The sun shines through the top of a greenhouse as a Cherokee agriculturist tends to his plants. James Bradley, cultivation manager at the cannabis farm operated by Qualla Enterprises, LLC in the Birdtown Community, planted the first seed at the operation and worked hard to expand his own knowledge and skill in working with the plant.

“That is something that we’re finding, even now, is that the certain genetics that we’re running are doing better in our environment versus others…finding those genetics that are going to work here. We’re already finding them and dialing in a lot more on those. It’s been wild,” said Bradley, who is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).

The operation is currently growing 45 different strains of cannabis.

Forrest Parker, Qualla Enterprises, LLC general manager and an EBCI tribal member, said, “Last year was all about research and development – what do we do infrastructure-wise that gives us the ability to cultivate the cannabis product to meet a menu, totally in house, vertical, at the lowest cost so that our margins are the highest for the people. That’s been the business principle behind this operation from day one.”

“What we want the community to understand is how much hard work has gone in…we didn’t invent anything, but we did invent marrying all these things together to make it Cherokee and Qualla-specific.”

The operation uses and has re-purposed many of the buildings that were already on-site.

Parker states that one hoop house will pay for itself 14 times over again on the first harvest. In the next 60 days, the operation will have 75 hoop houses operational.

“We’re one of the few people in America, if not the only ones, that are actually producing cannabis 52 weeks a year – and we’ve proven that – inside hoop houses,” said Parker.