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Southern Oregon growers dominate at Cultivation Classic

If you’re looking for the best sungrown cannabis in Oregon, you’ll find it right here in Southern Oregon.

That fact became obvious after Southern Oregon cannabis farmers swept the sungrown categories at the annual Cultivation Classic in Portland and also took home all of the hemp awards, a terpene award, the Regenerative Cannabis Farm Award and the Credible Cultivar Award.

The fourth annual Cultivation Classic, a two-day event that celebrates Oregon’s craft cannabis producers, was held May 18-19 at Revolution Hall, with activities all over Portland.

The event culminates with an awards ceremony, and this year Southern Oregon growers made their presence known. There were 150 entries of organic cannabis, with 150 judges spending 30 days evaluating the submissions.

How the judging works

The judging process for the competition uses what organizers call a double-blind system.

“When a judge opens their kit, they receive little glass jars with flower and an entry ID number,” said Steph Barnhart, program director of the Cultivation Classic. “You know nothing; you don’t know the potency, the terpene profile, the strain name, who grew it. We do that to remove bias.”

It also allows judges to tune into their physical experience without preconceived bias.

The second blind is for data collection. The people who do the data analysis don’t have access to any information that would reveal the cultivar. It’s only when Barnhart received the numbers from the data team that she got to look and see what name to put on a trophy.

“The winners of Cultivation Classic’s Light Type/Plant Type categories are mathematically determined by a weighted combination of subjective likability scores from judges, aroma score, quality-control review and farm/facility energy efficiency,” according to Adie Rae of Smart Cannabis, head of the event’s data analysis along with Niels Sveum from Habu Health.

“Did people enjoy it? Does it smell good? And was it produced sustainably? In other words: our equation for quality, craft cannabis,” she wrote on the Cultivation Classic’s Instagram page, where you can see a breakdown of each cultivar’s data set.

Light and plant type were broken down into three categories — 1, 2 and 3 — based on plant chemistry. Type 1 are high-THC plants, Type 2 are mixed ratio THC/CBD cultivars, and Type 3 are CBD-forward cultivars.

“It’s so that essentially a judge doesn’t have a mixed-bag experience,” Barnhart said. “Instead we have a CBD-only group. Type 1 and Type 2 appear mixed in random order in judges’ kits. Of 150 judges, we had 13 CBD-only judges.”

This was the first year hemp was included in the competition, and it was judged like CBD — mixed in with Type 3 judge kits and tested with the same criteria, said Barnhart.

Using a scale of 1-7, with 1 being an awful experience and 7 being incredible, judges rated how much they enjoyed the aroma, the cultivar’s overall desirability and how much they liked the way the strain made them feel.

Aside from the complex science and judges’ preferences, the Cultivation Classic is an opportunity for growers throughout the state to acknowledge and celebrate the work they do and the flower they grow.

Southern Oregon dominance

East Fork Cultivars in the Illinois Valley brought back the Gold award in the Sungrown Type 3 category for a strain called Blue Orchid. It was the second consecutive win for the company in that category. It also won the silver award in the same category this year with a strain called ACDC.

Siskiyou Sungrown in Grants Pass took the bronze in that category with Sour Tsunami.

“Our team was certainly excited, we defended our gold with another gold,” said Mason Walker, CEO of East Fork Cultivars, adding that the company brings its entire team to the Cultivation Classic.

“It’s a pretty exciting culmination of our breeding work and the cultivation work we do. Blue Orchid is an East Fork original. I have been extremely excited about that cultivar. It’s really different, and it’s nice to get that validation that other people enjoyed it.”

Ebb & Flow Farm near Ashland earned the Gold in the Sungrown Type 2 category for Goji DC #1.

Phantom Farms, which is based in Bend but grows its outdoor bud in Southern Oregon, took the silver in the Sun Type 2 category with a strain called Mighty Quinn.

Alter Farms in Grants Pass took the bronze in Sun Type 2 for Pineapple Thai CBD.

“In our opinion, (the Cultivation Classic) is one of the only true competitions that’s out there,” said Amy Parscal, co-founder of Ebb & Flow Farm. “It’s very data-driven. It feels more authentic. It’s really education-focused. They bring in amazing people inside and outside the industry to add to the conversation.”

While on stage accepting the award, the farm’s other co-founder, Lisa Denney, said, “This event really does bring out the best. I’m super honored. There’s so much blood, sweat and tears, literally. This is the one event we will leave the farm for.”

Alter Farms in Grants Pass took home a lot of hardware. The company won first place in the Sungrown Type 1 category for a strain called Purple Wildfire. It won the award for Outstanding Terpenes: Diversity with a strain called Fire Runner, as well as the bronze in Sun Type 2 for Pineapple Thai CBD.

