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At LitHouse, It’s All In The Genes

These bud brothers focus on family, phenos and flower to redefine what it means to grow in Mendo.

Kris and Al know a thing or two about taking the road less traveled. Having an indoor operation in the Emerald Triangle could be considered akin to having a ski slope in Dubai, but you can’t argue the results.

They continue to move the cannabis community forward by betting on themselves and growing the tougher, groundbreaking strains instead of just meeting a yield—and their first-rate flower continues to win cup after cup. We can only assume you’re reading this to get the lowdown on a brand you already love, but if you’ve yet to score any of their premium products, welcome to your front row seat to a look at the elite.

Countless California cultivators claim to have the best flower, and while it may be impossible to ever truly name a champion, there’s certainly a top tier vying for the cannabis crown. LitHouse has planted their flag in the form of award winning strains and an unrelenting stream of premium products—and as far as the competition goes, being founded and run by two brothers means they’re no strangers to a never-ending bout of king of the hill.

But the competition occurring in the cannabis community is less battle-royal-cage-match and more cooperative collaboration, with those at the top pushing each other to be the best by pushing the plant to its highest possible potential. Not only does LitHouse share goals and honors with many leading brands, they also share a similar coveted location. The Emerald Triangle is a fertile flower factory as synonymous with weed as Cheech and Chong, but aside from being close geographically, their company’s roadmap follows its own path to provide us with a unique story, and unforgettable flower.

Growing in Mendocino has been a tradition as long as anyone can remember—growing in Mendo the way LitHouse does may very well start a new tradition of its own. Existing operations have historically been a bit further inland, and mostly outdoors. LitHouse is close enough to the coast to be a lighthouse, and is perhaps as luminous. Their proximity to the water may limit the ways they can grow, but it also substantially improves the methods that are available to them. When you really only have one option, which in this case is an indoor operation, it limits the variables and allows you to perfect the aspects you can control. Kris, an architect, and Al, a biochemist, can handle anything the climate, city or cannabis plant throws their way, which is one reason their products get better and better, and are often sold before the seed hits the soil.

Mastering the plant, facility and climate has led to must-have products, but before we get ahead of ourselves and dive into the process behind their sought-after strains, let’s touch on the story that got them there. Their previous careers in industries well suited for this transition mean their proficiency is no fluke, but it goes beyond that. Like anything worth its chops in cannabis, Kris and Al come from strong roots and good genes. They were raised to harvest as pure a product as they do today, but back then it provided a different kind of buzz.

Growing up, their childhood home contained an active apiary. Making a living off the land has always been a part of their lives, and they learned the importance of maintaining independence through entrepreneurship at a young age. Hard work and pulling long hours bottling honey may have helped prepare them for some of the hardships they face today, but since day one, nothing has had a more lasting impression and influence than family. Strong role models provided LitHouse its solid backbone, and Kris and Al speak of their parents and the lessons they provided with a fondness you can't help but admire.

Childhood certainly wasn’t tough, but they worked for everything they had and know the value of a hard-earned dollar. Such virtues are why they never cut corners or settle, and how they know how to maximize efficiency in every step of their process. Their mother took care of the day-to-day and did everything she could to keep them in private school, and their father, as Al put it, may have been the most naturally intelligent and driven man he’s ever encountered.

Perfection may not exist, but brands like LitHouse remind us that you can certainly get to the top of the curve.

Watching two such compelling individuals apply themselves daily and always meet their goals is why they never fall short of theirs. They speak of their parents with a mixed respect and appreciation, and the same “no excuses” atmosphere they grew up in has followed them into their current endeavors. They think everything through to do it the right way the first time. Perfection may not exist, but brands like LitHouse remind us that you can certainly get to the top of the curve.

Family businesses really only go one of two ways. They flourish, or they flame out rather quickly. LitHouse’s fire is burning brighter than ever, and maintaining a family-focused brand is something they’ll stay true to as they expand and evolve. Every person at each facility is family in one way or another, and every one of them wears many hats. The benefit of knowing you can both count and lean on everyone around you is immeasurable. Growing up around a similar situation to what they’ve created prepared them for what they’re doing today, and going through it together means they’ll always have someone in their corner. That isn’t to say it’s easy, but it’s certainly easier when those around you speak the same language.

While many aspects of their journey make them unique, there are also elements that some of us have heard before. Al was raided a few years back, and it was then that he and Kris made the decision to start their legit operation and become compliant. Some get busted only to just start another grow and hope for the best. Al took a step back and worked with state policy makers to try and generate pathways for small growers like himself to operate legally in Mendocino. After a lengthy process and more than a few late nights brainstorming, they got their first cottage license and got to work.

