At CANNA Canada, we're privileged to spotlight Genevieve Newton, whose journey from a personal connection with plants to becoming Canada's Top Grower of 2023 is a testament to her dedication, resilience, and passion for cannabis cultivation.


I’m Genevieve Newton, and I work as the Director of Cultivation here at Stewart Farms in Saint Stephen, New Brunswick.

Gen: My journey into growing really kicked off in the gardens at home, thanks to my grandpa and dad. They were super into their gardening, and that sort of rubbed off on me when I was little. But, to be honest, as I got older, I kind of fell out of love with it. It felt like a ton of work for not much payoff, and I just lost interest, especially during my teenage years and into my early twenties.

The real game-changer for me, though, was going through some pretty tough times with addiction and then getting hit with a serious health scare. That's when I discovered how amazing cannabis could be, not just for my body but for my mental health too. It was a wake-up call and made me see plants, especially cannabis, in a whole new light.

MEET Genevieve Newton, Director of Cultivation at Stewart Farms, Saint Stephen, New Brunswick

So, after years in social work, by 2018, I was ready for a change. I decided to retire from that career. It was a big move, kind of scary, but I was drawn to cannabis and its potential to help people. I threw myself into learning everything I could about growing it professionally. I took courses, got my hands dirty, and really dove in.

Starting at Sundial was a whirlwind. It was fast-paced, and I had to learn a lot quickly. But it was also where I found my footing and realized this was where I was meant to be. The support and mentorship I got there, especially being the only woman and the oldest in the team, were incredible. It showed me that passion for the plant is what really matters, not your age or gender.

Retiring from social work and jumping into cannabis cultivation was a leap of faith, but looking back, it set me on this path that's been more rewarding than I could've imagined. It's been a journey of rediscovery, not just of my love for plants but of my own strengths and passions.

How did mentorship influence your early days in the industry?

Gen: Mentorship was a lifeline for me, especially at the very start of my cannabis journey. After wrapping up my course at Olds College in Alberta, which was one of the few places offering a cannabis production program at the time, I was plunged into the real world of cannabis cultivation through a practicum. This was at Acreage Farms in Alberta, and honestly, it was a make-or-break moment for me. I was stepping away from over 15 years in social work, a career I knew inside and out, to dive into something completely unknown. At 40, it felt like a huge leap, not just into a new career but into a whole new phase of life.
That practicum was my first real taste of the cannabis industry, and it could have gone either way. 

What made all the difference was the mentorship I received there, particularly from a master grower named Brandon. He was incredible—so knowledgeable, so willing to share that knowledge, and so supportive. It was clear he wasn't just there to do a job; he was passionate about growing and about helping newcomers like me find our feet. His mentorship during those few weeks was eye-opening. It showed me that not only could I actually do this, but I could love it too.

Brandon's approach to mentorship was exactly what I needed at that point. He addressed my fears head-on, showing me that while the cannabis industry is indeed male-dominated, there's room for everyone who has a passion for the plant and the drive to learn. His guidance was instrumental in keeping me in the industry at a time when I was full of doubts. I often think back to those early days and how different things might have been if I hadn't had such a positive mentorship experience. It's a reminder of how important it is to support and uplift each other in this field.

Now, as I mentor others, I try to channel the same patience, openness, and encouragement that Brandon showed me. It's about paying it forward, about making sure that those coming into the industry after me can find the same sense of belonging and purpose that I did. Mentorship isn't just about teaching someone how to grow cannabis; it's about inspiring them to take their own leap of faith, just like I did.

How did your experience at Sundial shape your journey?

MEET Genevieve Newton, Director of Cultivation at Stewart Farms, Saint Stephen, New Brunswick

Gen: Reflecting on my time at Sundial, it was an experience that truly shaped my path in the cannabis industry. Sundial wasn't just another job; it was a colossal, fast-paced environment that felt both exhilarating and daunting. The scale of operations was unlike anything I had encountered before, and stepping into that world was, frankly, scary as hell. It was a massive leap from the theoretical knowledge and controlled setting of my practicum to the real-world, high-speed production lines of one of the largest cannabis producers.

The pace at Sundial was relentless. We were constantly on the move, racing against the clock to meet production targets. It was a high-energy, high-stress environment where everyday brought new challenges. Despite the pressure, there was something incredibly thrilling about it all. It was a test of endurance, skill, and adaptability, pushing me to my limits and beyond.

My team at Sundial was a group of young, driven individuals who worked like a well-oiled machine. They were fast, efficient, and took immense pride in their work. Being the only woman and the oldest in the group, I initially wondered how I would fit in. But any doubts quickly evaporated as we bonded over our shared goals and challenges. This team became my support system, my mentors, and my friends. They showed me the ropes, shared their knowledge, and welcomed me as one of their own.

What stood out the most during my time at Sundial was the moment my team fought to keep me. When it was suggested that I might be moved to another team or department, they didn't hesitate to advocate for me to stay. They recognized my hard work, my dedication, and my contribution to our collective success. This gesture of support was more than just about keeping the team together; it was a vote of confidence in my abilities and my place in the industry. It solidified my sense of belonging and my commitment to this career path.