“This female was hunted rigorously,” Alter Farms founder Jodi Haines said of Purple Wildfire, while on stage collecting her award. “This strain has had very little recognition in the marketplace. Thank you for loving our flower.”

The terpene diversity award is based solely on laboratory chemistry and the judges weren’t involved, said Barnhart, describing it as “a laboratory highlight.” The award is for a cultivar that is not myrcene-dominant — myrcene is the most abundant terpene in commercial cannabis. In this category, the organizers “try not to celebrate myrcene-dominants,” she said.

“We tested at the lab for 21 terpenes, and Fire Runner tested at least in trace amount for all the terpenes we tested for this run,” she said. “It had an interesting and large quantity of terpenes that appeared in the plant.”

Ebb & Flow Farm won the Credible Cultivar Award for Goji DC #1, the strain that took the gold in the Sungrown Type 2 category. The award goes to the bud that provides the most consistent experience among all the judges.

“The Credible Cultivar (award) is the one with the most consistent effects, or lowest standard of deviation,” said Rae. “Judges agreed that Goji DC #1 was very enjoyable, and it was uniformly relaxing.”

OM Shanti Farms in the Illinois Valley brought back the Hemp Winner of the night with its cultivar Suver Haze, and the company also took the silver for a strain called Elektra.

East Fork Cultivars took the hemp bronze with a strain called Oregon Guava.

Lane Creek Hemp Company in Central Point won the 2019 Regenerative Cannabis Farm Award.

“It’s an incredible acknowledgment and such a great movement that we are four years into the making and trying to do our best to create awareness around regenerative farming in general, with an emphasis on cannabis,” said Daniel Richardson, lead farmer at Lane Creek Hemp Company.

“It’s about the practices. The Cultivation Classic and Regenerative Award have aligned a community of growers and community farms that are unified in their practices, and those practices are doing great things for the local community. Each farm that is a part of this award is a little nucleus of health, knowledge and intention, and everything spreads from that.”

Cultivation Classic background

Presented by Willamette Week and a host of other sponsors that include Shadowbox Farms in Applegate Valley and Smart Cannabis, the Cultivation Classic had a plethora of informative sessions highlighting regenerative agriculture practices and energy innovation. There were discussions on economic justice, polyculture, autoflowering, innovation in production and technology and nurturing your endocannabinoid system.

Speakers at the event included Dr. Ethan Russo (International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute), Jeff Lowenfels (Teaming with Microbes), Jeremy Plumb (Prof Cultivar), Seth Crawford (Oregon CBD), Shanel Lindsay (Ardent Cannabis) and Katie Stem (Peak Extracts).

“It’s a candle burning at both ends kind of event as I imagine growing cannabis is for you,” Barnhart said to the awards show audience. “We really deeply value your presence here, especially as it feels as trust in science has been shaken.”

The full list of winners can be found at bit.ly/2Ib8vEu.

You can follow Liz Gold on Twitter/Instagram @lizstacygold or read her blog at www.14karatliving.com.



It’s not all about THC

There’s more to great bud than the amount of THC hiding in its sticky little trichomes.

At the 2019 Cultivation Classic, held May 18-19 in Portland, seven of the top 10 flowers in the competition measured less than 20% THC.

When that fact was announced by Adie Rae, head of the event’s data analysis, the audience cheered.

“Enjoyment and THC by this data set are not correlated,” she said, adding that many of the cultivars in the contest contained THC in the 14- to 18-percent range, which can be hard to get to market because many retailers are looking for high levels of THC to meet consumer demand.

Jason Rambo, co-founder of Alter Farms in Grants Pass, said it was very rewarding that his company’s Purple Wildfire, a cultivar that tested at 15.7% THC, took first place in the Sungrown Type 1 category.

“It acknowledges that percentage doesn’t truly matter,” he said. “In a retail market, it’s very difficult to sell anything under 16%. Dispensaries don’t want to buy it because the consumer is still shopping by a percentage number. Just goes to show good cannabis doesn’t have to be 30 percent.”

“We are trying to have a conversation about where the market is and what the market current rewards,” said Steph Barnhart, the Cultivation Classic’s program director. “And what the market rewards is high-THC, myrcene-dominant flower that works for 25-year-old males. This is the largest chunk of current product on the market shelves, and it’s what people are breeding because it’s what people are buying. They don’t know anything different.”

Amy Parscal of Ebb & Flow Farm in Talent flashes the first-place hardware at the Cultivation Classic in Portland.Sam Gehrke/Willamette Week
Alter Farms co-owner Jodi Haines, at the podium, accepts an award at the Cultivation Classic in Portland, as her husband, Jason Rambo, and Alter Farms employee Victoria Lex look on at left. Sam Gehrke/Willamette Week