Meet the locals growing medical marijuana in Peterborough

  • Rosie Gluck, Klaus Polttila and Antonio Garcia work at Prime Alternative Treatment Center's Peterborough cultivation plant. Security is so important to Prime that photos including the building were not advised, so here’s them in front of a tree. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Rosie Gluck, Klaus Polttila and Antonio Garcia work at Prime Alternative Treatment Center's Peterborough cultivation plant. Security is so important to Prime that photos including the building were not advised, so here’s them in front of a tree. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/25/2017 7:13:30 AM

Behind an unmarked door at 49 Vose Farm Road in Peterborough is one of the town’s most secure sites, its medical marijuana production facility.

It has security cameras in every room and a direct line to the police department. No outsider is allowed past the door, and employees say it took about a month and a half for their background checks and fingerprinting to go through.

Among those employees is Cultivation and Production Manager Klaus Polttila, and cultivation assistants Rosie Gluck and Antonio Garcia — three members of four-member crew responsible for growing the product in Peterborough, which is distributed to patients in Merrimack.

Garcia is the only original New Hampshirite, living in Bedford and attending the University of New Hampshire. Polttila and Gluck were drawn to the region by work in the marijuana industry; Polttila from Connecticut, and Gluck from Vermont. They share a passion for their job, and want to see the plant, which began production in November 2016, succeed.

“It’s new,” Garcia said. “Every day, you don’t know what you’re going to walk in on.”

“I love working with plants,” Gluck added. “Plants are relaxing and it’s nice to take care of them for a living.”

A unique career path

What Gluck, Polttila and Garcia have in common is that they did not get into plant science because they wanted careers in marijuana production. They all got into medical marijuana because of backgrounds in growing other plants.

Gluck studied ecological agriculture at the University of Vermont, and got interested in medicinal marijuana growing due to an interest in herbalism.

Out of college, she worked at a marijuana nursery in Vermont before finding a job in Peterborough.

Conversely, this was Garcia’s first job in the field.

“I never even worked on a farm before,” he said.

He studied agriculture and the environment at the University of New Hampshire.

Polttila, the seniormost of the group, took a more involved path, that included, he said, being in the right place at the right time.

“I met some of the employees up here, and they knew what I had been doing out of state, and I helped them get started,” he said.

What he had been doing is working for Advanced Grow Labs in Connecticut, serving in the same role as he would go on to take in Peterborough.

He had nursery experience growing flowers in a greenhouse before turning his career toward marijuana.

“First it was a hobby,” he said. “And I started to see the medical benefits in about my mid-20s.”

After researching the medicinal qualities of the plant, he networked and attended a conference, where he met others just starting in marijuana in his area in Connecticut.

“I actually had my pick of places,” he said. “I chose Advanced and I’m really glad for everything I learned there.”

When he met Prime CEO Brett Sicklick, he was lured to the Monadnock Region.

Day-to-day

Their day begins with a crop walk-through, during which the staff checks every room, and plants at every stage, to see that nothing changed overnight.

“You can walk into a pot or flower room and tell very quickly if something has gone wrong,” Polttila said.

They scout for mildews, molds and even insects that may have broken in.

Gluck monitors what they call “the mother room,” where the genetically pure plants from which all other plants are grown are kept. They are affectionately called the “moms,” and are segregated from the rest of the produce.

“God forbid something go wrong, our genetics are protected,” Polttila said.

To grow a plant, a piece is trimmed from one of the moms and placed in a pod to be inert and root for about two weeks before being transferred into gallon containers and moved to Garcia’s area, the vegetation room. This is where they’re shaped and defoliated. They flower for two months, really beginning in about week three.

“It’s a really delicate process,” he said.

When they are done, this team takes them by van to the distribution site in Merrimack.

What is their favorite part?

“The aromas are fantastic,” Polttila said.

The three of them were able to brainstorm strains of marijuana grown on site that smell like everything from cherries to Smarties candy, from citrus to diesel.

Right now, the Peterborough team has four daily members, with about five floating employees a few days per week, according to Sicklick. In about six months, Polttila said the plant will go into “phase two,” and need more employees.

“Hopefully we’ll be hiring way before that,” he said. “Don’t want them to have to really start without phasing into it.”

Production is restricted by law based on the number of contracted patients the facility serves. As the patient list goes up, so will the need for cultivation workers.

Reactions

“At first my mom thought I was working for Pablo Escobar,” Gluck said about what her family thinks about her working in the marijuana business. “But now she gets it and thinks it’s cool.”

All three say that the responses from friends and family has been universally positive despite having such politically significant, hotly debated jobs.

Garcia said that his mother, a teacher, tells her fellow teachers what he does, and not one of them has had a negative response.

“My friends just ask: Can I get them a job?” he said.


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