If you ask Rob Mantrop of Greenman Acres why he decided to start cultivating cannabis, he’ll say it was all thanks to Donald Trump. Originally in the wood business, Mantrop watched as The Donald instigated some serious trade wars on lumber back in 2019. Inevitably, Mantrop was forced to switch gears. “Our biggest customers were in China and Turkey and he chose a tariff war with both of them… and it just decimated our business,” he says.
“To make a long story short, if Trump didn’t get in and start mucking around with what we were doing, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” And where he’s sitting is a beautiful 100 acre property on Meaford’s Scotch Mountain where he and his small family team of twelve grow high quality, small batch organic cannabis.
Situated in a unique warm spot in Ontario, Meaford has a sweet micro-climate for growing. It’s categorized as a 6B on the Ontario Zone Map, beat out only by Niagara and Windsor, which are both a 7. “It’s our proximity to Georgain Bay, and the fact that we’re up on the escarpment,” says Mantrop. “We’re on elevation, and in the back of a little valley, so we get that warm air coming off the Bay.”
Mantrop is an ambitious yet humble dude, and defers the ‘expert’ label to his master grower. But he knows his stuff and could talk for hours about growing top quality cannabis. He didn’t exactly jump blindly into the industry. He had been using marijuana medicinally for years to alleviate the pain of a hockey injury he sustained in his twenties while playing in Amsterdam. He’s been doing his own research on the cannabis industry for over a decade, and wasn’t surprised to see the federal government legalize pot completely.
“When it first became legal recreationally, I realized there was opportunity for small to medium sized suppliers in the industry. So I really spent time studying successful farm operations in California, Washington and Oregon States,” he says. Those states are way ahead of us Canadians in terms of the legalization process. There is a lot to be learned for the mid-sized growers here. “We jokingly call ourselves Extra Medium,” says Mantrop of his fairly nascent operation.
Rob started the business with his brother Paul and brother-in-law Mike and have since brought a number of other family members into the business. “Initially my wife Lydia was like ‘you’re crazy’,” Rob says and laughs. “We bought the farm and she was like: that’s your project, go have fun.” But once they started spending more time at the farm, she fell in love with the space.
The name Greenman is combination of her last name, Hagreen and his, Mantrop. It might come off as a bit too on-the-nose for a cannabis farm, but they come by the name honestly. “It’s the marriage of two families,” he says. “And it’s really the family that makes this thing run.”
When Covid came for the restaurant industry in 2020 and cost some of their family members jobs, they were brought into the Greenman Acres fold. But there was still one piece missing: a master grower. Then Roy came along.
“We all bring our own skill sets to the table, but the one we didn’t have was growing cannabis at scale,” says Mantrop. They had tried a few people, who on paper seemed like a good fit, but when it came to growing outdoor in high numbers, didn’t work out.
“Finding that grower was tough, and I hear this a lot from other producers because how do you show your resume?” he jokes.
They found Roy originally through his micro-green business but after they chatted, Rob realized he was their man. “What I really like about Roy is that he’s a constant learner – he’s always willing to try new things. That’s what’s exciting for us.”
One of the things they’re trying out this year is a traditional black hash, but their bread and butter strain is the Mother of Berries. It’s loved by their customers for its high THC and high terpenes. The name conjures up an epic Game of Thrones style high and that’s pretty cool too.
Greenman prides itself on natural and organic processes and doesn’t believe that bigger is better. Connection to the land is achieved through the outdoor growing process that begins inside, moves to the greenhouse and then to the field when the weather permits. Rob loves to stay connected to his flowers. He treats his acreage like a vineyard in many ways spending time with his plants to make sure they’re progressing properly. “We walk the fields every morning,” he says. “We’re always touching the plants, getting our heads in there, looking under leaves, finding problems before they’re problems.”
After all, there are enough problems entering the cannabis industry to have to worry about bugs and bud rot. It can be very difficult for new businesses to navigate and since Mantrop’s background is in supply chain management, he recognizes the importance of solidifying good partners.
Like the addition of Roy, the partnership with AHLOT was a necessary piece of the puzzle. “We were really lucky to find AHLOT and CCP. That partnership is fantastic for us.”
They take their core values seriously at Greenman so finding a partner like AHLOT was a perfect philosophical fit and one that really helped them succeed in a way that fit with their vibe.
“They have a farm-to-table mentality,” says Kendra Vair-Haley of AHLOT. “They would never serve something up that they wouldn’t share with their own family members and friends.”
In a combined effort, the two partners came up with a really unique campaign that was fresh and bold. Amidst a really tough marketplace, they brought the right attention to themselves and got a product listing on the Ontario Cannabis Store Website.
During a time when the OCS was chopping skews left and right, they listed 3.5 gram single nug. It was never been done before, and they had amazing success with it. Because of that, they’re now picked up as a regular, general product listing, which is a big feather (or leaf) in their cap.
Greenman has a clear vision in mind and it doesn’t’ include things like vape pens or dissolutes. “We’re fully organic – we’re all about natural processes and keeping it pure, so any products we put out there will reflect that.”
Selling online is the future, but doing tours for people in the industry is also a part of their plan. “Budtenders don’t get a lot of chances to go tour,” says Mantrop. And even when they do, it’s usually in a lab so they need to get PPE’d up and can’t touch anything. We have an educational opportunity here where people can engage with the plants. We’re an open book as far as our cultivation practices. We feel that sharing information and collaborating is the way to push this industry forward”
While many of us amateurs won’t be planting 8000 plants this summer, some of us will be putting one or two into the ground in our backyards, and for all of us rookies, Rob has some pro tips:
He says that strong genetics are key, and to know your finishing time. Lean towards Indicas, give them space, and use natural soil. “They love manures,” he laughs, and has a few idioms they use at Greenman “thin from within” which means to thin the plants regularly and “no dirt on the skirt” which means don’t let the leaves touch the ground.
But his best recommendation is “keep it simple”. It’s good advice in these complicated times. And nothing says keeping it simple like having your hands in the soil all day and a nug in your palm at night.
Written by Jesse Wilkinson
Photos by Jesse Wilkinson and Jason George