Harvesting the Spirit of Cannabis in the Pacific Northwest
Story and photos by Becky Garrison



After only dabbling with weed in the post-college days, a writer looks into the palate of smoke and the a green gold rush when marijuana goes from illegal to commercial.


cannabis story

During my treks throughout wineries, distilleries and breweries, I developed a palate and a nose for fine wine, single malt scotch, and craft beer. However, my knowledge of marijuana remained stuck in a collegiate era time warp. An infrequent recreational user post-college, I would take the occasional hit with nary a clue of the cannabis strain being offered to me.

This scenario changed in June of 2014 when I joined Kush Tourism on a media preview of Washington State's first ever Cannabis Grow tour. Michael Gordon, CEO of Kush Tourism, picked me up in Portland, Oregon for a quick ride to the backwoods of nearby Vancouver, Washington. Along the way, he clued me in about his mission to debunk the negative perceptions associated with cannabis. With the growing movement to legalize recreational marijuana, his tourism company introduces consumers like myself who are not part of the stoner culture to the myriad of entrepreneurs working in this growing industry. In his estimation, visiting a cannabis farm is akin to touring a vineyard where consumers can refine their palate by gaining a greater understanding of the nuances behind these products.

We pulled in to a small five-acre family farm that could easily serve as the set for an outdoor theater revival of the musical Hair. Even the name of this organic farm "Garden of the Green Sun" sounds like a song title plucked from the playlist of some '60s era folk band.

Tom Lauerman

While waiting for our hosts to emerge from their brightly colored blue home, I relaxed in their makeshift meditation garden and introduced myself to a neighboring steer. Shortly Tom Lauerman, aka Farmer Tom, greeted us wearing a black Hawaiian shirt befitting his Southern California personality. Paula, his Earth Mother wife, offered us iced water with lemons.

After quenching our thirst and sampling some of his wares, Farmer Tom suggested we tour his farm. As we walked into the first of two hoop houses where he grows his award-winning cannabis, Farmer Tom pointed to his favorite plants with the glee one associates with a child opening their presents at Christmas. And yes Virginia, this gentle white-bearded soul does play Santa Claus come December.

The other journalists well-versed in the cannabis culture conversed with Farmer Tom in detail about the properties inherent in each plant. I sat back and listened. Better to stay silent than reveal I lacked the palate to tell if the cannabis I recently inhaled was Pineapple Express, Girl Scout Cookie, OG Kush, or some other strain. Seeing Farmer Tom detail his wares is very similar to watching a seasoned vintner describe those grapes he used to create his prized wines. Both men seek to grow varietals and strains that will please a range of palates.

We then tooled around his farm as he showed off plots of land where he grows his heirloom vegetables. A dedicated farmer at heart since he began playing in the dirt when he was twelve, Farmer Tom demonstrated the organic and sustainable farming techniques he uses to grow both organic vegetables and cannabis.

While his passion appears to be healing people with healthy food and medical cannabis, he sees the financial value in producing cannabis for the growing recreational market as a way to keep his family sustainable. "I just want to save the farm and feed my family—it doesn’t get any more American than that."

After our tour, we returned to Farmer Tom and Paula’s home for watermelon and some additional sampling. While I would not call myself a cannabis connoisseur, I could now differentiate between high quality cannabis, decent weed, and poor quality pot.

roach art

As a final treat, Father Tom gave us a tour of Cliff Maynard's mosaic portraits he creates using spent roach papers and an X-acto knife, adding that his artwork contains many roaches he's furnished Cliff over the years. I left adding a few bits of my DNA to this wide swath of collective bits that will become transformed into works of art.




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Copyright (C) Perceptive Travel 2014. All rights reserved.


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Books from the Author:

Buy Jesus Died for This? at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
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Fishpond (Australia)



Buy Ancient Future Disciples at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
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Buy Red & Blue God/Black & Blue Church at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
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