Growing the Industry: Q&A with Ben Friedenberg of OG Yields
Missouri’s medical marijuana market is growing. On pace to bring in $200 million in retail sales by the end of 2021, the industry is creating opportunity, growth, and revenue. In a new short-form q&a series, Growing the Industry, Greenway looks to highlight and introduce the individuals behind the plants that the market is built on.
Ben Friedenberg is the Head of Cultivation for OG Yields. Based in Vienna, MO, the facility covers roughly 50,000 sqft. The cultivation operation covers four greenhouse bays; each with 3,750 sqft of canopy for a total of 15,000 sqft of flowering canopy, as well as stock and nursery areas and a designated R&D space as well. Previously, Friedenberg, who holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences with an emphasis in Breeding, Biology & Biotechnology from the University of Missouri – Columbia, spent time in avocado, hemp, and cannabis breeding/research programs, working in both public institutions and the private sector. His experience encompasses roles in areas ranging from research and development to production horticulture, constituting nearly a decade of experience working with and studying plants.
Apart from his professional and academic accomplishments – Friedenberg is an interesting person, born in Spain; the son of professional musicians traveling at the time of his birth. Friedenberg, who was raised in St. Louis, caught that same music bug – playing the guitar and mandolin, and teaching himself harmonica.
While music is a passion and makes up a large part of his life, Friedenberg can’t seem to stray far from greenery and plant life. An avid outdoorsman, he enjoys spending his free time hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing through the forests and hills of Missouri.
That passion for plants and life is evident in everything Friedenberg does and is part of what makes the flower coming out of the Ozarks so special.
Name: Ben Friedenberg
Title: Head of Cultivation
Company: OG Yields
What came first for you, a passion for plants or cannabis?
Plants! I’ve always been interested in them. I grew up going on nature walks with my family and playing in the woods and in family gardens. I saved up and bought a bonsai tree from the Botanical Gardens when I was in elementary school that I still have to this day. My passion for cannabis didn’t come till later in my life.
As a native Missourian, what does it mean to be back in Missouri and growing legal cannabis?
It’s nice to be able to take what I learned in school and out West and apply it in the state I grew up in. It’s exciting to be a part of a newly emerging market and to be able to provide clean, consistent to the patients here. I don’t think I fully understood just how in need the population here was till I went out and started talking with the local communities. That really solidified my decision to come back.
What information can you give me about your grow method?
We grow high-density, with drip irrigation in Rockwool under natural and LED lighting.
What is the biggest obstacle you face with a grow like this?
I’ve grown in plenty of greenhouses as well as indoor facilities. This is the first hybrid, fully-sealed, glass-top I’ve had the pleasure to grow in. It’s awesome to be able to pair the benefits of one style with the other but it also brings many new and exciting challenges. Staying ahead of these challenges is the name of the game.
What are some pet peeves you have related to cannabis; growing, knowledge, or otherwise?
One of my biggest pet peeves about the industry is the lack knowledge sharing. Too many people in the know are unwilling to share what they know. I understand the old-school mentality behind this but, I’m also a big proponent of educating/training your staff as well as helping shape the next round of growers and industry leaders for the future. The more knowledge we can share with each other right now, the better off this industry will be when the large, multi-billion dollar companies decide to get into the space.
What’s your favorite cannabis cultivar and why?
Lemon Skunk. I’m a big fan of lemon terps and this cultivar always did it for me. Perfect medicinal effects for me and great memories associated with smoking it.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
Stay humble. There can be a lot of ego associated with cultivating cannabis and, in my opinion, it only gets in the way of learning, growing and continued success.