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KCRA Grower Spotlight: Parea Biosciences


 

Define Parea: [pa-ray-ah] · Greek · (n.) a group of like-minded individuals that get together to share their life experiences, philosophies, values, & ideas.


It can be hard to tell when the name of something cannabis-related holds meaning. Different strain names pop up every day. New brands and products find their way onto the shelves in dispensaries, and jargon constantly shifts in an industry cut off from itself across state lines. But just like when a strain’s name captures its essence, it is nice to see when a company’s name does provide an explanation. The name alone can never tell the full story, but it might help guide people through the chaos to find something special. Something worth sharing with others on their cannabis journey.


That is what KCRA discovered through our conversations with Parea and our time spent in their garden. A garden in Coal Township, PA that is led by people who care about producing quality products and commit to the hard work it takes to continue dialing in, striving to make each harvest better than the last. A company name that is tied to a past that is being reinvented by a team of people who have dedicated their lives to cannabis and lived through the diverse experiences it has brought to them. Growing and processing carried out with true passion for the plant and the community. The people of Parea now look to share their passion with others both within their own garden and through the products they put out for PA medical patients.


 

Parea Biosciences was granted a grower/processor license in Phase 2 of the PA medical marijuana program. The company was initially licensed in 2017 in Phase 1 of the program to open dispensaries only and operated Keystone Center for Integrative Wellness, now named Hive, in Williamsport, PA before applying for and being awarded a cultivation permit during Phase 2 in 2018.

Many companies that entered the cannabis industry in the beginning phases of the program came in under the pretense of potential profits only to be confronted with the reality of operating as a medical marijuana grower within a heavily regulated market. Growers are hit with the high-startup costs of a cultivation facility combined with the challenges of compliance under strict regulatory guidelines. The expectation is to produce high-quality product from the very first harvest in a new facility and new environment, but when things fall short, and the losses start coming it can be hard to sustain business.


Parea is no stranger to these difficulties in getting the operation off the ground. Past leadership of the company over-promised and under-delivered on the first harvest and proceeded to go scorched earth to patients online when the product fell short of his own expectations, and he received backlash. Parea does not run from this past, but the truth is that with the past leadership now long gone the story has continued to evolve. When Kyle Henderson was initially brought in as Director of Cultivation it would have seemed that Parea could go the route of some of the other smaller, independent companies that were initial license holders in PA and get acquired. Through the short history of the program a number of companies have sold to larger, multi-state operators when faced with financial pressures, difficulty in the grow, or just a desperate need for consistent access to capital in a restricted marketplace.

Instead Parea chose to recognize the opportunity they had and confront the challenges head on. Building a team of like-minded individuals with years of experience in different legal and medicinal markets around the country who truly love cultivating cannabis and want to share that passion with Pennsylvania. The goal is to go on a journey, working towards delivering on what was initially promised from Parea to patients: small-batch, boutique style medical cannabis cultivated with passion and care in Coal Township, PA.

 

At the head of Parea’s garden is the Director of Cultivation Kyle Henderson and Assistant Director of Cultivation Patrick Sprout but ask either of them about their role at Parea and they are quick to deflect to the role the entire cultivation team plays inside the grow. This selflessness reflects into the principles at the foundation of Parea’s garden. A total team effort built on sharing knowledge and education as a form of self-fulfillment.


When Patrick joined the Parea team he looked to help achieve this by restructuring things around the garden. Rather than assigning cultivation team members in one room for eternity, you are trained through the whole cycle of cultivation from start to finish. The emphasis becomes understanding the garden as a whole and catering to the individual needs of each plant, not just clocking into work and making your way through a checklist.


Walk through Parea’s facility and you will find the same passion and commitment from everyone. A dedication to the process of cultivating the best product they can. The gardeners make each room their own. You might hear some 70’s rock from propagation, some EDM in veg, or just be greeted by the white noise of the fans as you walk through a greenhouse full of plants in flower.


But passion alone cannot be the recipe. It has to be turned into motivation and combined with hard work. The little-known secret of cannabis cultivation, especially at scale, is that it is actually really hard work. Long hours must be spent inside facilities with strict regulatory requirements under the law. In the wrong environment, the day-to-day realities of cultivating cannabis can quickly curb the passion of anyone stepping into the industry. Parea looks for the antithesis of this, trying to provide an environment that makes the most of the job, even under strict regulation. Parea is quick to admit there is no magic formula, but the goal is simple. Create a workplace full of people who love what they do and you will create the foundation for great product to be produced. Product built on community, passion, and the kind of real transparency that truly educates.

