Lee Henderson and three of his friends started Hifi Farms in 2013 as a “mom and pop coffee shop idea” to serve the newly legalized status of medical marijuana. Lee had been working in the music recording and producing industry, and most of the partners were musicians, so the more-than-one-meaning of Hifi Farms struck the right chord with the group. “Rock and roll informs my world view, so why fight it?” Henderson says.
But then came the vote in 2014 that made all cannabis legal. “We caught the wave,” Henderson says, and they were on their way to creating a solid Portland brand and setting the bar for excellence in cannabis production; the challenge, being able to meet the demands of a suddenly growing industry with little or no template.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Henderson, “and an intense learning curve, creating an industry on the fly. No one has ever done this before.”
“The market has helped tell us what to do,” Henderson explains. They started out with some signature plants, all of which produced only “one type of effect.” But that quickly showed itself to be too limiting: The demand for CBD-prominent strains – those used primarily for medicinal and lifestyle (stress, insomnia, etc.) use – was where the unexpected heaviest demand was coming from. “We deepened our genetic inventory pretty quickly,” Henderson said.
Henderson thinks Hifi Farms is perfectly situated. “Cannabis requires a lot of resources, power and water. Oregon has the natural resources, unlike other states like California and Nevada.” He sees Oregon as being the ‘Napa Valley’ of cannabis,” in the coming years, as more states likely approve legalization. Even so, Henderson and his partners are working to keep the farm’s energy footprint as small as possible, partly with the help of LED technology. It is a particular agricultural challenge, being able to meet market demand year ‘round through the changing seasons and taking the natural life cycle of the plant in consideration.
So far it’s going well. They are weathering the quagmire of bureaucracy that inevitably accompanies such a change in public policy. But Henderson is optimistic. He sees the cannabis industry as quasi-counter-cultural, able to give back a healthy amount of tax revenue to state and local communities. And he believes it is important to be part of the larger community. Politically passionate, the Farm has already done its share of hosting fundraisers for various candidates and causes.
Henderson wants Hifi Farms to become an iconic Portland company, like Powell’s Books, Stumptown Coffee, or Wieden + Kennedy.
“I think it can be something special, really part of the community.”
For more information: www.hififarms.com