Interview with Top Hat Flor Nursery

FarmX had a chance to catch up with Parker Barrie & Greg Brodick, longtime friends and business partners at Top Hat Flor Nursery.
Where did Top Hat Nursery get its beginnings?
Parker: I started the Top Hat brand in 2014 when I started foreseeing the movement toward cannabis branding. As a boutique flower cultivator, I never envisioned myself operating a commercial nursery. However, Greg and I had worked together on other projects and he often talked about wanting to run a nursery. Both of us had played around with breeding and we were both in possession of very high quality and unique cannabis varieties. When we met the founding members of Grupo Flor in the spring of 2017, they were very inspired by the nursery business structure and all that it had to offer the industry. We shook hands on a partnership agreement and started Top Hat Flor Nursery about a year ago.
Did you ever imagine growing to over 25,000 square feet?
Parker: I have been cultivating cannabis for many years and every year seems to get bigger. At first 25,000 sq ft seemed daunting but it’s just like any other expansion, we just got in there and faced the challenge. The learning curve of scaling to this size has been exciting and inspiring. Both Greg and I love what we do. We love cultivating cannabis and all the challenges it presents. We very quickly outgrew the 25,000 sq ft space we initially built out. Just this week we began construction on an additional 25,000 sq ft.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced being a startup in the cannabis industry?
Greg: Cloning is on the scale we do it we really have to is about being able to manage all the elements that come with an indoor greenhouse in Salinas. We want to offer the cleanest and highest quality teens and quality well rooted clones and the labor for teens is really intensive and maintaining our standards in the greenhouse because at any given point we have 10,000 – 12,000 teens in the nursery that need to be cared for and we appreciate the automation but we’re really particular about our plants.
What advice would you give anyone starting a cannabis nursery?
Parker: I think the biggest surprise I’ve encountered so far is underestimating the labor demand of a nursery. I can run the same square footage under flower cultivation with half the crew we have for the nursery. Producing high quality clones and teens is not a simple task and requires daily grind and an extreme level of plant maintenance and management to keep it all operating. I have always maintained personal nurseries for all my cultivating. It’s the highest maintenance of all cultivation. The mothers are our Queens and are pampered like royalty. The clone room is an always evolving environment of 20,000 infant cuttings completely dependent on perfection and is consistently challenging. Then, once they’re potted, every single teen in the entire facility is topped, watered and fed, and spread out to promote plant structure. We maintain a rigorous pest management program. As Greg can attest, the inventory management can be mind-boggling. Every time a plant is moved it has to be tracked to perfection. The entire operation depends on plants rotating out the door and consistent sales. If a customer is delayed on picking up their order, or sales are slow for even a week, the entire facility becomes log-jammed, sometimes all the way back to the clone room. All the while everything continues to grow. The larger the plants, the more maintenance they require. It’ll make your head spin.
My advice to someone who wants to start a nursery is this: if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.
Greg: I would recommend building a foundation and creating systems that help your entire operation to run smoother. You’ve got to have a solid infractures in your physical nursery and in your business. Parker and I have focused a lot on both as well as ensuring we find the right people.