Working at Sundial was a pivotal chapter in my journey. It was there that I truly cut my teeth in the cannabis industry, learning not just about cultivation on a massive scale but also about teamwork, resilience, and the importance of community in this field. The experience was a mix of high stakes, rapid learning, and profound personal growth, setting the foundation for everything that was to come.

Before joining Stewart Farms, you made another significant move. Can you share that experience?

Gen: Between my time at Sundial and my transition to Stewart Farms, I joined Candre, a smaller, yet highly innovative cultivation facility. This period was crucial for honing my skills in irrigation and production coordination. Candre was where I truly began to understand the intricacies of cannabis cultivation at a deeper level. The experience of working in a more intimate setting allowed me to explore new cultivation techniques and solidify my understanding of plant science.

What prompted your move to Stewart Farms, and how did that experience shape your approach to cultivation?

Gen: Transitioning to Stewart Farms was a pivotal moment in my career, driven by a desire to engage in more innovative cultivation practices and to work with a team that shared my ethics and passion for medical cannabis. Stewart Farms, with its focus on Aquaponics, living soil, presented an exciting new challenge. Pheno-hunting, particularly for strains like 'Daily Grape,' became a major part of my role. This not only allowed me to explore the genetic diversity of cannabis but also to contribute to the development of strains tailored to specific medicinal needs.

MEET Genevieve Newton, Director of Cultivation at Stewart Farms, Saint Stephen, New Brunswick

Reflecting on your evolution over the past few years, especially with the title of Canada's Top Grower, how has your passion and approach to cultivation changed?

Gen: If anything, my passion has grown stronger. I knew I could do it better. I knew that there just needed to be some changes around medical and quality.

What are some of the bigger challenges have you faced in your role as a Master Grower?

Gen: The biggest challenges I have faced are working in an industry that doesn't have a lot of money and trying to get partners to follow your direction.

Can you share any initial fears you had about entering this male-dominated industry and how they were dispelled?

Gen: Jumping into the cannabis industry, I had this idea in my head that it was going to be super male-dominated. You hear stories, right? And coming from social work, which is pretty female-dominated, I was bracing myself for a bit of culture shock. There was this nagging question of how I'd fit into this new world, especially as a woman. Would my voice carry weight? Could I keep up physically with what I imagined would be a bunch of younger, maybe more robust guys?

But here's the thing—once I got into the thick of it, starting with my time at Sundial, those fears started to melt away. 

Sure, I was the only woman on my team and yeah, I was older than most of them, but the camaraderie we built was something else. It wasn't about gender; it was about our shared passion for the plant and the work. That experience taught me that passion, dedication, and a willingness to learn are what really matter in this industry.

MEET Genevieve Newton, Director of Cultivation at Stewart Farms, Saint Stephen, New Brunswick

What really flipped the script for me was seeing how the industry itself isn't as one-dimensional as I'd feared. At Stewart Farms, for example, we've got a pretty even split between men and women, which was a pleasant surprise. It's not just about filling roles traditionally seen as male or female; it's about bringing your best to the table, regardless of gender. My mentors and colleagues, both men and women, have been incredible in showing me that expertise, innovation, and a genuine love for cannabis are what drive success here.

As I've grown in my role and started mentoring others, I've seen the unique strengths everyone brings to the table. Women in this industry are killing it with their attention to detail, their nurturing approach to plant care, and their ability to foster a collaborative spirit. But it's not just a "women thing"—it's about the diverse perspectives and skills all of us bring to the industry. That diversity is what makes us stronger and leads to better outcomes across the board.

So, yeah, stepping into the cannabis industry was intimidating at first, but it's turned out to be an incredibly welcoming and inclusive space. It's been a journey of growth, not just for me personally but in seeing how the industry continues to evolve and embrace diversity. The fears I had at the beginning? They've been replaced with a sense of pride and excitement for what we're building here, together.

Are there other women in the industry that you look up to, and why?

MEET Genevieve Newton, Director of Cultivation at Stewart Farms, Saint Stephen, New Brunswick

Gen: Oh, for sure, there are some kickass women in this industry who've been nothing short of inspirational for me. Take Dr. Miyabe Shields and Dr. Riley Kirk, for example. These two are powerhouses in cannabis research, pushing boundaries and challenging all those outdated stigmas around daily cannabis use. Their work isn't just groundbreaking; it's reshaping how we understand and talk about cannabis on a scientific level. They're not just promoting the plant; they're backing it up with solid evidence, making a real difference for medical patients and the whole industry.

Then there's Myrna Gillis from Aqualitas. Talk about a role model! Myrna's leadership and vision have not only blazed a trail for women like me but have also raised the bar for what ethical and sustainable cultivation looks like. She's all about lifting others up, fostering a community vibe in what's often seen as a cutthroat space. Her openness to share her knowledge and mentor others has been a game-changer for me and so many others.

And I can't forget the incredible women I work with at Stewart Farms. They're the real MVPs, pouring their heart and soul into our cultivation efforts. Their dedication, eye for detail, and passion for the plant are what drive our success. They're living proof of the unique strengths women bring to the table in this industry: that meticulous care for the plants, the innovative approaches to cultivation, and that unbeatable team spirit.