Both of their current indoor facilities are at their respective homes, and while they may be small, they're incredibly productive. Operating under a cottage license means you’re limited to up to 500 sq ft of growing space, but you also receive less scrutiny and oversight than larger operations. Going that route has allowed them to truly hone in on what’s most effective, while also being fluid and adaptable to the needs of the market, and each individual strain. And being who Kris and Al are, and working how they do, it has also led to applications not often seen in smaller facilities, and such cutting-edge implementations are what help keep them ahead of the game.

LitHouse began employing game-changing methods well before they were mainstream, such as biostimulants, LED lights and using rolling tables to maximize space. Rolling tables sound simple enough, but they provide multiple advantages with substantial impact. They allow you to get your plants off the ground and closer to the lights, meaning you can use smaller pots and cut down on grow times. Beyond that they allow you to create easily accessible watering lanes without sacrificing space. Traditionally, indoor growers use larger pots, which lead to bigger plants, longer turn times and a headache when watering. You either waste space by creating lanes, or painstakingly move pots to water plants. By maximizing every square inch and upping their turns, LitHouse can rival the productivity of traditional facilities much larger than their own.

LitHouse cultivates excellence through efficiency, and it shines through in everything they do.

You’d probably expect to see them use techniques and technologies often utilized in small-scale operations, like applying organic imputes the way an old garage grower would, but they also take methods from large-scale facilities and apply them where appropriate. It’s their belief that the future of cannabis cultivation is in biostimulants. These organic compounds affect everything from root and plant size to soil structure and nutrient uptake. 

While they may be the future, they also aren't new. These have been around since the 70s, but they’re just now being tailored for the cannabis space by brands like LitHouse. By always going a step above, they’ll undoubtedly meet their goal of remaining in the top 5% of cannabis cultivators. Day by day they’re finding more and better ways to implement them, and if biostimulants are behind bolstering fan favorites like Modified Grapes and the 2019 Emerald Cup Award Winner Lemon Lava, let’s just say we're onboard.

As far as sustainability goes, every bit of their process leads to substantial savings in both energy and water. The tables lead to smaller plants, which ultimately require less water. The biostimulants promote efficiency throughout the plant’s life cycle and help the soil retain water and nutrients. The LED lights are the most efficient artificial light source available, and they implemented them two years ahead of leading competitors. Having small grow rooms offers the ability to alter them for each of their crowd-pleasing, award-winning strains. Something you can't do as easily or as well with larger operations. They have specific environmental programs for each strain that focus on sustainability, and maximizing quality. LitHouse cultivates excellence through efficiency, and it shines through in everything they do.

It also certainly doesn’t hurt that they live in the most ideal climate on the planet for cultivating cannabis. The fact that the coldest day they’ll see is in the 40’s, and the hottest in the low 70’s, means they’re never battling weather from the outside. On top of that, they’ll never have to plan for dips in productivity. Never having to slow down or make concessions for seasonal changes means they not only turn more cycles, they also have more opportunities to learn, grow and perfect their methods. Kris and Al are a part of every step of the process, every single day, which makes the feedback loop immediate. Every day is another opportunity to reflect on the present and take immediate steps to impact the future.

While they’re currently thriving under the use of small indoor spaces, that doesn’t mean they aren’t heading towards a large-scale operation. They have a state of the art mixed-light facility in the works, but getting it going means going through a fairly robust review process. Being as traditional and protective as Mendocino is, they’re more selective with bigger operations being built from the ground up. Most warehouses in the area repurpose existing structures, but with the vision Kris and Al have, and how dialed in they are in everything they do, doing things their way is the only way to go. Even for them as lifelong locals, it’s a fairly lengthy process of jumping through hoops, but also doing things the right way.

When you go from their indoor facility to the greenhouse—you’ll see it’s more the same than different.

When completed, they’ll have the only California facility to be growing both mixed light and indoor under the same license. And don’t worry, moving from an indoor model to a “greenhouse” shouldn’t make a single fan nervous, as their expertise and using their current methods in the new space will ensure that the facility will continue to produce the same premium products we’ve come to love. It’s a mixture of the little things they do everyday and the big goals they never fail to meet that have led to the strains we can't get enough of, and have us waiting for more award winning wonders in the future.

