this requirement into an opportunity to collect minutia on the system.   

Every blue band encircling a plant acts like a miniature e-version of the white boards outside the rooms but with even more details. Specifics on watering practices, nutrient use, pest management, and more provide the team with the details necessary to grow heady weed. More than 210 strains have been produced at the facility during the first 200 harvests. 

“We monitor and track every aspect of the lifecycle and review what all the data presents,” says Buchman. “Then we make any necessary tweaks to our cultivation process to grow the best flower possible.” 

“If a strain finished better than expected, such as greater yield or test results, we would analyze the environmental conditions and feeding patterns of that particular run and mimic it for the next run,” explains Swanson. 

It is such careful diligence that not one gram in 26,000 pounds of weed over three years has been remediated for any purpose. 

“Not. One. Gram,” Buchman proudly notes.  

COURTESY OF PLEASANTREES

COURTESY OF PLEASANTREES

Growing forward

Things have changed since the days Buchman was growing cannabis as a caregiver. 

According to Cannabis Business Times, Michigan in 2024 is “a highly competitive market with more than 2,100 active adult-use licenses, including 1,050 grower and 734 retailer licenses, (it’s) gained a reputation as a state that’s difficult to make money in.”  

Buchman is gratified that Pleasantrees has not only survived but thrived in a competitive and oversaturated market. Pleasantrees currently has five retail operations across Michigan. 

“I like to say that if we can make it here, we can make it anywhere,” Buchman says of the Michigan market. With multiple larger companies turning off the lights, Buchman recognized the need to leverage their strength by growing amazing strains and diversifying the product. 

“There is so much room for growth in this industry, but you have to be right with the way you grow,” he says. 

Learning to grow cannabis as a caregiver during the pre-recreational days of 2009-2010, Buchman decided it was time to channel his vision into a plan. 

“I was able to take my data-focused knowledge on cultivating plants for certain needs or purposes to grow Pleasantrees into a cannabis producer which embraces the science side of the business,” Buchman said. 

The crew keeps around 50 genetic strains and over 420 strains in the seed vault because they never want their brand or cannabis to be stale. 

“We try to keep the menu fresh because our customers love new products and have come to expect to see new high-quality cannabis on our shelves,” says Swanson. 

“Once consumers can see beyond the THC levels and learn more about the benefits terpenes offer, the market will continue to expand in so many different ways,” adds Buchman. “Our cultivation is the foundation of Pleasantrees. It’s the springboard to all our other products and projects.” 

Many of those projects Buchman envisions will happen across Interstate I-94 from the current 50,000 square-foot growing facility, with the help of a 75-foot tall man. 

Return to roots 

Even if you didn’t grow up in the area, chances are you recognized the dapper dandy Gibraltar Man, who was the mascot of the former Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens. 

For more than 30 years, he stood sentinel over what was once one of the largest indoor flea markets in the country. However, the familiar figure has been overseeing an empty parking lot for the last six years. 

Buchman always felt the pull of the big man, now sporting a new fresh, hipper outfit in Pleasantrees hues. Buchman hopes the familiar towering presence will welcome a new generation to the 250,000-square-foot facility.

The building sat vacant for years before Buchman saw the opportunity to turn the hulking structure into a positive statement about cannabis and destigmatize the concept of cannabis use.  

In 2022, Pleasantrees opened a temporary 1,000-square-foot dispensary while extensive renovations were ongoing throughout the rest of the building. 

The first phase of the project also included a beverage canning facility operated by Emerald Canning Partners, the joint venture collaboration between Pleasantrees and the folks behind Blake’s Hard Cider Company intended to support and grow the cannabis beverage segment within the state.

The second phase is currently under construction on their flagship retail location within the building, replacing the temporary store that opened in 2022. The new location will be housed in 9,000 square feet of experience-driven space that includes the largest beverage showcase in the state, an interactive grow room to learn more about the plants Pleasantrees cultivate, and a dedicated product space for shoppers to connect directly with the brands they love.  

The next phase is currently being programmed and designed.  Pleasantrees has secured a permit to build a consumption lounge and intends to create a one-of-a-kind experience for the community to engage with one another.  Concepts include the return of the popular farmers’ markets—with a distinct cannabis twist—selling baby plants and clones. 

“Not all farmers can get on the shelf, and the personal growers don’t usually have access to certain genetics and strains,” says Buchman. He sees a community space where people can have access to a multitude of cannabis options while chatting about cannabis cultivation.  

“The full vision will take a few years to develop, but I’m chasing the nostalgia and ready to expand the future of cannabis,” says Buchman.

COURTESY OF PLEASANTREES

COURTESY OF PLEASANTREES

Harvesting by the numbers

What goes into and comes out of 200 harvests? Here is a breakdown:

ZERO pesticide use 

300 gallons of water per day, per room

30 hand trimmers

60,000+ trim hours 

210+ strains 

87,000 plants 

26,000 lbs. of flower

ZERO remediated products

Cover, Michigan, Winter 2024