It was written in the play Othello, “Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.” One can only wonder if the name of the city located in Central Washington was taken from this tragedy written by William Shakespeare around the year 1603, but it is quite the fitting quote for an area filled with successful farms.
Blending with the corn and wheat fields that drive this local economy, is an unassuming little gem of green, gold and purple delights. Owned and operated by Nichole and Steven Michel who’ve been married for 20 years, the new idea was to start growing weed in addition to wheat back in 2015. With Steven having grown up in a big agriculture family of generational farmers, they knew that experience would pay dividends. And from that, the sprig was sprouted.
The key ingredient, they will tell you, is growing in native soil – which is highly efficient and cost-effective. Their mode is to amend the native soil, rather than amending imported soil from Canada, which is less wasteful and easier to manage by bringing in big ag machines to turn the dirt annually. After the crop is harvested, they’ll plant a cover crop of triticale in the winter, putting green matter back into the earth to regenerate some of the lost nutrients. They then turn the ground again to infuse the green matter back into the soil, upon which holes are punched to lay the seeds that will be sown and harvested in the fall.
“Oh, and one other thing,” Nicole brims with a lighthearted smile. “I sprinkle the plants with pixie dust at night.”
Steven wishes it were that easy as his heart glows while the eyes roll. “The community has been difficult – people are very religion driven in Othello and they don’t believe in Cannabis. So, we’ve tried to keep our operation somewhat of a secret to avoid pitfalls.” One of those pitfalls is not feeling comfortable giving to local high school sports as a Cannabis brand, having to be cautious about putting donations in their own birth names and not the farm’s. In fact, the name Marprod was born of protecting their enterprise to disguise their type of business – the Mar being short for marijuana and Prod for production.
It’s no secret, however, that their buds are quite worthy of attention. His expertise from having spent his youth at the helm of a tractor has proven to be an advantage. “Everyone has known someone who has grown Cannabis at some point in their life, and it’s pretty much the same as Big Ag. You just face different problems with what you can and can’t use, like when you’re growing wheat. Chemical-wise, nutrient-wise – what the Cannabis likes is something you figure out and each strain is different. When farming wheat, it’s the same across the board. All wheat pretty much looks the same. But with Cannabis, they have personalities. You take care of the plants, and the plants take care of you.”
When he’s referring to the plants, he’s talking about 1,500 of them with over 50 different strains. With Marprod they’re able to produce around 2,000 pounds of gorgeous sungrown, and they also operate a greenhouse of beautiful bud branded as Queen Kush.
As the mother of a small empire (together they have three daughters, three cats, a dog and a parrot), it could be said that Queen Kush was named after Nichole. After all, Othello would probably be the one to tell you a place on the throne means nothing if you are not content. “I approach this farm like I do my vegetable garden. If it isn’t fun, it’s not worth doing.”