These women, and many others out there, are not just participating; they're leading the charge, shaping the future of cannabis. Their achievements and relentless dedication light a fire under me every day, reminding me of the critical role we play in this industry. They're a testament to the power of inclusion, diversity, and collaboration in creating a cannabis community that truly thrives.

How has your role at Stewart Farms allowed you to push the boundaries of cannabis cultivation?

Gen: So Stewart Farms itself is a pretty small farm. We run out of about 8,000 square feet and that's production and cultivation. I have three flower rooms and 2 vegetative rooms and one small dry room. My flower rooms are  about 320 square feet of canopy space and so I can fit about 300 plants in each room and it's a tight schedule because of having three flower rooms only two Veg rooms and then one small dry room so you can imagine that schedule has to be perfect because our plants also dry for two weeks at a time. So they're in the dry room for two weeks. So another batch can't come in. There's no room. So it's just very precise and we're also a nursery and we sell genetics and we have a fabulous genetics list, which I personally hunted most of and those seeds came from Kevin Jodrey in Humboldt County, California, so they're just amazing really good genetics. And so we have to keep that schedule as well. We also Sell farm gate clones because we have a farm gate store here at our Saint Stephen location. And we sell live clones and so we have moms specifically for that. So we need more space for that and all of that Mom action happens in one small room. And so it's a very tight schedule there. We don't have tissue banking and so I have to keep our genetic library alive and healthy at all times.

There’s so much passion over here between Tanner, Catrina and  myself and pretty much every single person on the team that it's just like we're a triple threat.

In your role, how do you balance the fast-paced demands of cultivation with the meticulous nature of pheno-hunting and genetic selection?

Gen: Juggling the non-stop action of large-scale cultivation with the nitty-gritty of pheno-hunting and picking out the best genetics? Yeah, it's pretty much like trying to keep a bunch of plates spinning all at once. It's intense, but honestly, that's where the thrill is for me. You've got to have a solid grip on plant science, sure, but it's also about having that eagle eye for the tiny details and a whole lot of patience.

At Stewart Farms, we're all in on digging deep into the genetic treasure trove of cannabis. We're not just looking for plants that pump out big yields; we're on the hunt for those special strains that hit the mark for our medical patients' specific needs. It's this drive to marry quality with innovation that keeps us pushing boundaries, even when the going gets tough with the day-to-day of cultivation and the deep dive into genetics.

It's a balancing act, no doubt. But when you're passionate about unlocking the potential of cannabis and committed to making a real difference in patients' lives, it's the kind of challenge you wake up excited to tackle every day.

Anything coming down the pipeline this spring worth mentioning / any projects/products?

Gen: We will be growing Daily Grape until the end of time or until medical patients do not need it anymore. All of our Daily Grape will only be available to medical platforms within Canada as well as the majority will be exported to Australia.

What are you most proud of accomplishing with Stewart Farms?

Gen: We've stayed in the game. I remember Tanner saying in 2021, right now we're on this train track we're doing this but you're gonna turn it into a locomotive and we're gonna zoom into the future, and that's what I did.

Genevieve, how does it feel to be recognized as Canada's Top Grower, and what does this title mean to you and your work at Stewart Farms?

Gen: Winning Canada's Top Grower was  something that I feel like I manifested. When I was working at Sundial in 2019 our Master Grower won top grower and I remember thinking man imagine if I could be top grower one day. At that time I was just the lowest of the lowest grunt, working among 500 other people at Sundial but every single year I wrote out a manifest list or goals list. I always tell people you should only make short-term goals for six months at a time or the year but not much longer than that. So every year I do this, and top grower has been on my last few manifestation lists. I expected to get it in five years, I say expected because that's how you manifest, you expect it. And then you have to work hard in between.

MEET Genevieve Newton, Director of Cultivation at Stewart Farms, Saint Stephen, New Brunswick

So first, I manifested Master Grower. I wanted that when I started in 2018. I made it a 5 year goal, but made my way to that position in under 3 years. So when I got to that position I said to myself, I want to be a top grower. I first won female top grower at Hempfest in 2021. And I said no. I want to be the top grower like the males and the females and so I gave myself another five years. Two years later boom! Here we are. So now I'm like “Full Woman Power”. I'm fierce and I'm unstoppable.

I’ve never reached for goals like this, just these last six years. So reaching the top of that list, it was just so surreal,  I cried,  I was so ready to lose.  She called me and said I was in the top three and I was like no way, and then I was just ready to politely be  third but no I won. So it was just like wow.

With such a rich journey behind you, what future aspirations do you have for yourself and Stewart Farms?

Gen: Looking ahead, I'm excited to continue exploring the genetic potential of cannabis, developing new strains that can meet the evolving needs of our patients. Stewart Farms is on a path to not only innovate within the industry but also to set new standards for quality and sustainability in cannabis cultivation. My journey has taught me that with passion, resilience, and a supportive team, the possibilities are limitless.

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