POST CATEGORY: Profiles

Profile: Bull Run Craft Cannabis

May 06, 2017 | SimoneFischer

The intriguing history behind a beautiful farm in Boring, OR. Photos by Simone Fischer.

blue-run-lead.jpg

I held my breath, but the weather didn’t hold out. It never does. 

It felt like I practically boated my way to Bull Run on a soggy St. Patrick’s Day visit. When I arrived, I was stunned with the land’s old green beauty and mystique. I could faintly hear the dull roar of the Sandy River that surrounds the property, whispering through the trees. 

Above all, when I write about Cannabis farms, the number one element I search for is longevity. After Oregon opted to allow big business from out of state to participate in legal Cannabis, it’s been tough to find locally owned companies looking to weather the Cannabis industry long term. Not “flip” their canna business in hopes of selling for millions. I still disagree with the Oregonian’s opinion supporting opening the floodgates to out-of-state businesses. I believe we should have kept it local for at least a few years (!), but I digress.

Good thing I ran into John Plummer. 

After meeting Plummer and a few members of his team at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference, I knew I had find out more. Plummer is the owner of our beloved Doug Fir Lounge in Portland. Like myself, Plummer is an Oregonian - with the added plus of running a successful business full of artists and mayhem. 

When Plummer first began to conceptualize Bull Run, he was in it for the long haul. 

blue-run-2.jpg

I sat down with main players from Bull Run: John Plummer the mastermind, Billy Tosheff the ambition, Mike Scarbrough the grower and Steve Bailey the educator for the interview. Before Bull Run became what it is today, it all started with Plummer wanting to break into the newly founded Cannabis industry in 2015. My first question was how he found a grower worthy of the task at hand.

“Mike [Scarbrough] always had the best weed on the boat,” Plummer said with a smile. “We own a sailboat together, and whenever we would go out on the water, everyone would bring what they considered their “prize stash” to share. After everyone finished showing off their bud, Mike would reveal flower that put everyone to shame. He always grew the best weed. Period.” 

“When Measure 91 passed, I was always in his [Scarbrough’s] ear about it. Dude, we have got to take advantage of this - but he was a tough sell. He was doing his own thing and was very comfortable,” Plummer said. Despite Scarbrough’s undeniable talent, it took more than a year before he finally gave in and teamed up with Plummer. “The game changer for him is when he took a sailing trip in Portugal and wanted in,” Plummer said.

Plummer’s biggest challenge was finding a location to execute his business plan. Clackamas County was the ideal place because they specialize in agriculture. That’s where Billy Tosheff comes in. 

Tosheff is the owner of the Star Gazer Lily Farm and Portland restaurant Isabel. Plummer could not think of a better place to do it, so he casually sent Tosheff a text. Tosheff replied immediately asking what he had in mind, and they had a business meeting the same day. What makes Tosheff so special, other than his incredible property and infrastructure, was his bottom line: to put food production back into Oregon farms. His passion and understanding of food and farming made him perfect business partner material for Plummer.

“It was an instant romance when I met Billy [Tosheff] because we’re all native Oregonians’, none of us have kids and we are looking to give back and do something for Oregon. And represent it right.  We want to do what’s right for us and Oregon, not big industry. This is our baby.” Mike tenderly explained. 

blue-run-3.jpg

When Plummer, Scarbrough and Bailey came out to Tosheff’s farm, he showed them the historic coolers they could grow in. The property is full of old surprises – a true picker’s dream. Old stoves, furniture and history lurked behind every corner. I asked Tosheff to tell me more about the historic significance of his farm. And it all started with water and land preservation.

“I knew after I showed them the original set up, the train had left the station. I didn’t know what this business was going to look like, but it was going,” Tosheff said. 

“Without the infrastructure you’re looking at spending millions to buy land, build a place. Drowning in overhead. I knew we could do with what I already had.” 

The cohesiveness was so harmonious it was almost nauseating. Bull Run truly is the living, breathing execution of an Oregon-style fairytale. 

“Henry Failing spearheaded water conservation in 1890 at Bull Run,” Tosheff said. 

“It’s pretty amazing they had that kind of foresight back then - and only in Oregon. When you look at it, this place [now Clackamas county] was the breadbasket for Portland.”

blue-run-4.jpg

THE DUTCH CONNECTION

“Dutch settlers came off the Oregon Trail in the 1800s, and this is a pretty little plateau surrounded by the [Sandy] river, so they got their territory. In 1920, the de Graaffs—a Dutch family—were doing tulips and daffodils - a line of ten-generation Dutch botanists from the 1600s! They were in the tulip wars, and that was probably their main commodity because a prized black tulip was the same price as an estate in Holland back in the 1600s. One tulip. Not much has changed with the Dutch, they’re the original OG flower mafia.”

“Lilies only grew in the wild, and they only grew down-facing at the time. Jan de Graaff hybridized them to face upwards so they were sellable. In fifty years, he patented over 150 varieties of lilies on this farm. By the 1960s the de Graaffs were doing over $50 million a year in lily bulb production. They basically created the lily industry as we know it,” Tosheff said. 