A smaller canopy space helps to execute this. Parea’s facility has less canopy by square footage than most if not all of the other growers in the program. It consists of multiple greenhouses including what Parea has dubbed the Terp Barn. A small grow space (30 lights) that incorporates growing techniques that include hand-watering, compost teas, top-dressing, and organic nutrients. Here, Parea experiments with new ideas and grow techniques looking to bring what they learn in the Terp Barn and apply it into their larger commercial spaces to consistently produce high quality, high terpene testing flower.



Flower can sometimes steal the whole spotlight but make your way further into the Parea facility and you will find the same passion echoed in their lab too. Led by Director of Extraction Abe Crowe and Assistant Director of Extraction Chris Davila, their processing is built on the same principles as the grow. This translates into a quest to produce the highest quality and cleanest concentrate products on the PA market. Recently launched onto the market for the first time, the level of science and artisanal touch on display through these products is deserving of its own conversation.


The facility itself is nestled in the hills of Coal Township, PA right outside of Shamokin. A town that was built on the anthracite coal industry and has faced the same challenges up against many small communities across America. Drive through and you will notice the mountain of coal, a remnant of the area’s past as it moves towards its future.


When towns like these face tough times it becomes easy for everyone to believe the story. A loss of industry, and a loss of hope. But sometimes you just have to look at things through a different lens. Take notice of the people within the community. The sense of pride, work-ethic, and shared history that shows the potential for revitalization. That is no simple process. It takes a community rallying together to regain hope about what the future can look like. A future that not many people would have guessed involved cannabis. But look closely and you will see the influence of Coal Township inside Parea. Hard working people with shared life experiences and a shared passion look to modestly grow the best medical marijuana that they possibly can for Pennsylvania patients.


 

Pull back the curtain for medical marijuana growers in PA and you will find that it is just gardening, some doing it at a larger scale than others. Walking through the facility and getting to see the plants in flower is an experience Parea wishes it could give to every patient in PA. Way before we toured the facility our first experience with Parea as patients was through purchasing their Party Foul (GMO x Birthday Cake) bred by Cannarado Genetics. No one at KCRA had ever tried any Parea product before. It was on sale for $20 and we thought the genetics were interesting, so we gave it a shot. Inside the container was one giant 3.5g nug that was beautifully hand-trimmed, flavorful, and had great euphoric effects. That is not something you come across every time you open up a PA medical program eighth.

As we have continued to learn more about Parea and spend time there we have only felt more and more connected to the medical marijuana products they put out for patients. The goal remains to continue dialing in with each harvested batch. Their products promote transparency by giving the patient the breeder and lineage of each strain. A simple thing that is easily taken for granted before you realize there are other licensed growers in PA that do not do that. Flower that tries to give PA patients access to a variety of different genetics than what you see on the dispensary shelves everyday by bringing in new genetics from a diverse set of reputable breeders. There are unique strains like She-Hulk (Bruce Banner x JCP) bred by THSeeds or Eighth Star (Seven Stars x Star Pupil) bred by Mass Medical Strains from a cut of Seven Stars that Patrick personally pheno-hunted. These mix with tried and true strains sourced directly from breeders on the West Coast that are soon to come like OG Kush and Apples & Bananas. Parea rejects the idea that cannabis needs a report card, but they will be the first to share their full COA’s for patients to see or excitedly tell you the exact nutrient recipe they use in cultivation. A process backed by real transparency and having nothing to hide from patients.

Ask Kyle and he will tell you that cannabis is a journey. One that is never complete and remains fluid while the pursuit stays the same. When you are passionate you always continue to look for the best quality as a patient or continue to strive towards growing the best quality as a cultivator. For this reason, Parea continues to grow plants, trying to one-up themselves with each harvest and inspire a wave of people who look to measure cannabis by quality alone in Pennsylvania. Quality created from passion, community, hard work, and a willingness to share in the experience of cultivating medical marijuana products for PA medical patients.


Patrick: We are local, normal people, a group of friends. At the end of the day it’s just gardening, it’s not anything magical. List the breeders, list the lineage, and speak about the process behind cultivating in the garden for the patients.


Kyle: Our goal is to modestly grow the absolute best medical marijuana that we possibly can, and that journey is never going to be complete.











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