Their flower will always remain in limited supply, even when they have their new facility. A main reason is the county’s limit on the amount of flowering canopy they can have, but the real reason is their dedication to pheno-hunting, pushing the plant and never settling for less than the best. Their pheno-hunts allow them to bring two to three new strains to market every year, and that coupled with their long-term commitment to improve their methods sets their business apart from those churning out lower-grade products to simply meet demand.

Do-Si-Do is a simple plant, but there’s a reason we can experience it as Dark Dosi. Between hunting the best variant and having environmental programs to match each cultivar, they can hone in on what makes a strain great, push it further and replicate it in their unique way. Their controls are specifically tailored to the strain. It’s one thing to grow lettuce, or any other basic crop. With cannabis it changes from strain to strain, or even pheno to pheno.

Their foundation and commitment to excellence in everything they do truly comes through in their cannabis. Each beautiful bud is something to behold. From the award winning Dark Dosi to their Lava Cake and 5 Alive, each has its own story to tell. Hell, some of their plant’s leaves are more trichome heavy than many of the buds we’ve seen. Genetics like these don’t just come about by chance. Breeders seek out LitHouse to take strains farther than they ever could. Between their pheno-hunts and always staying at the forefront of growing technology, they’ll continue to forge paths, partnerships and never fall behind.

Al would describe their genetics as, “The cool guy stuff.” They started out with strains like OG Kush, which is a finicky flower that doesn’t often respond well. They decided to fill their grow room with it when no one else even wanted to touch it, and soon enough they learned how to grow it well. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until others took note and were able to replicate the results. So they kicked it to the curb and were on to the next best thing to up the ante and push the industry forward. This experience led to their obsession with being the best through pheno-hunting and strain specific runs.

Such passion and enthusiasm has led to countless strains that you should buy whenever you get the chance, but it all started with Dark Dosi. It isn’t easy for a product to score a perfect 100 in our system, and anything that does will have you coming back again and again. Do-Si-Do is a fantastic strain originally bred by Archive Seeds. It had a number of phenos hit the market right at the beginning of legalization, making it widely available across California. LitHouse didn't pheno-hunt this particular strain, but they did receive a number of clones. They labeled them based on their nursery, and one in particular came from Dark Heart, leading to the label “Dark Dosi.”

After flowering it once, they knew it was something special. In fact, they were so stoked on it they cut it and gave it to their friends. That’s where they hit a fork in the road, and thankfully they went the way they did. All of their friends stopped growing it after their first harvest due to it being a pretty tricky plant to yield. All Kris and Al saw was opportunity. After reviewing the test results and digging it the amount they did, it was clear they could stand out with it. They knew taking the time to cultivate strains others wouldn't could only lead to them being more unique. They continue to differentiate themselves by consistently taking the road less traveled, and growing the strains others are afraid to.

Not everyone focuses on pheno-hunting. It demands time, space, resources and doesn’t even guarantee you’ll get anything out of it. They often have to pop 500 seeds to get a single winner. But as the old saying goes, you can’t score if you don’t shoot—and you’ll never even get close to the level of quality and recognition LitHouse has if you’re too afraid to miss every once in a while.

Mendocino will always be known for its flower, but more and more brands like LitHouse are becoming as synonymous with the area as the product itself. Kris and Al will never call another place home, and will never stop pushing to redefine what it is to grow in Mendo. When it comes to wearing hats, no one wears more than the brothers themselves. By doing so, they can tackle short and long term roadmaps with ease. Be it setting up a marketing strategy for next year, or shifting strains to the next winner ready to blow our minds. As time goes on, we can only hope more brands like LitHouse commit themselves to the same level of excellence so we can look at a menu, make a choice and know that we can put our trust in the product. Just as we can with their cant-miss strains like Wedding Crasher.

It’s no mystery how they landed on the name LitHouse. The minute you enter their grow site you’re met with LEDs stretching from wall to wall, illuminating the trichome heavy beauties that fill up every square inch of usable space. The property they now call home has a facility with enough lights to put the Griswold’s Christmas display to shame, and it’s putting out product that’ll make the eyes of consumers bright enough to match. Their logo, a constellation of their own design, shows their journey. A unique path dotted with benchmarks reaching to the past, and projecting into the future, for a taste of the stellar strains we can’t wait to try or revisit again and again. 

This article was created in partnership with LitHouse. Photos by Nik Z.

About the Author

Head of Content, ex-chef and avid creative—if Scott's not playing pool in one of his favorite dive bars, you’ll find him packing up his camera and some pre-rolls to explore the Northern California wilderness.

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