This cannabis plant is in the final growing stages, days away from being harvested.

MILTON — Inside a 14,000 square-foot state-of-the-art cannabis cultivation facility in Milton, Ceres Collaborative manufactures locally-made cannabis products for medicinal and recreational use.

Ceres has been operating since 2012 and has been working out of Milton for the past seven to eight years. This past October marked the first time Ceres was able to start making recreational products because of Vermont’s new cannabis laws.

The collaborative opened its first recreational store Oct. 1 in downtown Burlington and still continues to operate medical dispensaries in South Burlington, Middlebury and Brattleboro. 

Ceres offers a wide variety of products from joints to edibles to cartridges.

“We’re not only the oldest, but we’re certainly the largest company in the state,” said chief operating officer Russ Todia, an Essex Junction resident. “We’re certainly the biggest employer, [with] over 50 full time employees.

The creation process begins with 20 mother plants which support the growth of 4,000-5,000 plants grown each year. Ceres uses a cloning process to grow their cannabis plants to ensure consistency with what they’re growing.

This means instead of growing from seeds, Ceres clips from the mother plants and places them in plugs to grow as their own individual plants. Seed is a cheaper way to grow, but consistency is important in the cannabis industry, and Ceres can afford the extra costs with how much it makes from its products.

Within the facility, Ceres is able to manipulate the daylight the plants receive as they grow depending on what they need during the different growth stages.

“The lights manipulate the growth cycle,” director of cultivation Jason Mielcarek said.

These plants are right at the 18 week period, days from being ready to harvest. The plants enter this stage in the process at approximately nine weeks old. Once the plants are ready to harvest, it takes three weeks to dry and trim the plants.

The plants remain in the drying stage for a couple weeks. The drying process is much lower tech than the rest of the process, utilizing clothes hangers, a fan. Industrial dryers cook away the terpenes, the aromatic compound in cannabis that affect how it tastes and smells.

“There is no good way to really speed up the drying,” Mielcarek said. 

Once the plants are fully dried, the buds are separated from the leaves and the stems, afterwards referred to as biomass. The biomass is then made into oil. The material left over from that process is used as compost by the Intervale Community Farm in Burlington.

The biomass is put through a closed-loop carbon system that extracts the terpenes and the cannabis oil, which is decarboxylated, a way of heating up the oil to activate the oil’s psychoactive compounds.

This oil is then processed through a few more stages until it’s ready to be placed in cartridges.

The products must also be tested by a third party for potency, pathogens, pesticides and heavy metals before Ceres can sell them. 

“Cannabis is more of a craft industry, we do things the arduous way to get the best quality,” Mielcarek said.

Written By

Kate Vanni | she/her/hers | Reporter | Contributor to Franklin County coverage of municipal meetings, schools, and local businesses through written and visual storytelling. Recent graduate of the University of Vermont. To reach me call (802)-448-0253 or email


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