I asked the team how their community of greater Clackamas county reacted to this historic gem moving in the direction of Cannabis. I inquired about any pushback from both surrounding neighbors and county commissioners. 

“I think my interaction between most of the more conservative farmers out here has been super supportive. They understand the value of a cash crop,” Tosheff said. “Their families switched from food to nursery stock. I haven’t had any negative feedback, I’m sure there are some people who might not be personally for it, but again they understand the economic value of it.”

Tosheff said the water bureau, Clackamas County commissioners and OLCC have all been great to deal with and supportive of them.

“They tell us this is the kind of location they want for Cannabis,” Scarborough said. We are doing it in the right location and we don’t have neighbors. We don’t have those issues and if every farm could have a location like this, there would be no problem getting licensed.” 

“The lens I look through everything with is how to get food production back into farming. We are trying to save acres, and our net result of it is getting acres back into food production. I wasn’t considering Cannabis until John [Plummer] came to me with these guys. If anyone else asking, I probably would have said no to it all. But I know John [Plummer] knows how to follow the rules because he’s been running that music venue [The Doug Fir] for years. It was a critical piece for me because I don’t want to put anyone at risk. I don’t want what we work for to be in vain if it isn’t taken seriously,” Tosheff intoned.

“My first stop was talking to Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard. I watched over ten hours of video on the county meetings and I wanted to meet with Bernard to discuss farm conservation,” Tosheff said. “It was right as they were making their final rulings. Bernard had dental work done the day I went, but two days later he came out to the farm,” Tosheff said. “They wanted whens, and they wanted to regulate it like any other industry - without over regulating it. We consider it [Cannabis] to be a valuable source of fortifying the agricultural economy of Clackamas County. They were super supportive of our project and we got one of the first land use approvals in Oregon.” 

“John is conservative in his approach, Steve nailed the educational aspect and Mike is an excellent grower. It created a comfort zone for me and this has the ability to create more critical mass for farmers. Long-term conservation is a goal,” Tosheff said. 

When I arrived on the farm, nostalgia hit home hard. I was eager to view the caliber of craft Cannabis I could expect coming out of a place like this. Attention to quality is always high priority in the blueprints, but it’s not always well executed. It’s difficult to translate the quality of high grade micro grows into a commercial grow scenario. I personally tend to see decreased quality while volume goes up. I asked the Bull Run crew about their thoughts on the matter.

“The quality is always the first thing on our minds,” Bailey said. Scarbrough also weighed in.

“No matter how large we get, we want no sacrifice in quality. There are two ways to do it: you can grow for yield, or for quality. Look at the difference of an in-season and organically grown tomato versus a supermarket tomato. There is no comparison,” Scarbrough said. 

“I want my weed prepared like my food: very, very well. We pride ourselves on the smell, taste and cleanliness of the burn. Our weed burns to ash and it burns white. It will suck through a bong. It doesn’t turn into a little black rock of carbon that gets harder and smaller like charcoal.” 

Attention to detail matters in the long run, Scarbrough said.

“We do take a hit in yield, and we can’t match light-for-light with the chemical growers, but we think it’s worth it. We think people are starting to wake up and pay for better weed.” he said.

One issue we discussed was budtender and market education. Most budtenders do not have current education on organic Cannabis cultivation methods. Some budtenders might have a little experience in a medical garden, but the commercial garden world is moving forward fast. 

Bridging education in a high turnover position like budtending will be a bit of a challenge. Good budtenders tend to get plucked from the retail world to find their true calling. 

Creating standard budtender knowledge builds and validates craft Cannabis, and educates potentially green budtenders. Bull Run tries to align themselves with shops willing to come out to the farm and put in the extra effort to educate the general public. 

On the subject of the public and enticing Cannabis tourism, the Bull Run team definitely plans on exploring hospitality to supplement the farm. But the main focus right now is to succeed in garden execution first. 

“This is like a 1974 Ford truck with a space station inside,” Tosheff said. 

“Right now we are disconnecting the public access to ensure we are super coherent and gravitate to where it should be. We are in a lucky position and I don’t think it’s an accident. I think the Dutch history on the farm is a testament it’s been done here before. And we are sitting here; talking about the same things they were talking about 50 or 60 years ago with bulbs. It’s been done before, it will be done again in the future and we are just the caretakers passing through.” 

LOOKING AHEAD

The dynamic team of homegrown Oregonians’ was a sight and vision to behold. Economic value is enabling a lot of innovation in Oregon agriculture and it shows here. Cannabis has economic “horsepower” and puts value back into farmers and their land. Bull Run Craft Cannabis is a serious up-and-coming garden with boundless potential. I can’t wait to watch their market progress and smoke more of their weed. 

Find their craft in a local dispensary near you. Ask for the Silvertip. 

We thought you might also like..

from the gallery