New York’s recreational marijuana market inches closer to reality as farmers cultivate state’s first crops

Todd Giolando started growing hemp in 2018 for his daughter.

Nikita, 12, has Down syndrome and the hemp seeds help with her digestion, Giolando said.

Now, Giolando – at Three Cord Ranch, his small family farm in Derby – is among the first 200 New York farmers growing recreational marijuana. His product will supply the first licensed recreational cannabis dispensaries in the state, slated to make their first sales before the end of the year.

Giolando was awarded his cultivator license from the state in May. He’s growing nine types of marijuana in 12 greenhouses and set up his planting schedule so he will be able to harvest from August through December.

His homemade greenhouses are lined with cannabis plants of varying sizes growing in black pots. Giolando put a chair in each greenhouse, so he can sit and take in the earthy scent. Though he doesn’t smoke marijuana himself, he said being around the plants makes him feel better.

The transition from growing hemp to marijuana was a “science experiment” that involved a lot of research before getting a plant in the ground, Giolando said.

“You don’t just throw seed in,” he said. “It takes a lot of work, a lot of love.”

A vital part of Giolando’s operation is Miranda Sherman, a Niagara County Community College student studying horticulture with an emphasis in cannabis.

Sherman said she saw getting into the recreational cannabis industry as a way to make a living doing what she loves – gardening and farming. She started working with Giolando this year, and he is preparing to offer her an equity stake in the company, he said.

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