Gone are the concrete campuses, conference room meetings, khakis, and lattes. Now, brothers Martin and Andrew Wesley spend their days surrounded by green marijuana plants, cannabis infused chocolate, gummi bears, lotions, and tonics, with Bob Marley wailing throughout their large warehouse. This is a thriving, bustling environment with a laid-back vibe. This is newly broken ground, in an industry that has only recently caught fire and been recognized for its benefits to humanity. This is CoCo Farms.
CoCo Farms is the second dispensary to be built by the Wesley brothers, the first is Rio Vista Farms. “In the summer of 2017, we saw potential in the cannabis industry and decided to do our due diligence researching the best way to own an operation. Prop 64 had just passed and we needed to get a plan together in order to open by the time legalization took place. We investigated where we wanted to open, what the regulations were, steps necessary to make it happen, etc. Martin was living in Rio Vista, it’s a town with a great agriculture history, and it happens to be in the newly termed “green zone” which means cannabis businesses can operate within it’s city limits,” shares Andrew. After numerous hurdles were overcome pertaining to civil engineering, commercial development, local ordinance compliance, obtaining a conditional use permit, and state licensing, Rio Vista Farms got its occupancy sign off. This was after a swift moving six-month period in which they broke ground in January 2018 and were open for business by June 2018. “Were there roadblocks along the way?” Andrew continues, “Sure, I spent most of those six months working on fences, both figuratively and literally. I dropped about 30 pounds sweating it out on the land building fencing. And with the people of Rio Vista, I was breaking down the barriers and moral objections from some who protested our business moving in. The fact is, a large population of the Trilogy retirement community had already been using cannabis products for pain relief, anxiety, and sleep issues. There was a smaller, local group that voiced their concerns, but with the help of the supportive city council and planning commission, we were able to quell their fears.
“Their success comes from not only approaching a new business with strategic know-how but learning the right way to be a successful cannabis grow operation at warp speed.”
Rio Vista Farms now has the great distinction of being the largest tax payer and employer in the town of Rio Vista. Their existence boosts the community even further, with their pledged donation of one percent of revenue going toward supporting first responders. “Our mantra is, this has to be a win for the city and the people,” says Andrew. Their success comes from not only approaching a new business with strategic know-how but learning the right way to be a successful cannabis grow operation at warp speed. They threw themselves into extensively researching how to grow, cultivate, provide nutrition for, and light the plants that would make or break their new farm. “We really rolled the dice, but trusting our instincts led us to choosing to grow in soil and using the unconventional lighting method of LED to grow our plants. Lighting is the number one component in growing. Martin developed the custom spectrum we wanted to use, we found an overseas manufacturer to create it and it’s specialized for our use only. It’s what has made our crops flourish,” says Andrew.
In the fall of 2018, the Wesley brothers were approached by the Antioch City Council to be part of applying for a license in the city as it was about to become a green zone. In early 2019, they began environmental studies on the appropriately zoned land they chose, weighed cost and risk, and once again rolled the dice on a new business venture. Their occupancy permit was approved on Christmas Eve 2019 and they opened later that same day. CoCo Farms has been open every day since, with a line extending out its doors from morning to night. There is a very noticeable armed guard presence and driver’s license checks to get in the door. This is a tightly ran ship, full of welcoming and knowledgeable “budtenders” waiting to answer any question a customer may have about use and function of the medicine within. Various product vendors from all over California come in and do ongoing training on their products. The budtenders are very well informed on the products they are selling. Andrew shares, “All our employees earn a living wage and receive great benefits, we take care of our people. We promote from within and there are great career opportunities.”
CoCo Farms is known for its specialty plant “genetics” as they are called in the cannabis business. Their flowers support generations. Their most popular selections include Peanut Butter Breath, a heavy indica used for pain and sleeping, and Death Star and Cherry Pie, which are fan favorites for their heavy hitting effect and take people back to their early days of consumption. New genetics gaining traction are Papaya, Ylife, Clash Berry, and Blue Skittles. Says Andrew, “The key is getting flowers that create consistent, high quality products.” They make their own pre-rolls and even turn their biological waste into concentrates that then go into pure cannabis extract. The Wesley brothers sparked a business so successful that other retailers in areas such as Modesto, Sacramento, and Nevada City have also become enthusiastic distributors of their product.
Andrew’s own experience with the benefit of cannabis came during a time of crisis with his beloved 13-year-old Labrador/Rottweiler mix dog. She had contracted Lyme disease and couldn’t walk. Andrew administered the cannabis product My Best Bud and within 24 hours she was back to walking. “Veterinarians I spoke with could not understand it,” says Andrew, “It’s my personal opinion that big pharmaceutical companies have been behind the cannabis industry not becoming legal sooner. Cannabis was solving the solutions they were writing scripts on, long ago. This is a viable alternative to opioids. No one has ever died from an overdose on these products and addiction isn’t a physical result, although it may be a mental decision based on a person’s love for the product.”
Their genesis story starts with their dad, they were a team long before they were pioneers of the cannabis industry. “We are a family-operated business. It takes the three of us, my brother Martin is the President, my father Charles is the Controller, and together we have a knack for coming to quick conclusions, which is imperative in any start-up,” says Andrew. Martin and Andrew cut their teeth as marketing and ad technology gurus, becoming frequent players in the software and social media business world of the South Bay. With the kind of faith that comes from many successful launches, even before they had final approvals, they had already ordered the building structure for their proposed 130,000 square foot occupancy in Antioch.
“CoCo Farms is known for its specialty plant “genetics” as they are called in the cannabis business.”
“That’s how we roll, like in the start-up arena you must make your move and adjust as you go,” says Andrew. “Streamlining allowed us to not waste any time, we pushed the envelope and were able to launch a business within six months from beginning to open. Now, we will take that business acumen and push forward with putting up three grow buildings on our Antioch property making us the first cannabis producing company in Contra Costa County. Power solutions are currently being worked out. We are especially pleased that we will be providing anywhere from 300 to 500 additional jobs here in Antioch.”
This is a business at the forefront of a new industry, much like the post-prohibition days of alcohol. CoCo Farms is leading the pack and continues to thrive with virtually zero complaints from the community, only applause. “A city council member came in the other day and told me, there’s you and Costco supporting our city. That’s a win.” Andrew adds, “We are going to do more too. We already donate to the local Loaves and Fishes and Beat the Streets organizations.
We do spot donations when asked, having open ears to locals that need our help, but we are adamant in our determination to be real contributors to this community and make a positive impact.” Cannabis is an obvious hit, not a passing fad that will go up in smoke. Having strongly civic-minded businessmen backing this new enterprise in our area means things are sure to be done right. With the mind-blowing products CoCo Farms is putting out keeping customers clamoring for more, the Wesleys are currently cultivating the success story every entrepreneur hopes for.
Photos by Melissa Van Ruiten