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TriMed’s Field of Dreams

TriMed Farm is a place with modest roots that grew, in very short order, to a company with a remarkably leafy canopy...
By Sensi Contributor
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TriMed Farm is a place with modest roots that grew, in very short order, to a company with a remarkably leafy canopy. Located in Chesaning, Michigan, and established in 2017 by co-founders Mike Gelatka, Paige Carioti, co-founder and Market Developer Kevin Gelatka, and along with the vision of Developer and Designer Dave Ghezzi, TriMed started out as a relatively small cannabis growing operation with just six acres of land. In its first year, they produced 4,000 plants. By 2022, TriMed had swelled to thirty-six acres producing upwards of 17,000 plants.

But TriMed didn’t stop at cultivation. Committed to overseeing the process from seed to sale, they have since become a vertically integrated company that includes its own kitchens, brands, and dispensaries. Thus was born The ReLeaf Company—an umbrella organization that now includes the farm itself, two production facilities, and five storefronts.

Although their rapid expansion is remarkable, what truly makes TriMed Farm an inspiration is the manner in which they have remained steadfast to their original vision and prime directive—delivering quality medicine to the patient through sustainable and environmentally beneficial means.

Mike and Paige care profoundly for the health and well-being of their customers. They also care deeply for the environment and have remained loyal to farming practices that replenish and nourish the land while delivering a pristine and nutrient-packed product. As is now becoming common knowledge, the health of the plant ultimately depends upon the nutrient complexity of its environment.

Mike and Paige understood that symbiotic relationship on a fundamental level and, using the expertise of Chief Cannabis Grower Dave Barnum and Chief Horticulturist Andrew Zalewski, looked for ways to develop a permaculture that supported their vision and the company’s rapid growth. Since one of the more critical components of sustainable farming is the water source, it seemed only natural to start there. And if that water source could also inform the health of the soil and the plant, what better way to deliver this system than through aquaponics?

Wishing for a Well

In a nutshell, aquaponics is a system that marries aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (raising plants with little or no soil). Fish and other aquatic animals and plants produce waste rich in healthy bacteria, ammonia, and nitrates. This nutrient-rich water is applied directly to plants which start their own natural filtration process. The end result is clean, fresh water that is redirected back to the primary water source via irrigation channels.

Most city water contains what is deemed tolerable levels of heavy metals and pollutants. To keep these pollutants from their plants, TriMed wanted to source their own water, and aquaponics provided the most efficient and ethically sound means of doing it.

But herein lay the problem: TriMed didn’t have its own water source. Undaunted, TriMed decided to make their own. Luckily, just a few feet below the surface of the soil was natural groundwater. By channeling that water into a pond of their own, they could ensure their water’s integrity. And so they dug a 1.5-million-gallon pond that they populated with fish, frogs, and turtles, all of which now cohabitate with locally sourced aquatic vegetation.

As a result, TriMed has created an optimal environment for delivering nutrient-rich, naturally fertilized water to their crops. Barnum speaks frankly of the farm and the pond. “My favorite thing to say around the farm is ‘keep it simple, stupid.’ People like to overthink it, but it’s simple. The plant will tell you if it’s missing something or if you’re doing something wrong. Whenever you see a tree around a natural water source, it’s thriving. Keep it simple and give the plants the right stuff—the pond’s habitat delivers just that.”

“People like to overthink it, but it’s simple. The plant will tell you if it’s missing something or if you’re doing something wrong….Keep it simple and give the plants the right stuff.”

– Chief Cannabis Grower Dave Barnum

What Goes Around Comes Around

The pond is not the only way TriMed has remained true to its vision. Barnum and Zalewski maintain a “quality-in, quality-out” mindset and hold the integrity of the product close to heart in their management of the farm’s operations. “We work with every plant multiple times,” Barnum says, “to ensure the quality of the medicine is to a standard that we are willing to put our name behind.” So in addition to its aquaponic system, TriMed has also partnered with agricultural researcher Andrea McVeigh of MightyMicrobes to naturally enhance soil health. The farm credits MightyMicrobes with boosting plant nutrient cycling uptake and root development.

In another push toward regenerative practices, even the biomass waste is recycled. Plant litter, laden with constituent nutrients, is kept aside so that it can be churned back into the topsoil. This process provides essential nutrients to the soil’s microorganisms, allowing for increased soil fertility and complexity. Experts say conventional industrial agriculture fails to satisfy the permaculture necessary for maintaining soil nutrient levels and pest deterrence, so TriMed has opted for natural pest control methods, such as releasing predators like ladybugs and praying mantises.

“TriMed strives for perfection in a climate that changes daily. We continue to research and innovate to bring the best products to market.”

– Chief Horticulturist Andrew Zalewski

TriMed has also started onsite recycling as well as a “reduce and reuse” initiative that limits the number of materials brought onto the property with short shelf lives or narrow purpose. According to Zalewski, “TriMed strives for perfection in a climate that changes daily. We continue to research and innovate to bring the best products to market.”

This commitment to best practices is evident in the pristine quality and medicinal integrity of each of their products. Director of Compliance Randy Barr oversees the journey from seed to sale by ensuring that each of the 17,500 plants is tagged so that he can track both compliance and movement. Even amid rapid growth, when other businesses are tempted to cut corners in order to maximize profits, TriMed never sacrifices quality for quantity. Indeed, churning out a mediocre product in pursuit of a wider profit margin is a pitfall that TriMed has sidestepped altogether.

Where the Green Grass Grows

Today, five years since their founding, TriMed and the Releaf Company can boast everything from hand-trimmed, cured flowers with carefully selected strains that carry specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles, to just about anything you can find in a dispensary. Such flexibility allows them to accommodate a wide variety of consumer and medicinal needs. Step into any one of their five dispensaries and an informative staff will guide you through your selections—educating you about their varieties of kief, bulk bud, extracts, cartridges, gummies, chocolates, topicals and pre-rolls.

The realization from seed to sale has resulted in TriMed’s evolution into one of the most notable vertically integrated farms in Michigan. To travel with the seed is really quite a journey—from initial cultivation, to extraction and infusion, to bottling and packaging—a growth that branches up to quite a leafy canopy. The nutritional integrity of the plant, the water, the soil and the environment is vigilantly maintained throughout the entire process.

Such robust growth, born of a vision shared by a handful of people on a mere six square acres, is nothing to shake a stick at. But who’s got sticks, anyway? Those sticks are all too busy sprouting new leaves to be bothered with the likes of us.