Leona Kusa is the founder of Kusa Collective, a woman-owned, family-run legacy brand based in New York. Running the cultural gambit from Brooklyn to Montauk, Kusa Collective sets the framework to end prohibition. A Long Island native and canna-mom, Leona devotes herself to sharing plant medicine education with others. We are pleased to bring you her adventures and observations from every aspect of the East Coast cannabis industry's supply chain.
We couldn’t tell you their real names– but right here in Suffolk County, Long Island is our father and son’s family cultivator CloudForest.
With the goal of passing on the legacy for generations- father teaches son, who will eventually teach his son, how to grow the absolute best cannabis we have seen to date. They are your master chefs of cannabis cultivation. They boast about a secret nutrient program they implement that is a combination of the art he’s mastered throughout his many years – and how truly fire it turns out.
With strains like Super Silver Haze, Devine Gelato, and maybe his best one yet, Trop Cherry, Cloud Forest has consistently cultivated the freshest and gassiest flower. The nug structure is truly stunning with huge buds that have been hand trimmed immaculately. The nose is unanimously on par with the strain’s genetics. The bag appeal is simply gorgeous under light where the sticky trichomes glisten paired with its vibrant red hairs.
How Did CloudForest Get Their Start?
Santo, or what he likes to go by, has an incredible story that should be a movie. A true “started from the bottom and now we’re here” story.
He tells me that he was completely on his own when he got into the industry over 15 years ago. He was trusted to deliver packages for major distributors in New York until one day he was pulled over by a New York State Sheriff in Nassau County. His car was searched, and he was arrested and charged for possession of “Several Pounds of Marijuana.” He says his name was smeared throughout the papers and they ruined his entire reputation over the same plant that they’re legalizing today.
He spent a decent amount of time in jail for this charge; however, it was in Nassau County jail where his eyes were opened to growing cannabis.
With his basic prior growing knowledge, he and other inmates compared notes, and Santo created his first grow in his cell; The very one he would go on to start in his basement. He had every detail mapped out and all the logistics thought through.
When he got out, he was ready with seeds from Canada an inmate had helped him source. The grow he started in his basement was small; he was self-taught after all.
“I hit an accidental home run that first grow,” Santo exclaimed passionately, “After that, I made a million mistakes, but every now and then I would hit gold. It was a lot of trial and error.” He says he fell in love; that it became his life and loved growing just as much as he loved anything.
Not Alone: CloudForest on Help From Cali Gods
He went on to further his career throughout the industry and refers to “Cali Gods” he worked closely with. He reminded me that this was during a time when people in the industry kept their information close to their chests and learning the way he did was truly priceless.
Santo says they shared their holy grail with him and gave him the best advice he’s ever received telling him, “You’re no one until you have 100 harvests under your belt.”
He told me that things will always go wrong and that cultivation is a never-ending fight for mastery. He credits his experience, tons of mistakes, and help throughout the years for why he can take one glance at a plant and diagnose its potential problem.
CloudForest has come a long way from his first basement grow. Currently, he has 2 respectably sized grows with a major upcoming expansion opportunity. This has also been made possible with the help of his business partner, Lou, for the last 6 years.
Indoor cultivations require a vast amount of labor and trades to control all its aspects. Santo himself is a carpenter, whereas Lou is an expert in HVAC. Together, with their like minds, they bring different expertise in trades to the table, which allows them to have the extensive and successful grow we know and love.
How Will CloudForest Keep Growing?
The goal with CloudForest, Santo says, “is next level,” to create generational wealth and a future for his sons who now are of age to take on aspects of the cultivation, management, and logistics. They will be the legacy to pass on his knowledge and wisdom.
“We live in the lab, we have a fresh harvest every 2 weeks with 11 signature strains, and we love exploring new phenotypes,” says Santo. He has close relations with premium seed banks and is a trusted grower for proper cultivation feedback.
As cannabis becomes legal in New York, which Santo calls the “Mecca of Cannabis;” we must remember the legacy that brought us all together today. Cultivating cannabis is a craft that takes serious knowledge and experience to be done the right way. An art that should only be trusted by those who have been doing it in the shadows of fear- knowing that cultivating is the right thing for their families despite what the society around them says.
At KUSA, we believe that laws have been passed in favor of institutions and corporations while driving fear about the traditional market. We are here to prove that the traditional market growers are truly the experts that institutions should be trying to become a part of and help expand.
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Featured image: (C) Davide Ragusa @davideragusa