Huntley marijuana craft grow facility hopes to begin production next week

Owen Papworth and David Schwimmer started talking about opening a marijuana craft growing facility in Illinois even before the state legalized adult recreational use as of Jan. 1, 2020.

The two hope to see that four-year endeavor come to completion next week and begin planting seeds at Oregonix Farms, 16520 Harmony Road, in unincorporated Huntley.

Still, the first packaged, dried marijuana flower from the indoor facility probably won't be ready to ship out to dispensaries until late November, said Papworth, Oregonix's chief operations officer.

When they do, "300 pounds a month of smokable flower is our goal," Papworth said.

They aren't going to be the biggest growing operation in the state, said Schwimmer, the company's CEO.

"We don't grow the most, we grow the best," he said.

On Friday, they opened the craft grow facility for a full tour. As no marijuana has been planted yet, visitors were able to see the entire operation.

The facility includes LED-filled, climate-controlled rooms with rows of racks for budding and growing the plants, and more rooms for drying and packaging. It cost roughly $10 million, Schwimmer said.

The first phase of the project is the grow facility. In a second phase, Schwimmer wants to add an infusion facility to the site to make edible products, and possibly add dispensaries "for complete vertical integration."

Richard McLaughlin, Island Lake's village president, took the tour Friday.

Island Lake is working with Schwimmer in hopes of bringing a dispensary there, at a former Blackhawk Bank location on Route 176, McLaughlin said.

Schwimmer and Papworth met in Oregon, from which they derived the name Oregonix.

Papworth said Schwimmer was as passionate about cannabis as he was, making them a good match.

He said he got into marijuana growing 26 years ago, when Oregon was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana.

One of the biggest differences between the two states is the number of craft growers allowed, Papworth said. In Oregon, there are 1,500 growers. In Illinois, the state is expected to approve only a few dozen growers.

He is passionate about the varieties they grow, too. Papworth calls their strains the "Michael Jordans" of cannabis.

It's also why their facility was built from the ground up rather than repurposing an existing building, Schwimmer said.

With new construction, he said, they can control the environment and ensure the final product's quality.

It was that desire to have the best systems possible that caused the lengthy build time, Papworth said. Some of the air handling equipment took months to get because of supply chain delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once the final occupancy permits come in from McHenry County, they plan to employ 35 people. That could increase to more than 100 if and when they add an infusion center, Schwimmer said.

They also want to contribute a portion of company profits to community organizations and offer educational materials at events, Schwimmer said.

"We want to be active and employ people in the community," he said. "We will create jobs for 170 to 180 people with phase two."

Growing containers inside Oregonix Farms' new craft grow facility in Huntley. Gregory Shaver Shaw Media/
Oregonix Farms COO Owen Papworth talks about the water system during a tour of Oregonix Farms' new craft grow facility in Huntley Friday. Gregory Shaver Shaw Media/
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