A flock of birds glides across the late afternoon sky as a gentle breeze blows through a tall stand of cannabis plants that are filled with thick nuggets.
“What a shot,” Joshua Stroud remarks on the scene. Stroud is co-owner of Conscious Cultivators, an outdoor cannabis farm in Harrisburg.
In an industry where Stroud says growers are focused on what the next hyped-up, high-THC weed is, Conscious Cultivators is invested in preserving historic weed strains. The farm has some cannabis plants whose lineage draws back to Humboldt grows of the ’80s and some of Eugene’s classic weed of the ’90s.
One of the company’s goals is to work on cannabis genetics to not only establish some of the weed strains as intellectual property but also to offer local farms unique plants that can help other growers combat the corporatization of the industry.
Conscious Cultivators is co-owned by Stroud and his wife, Angela Howard-Stroud, and he says that Howard-Stroud is one of the few Black women who’s an owner of a cannabis breeding company.
Howard-Stroud, a veteran of the industry, is part of what inspires the company’s mission of developing genetics. She was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Stroud says. According to the National MS Society, the disease impacts the brain, spinal cord and optics, all of which makes up the nervous system. It’s a disease with symptoms that include numbness, fatigue, paralysis, pain and other issues.
As the company researches and develops cannabis genetics, he says he works with his wife to find strains that can help her manage MS. “We all know that cannabis has different cures,” Stroud says. “Think about what if we got the cure on us?”
Walking through Conscious Cultivators’ farm in Harrisburg, in land that was once the town’s airport, he’s eager to squeeze the buds on weed plants, discharging a scent. Each strain at the farm really does live up to its name, whether it’s blackberry, licorice or mac ‘n’ cheese.
Most of the plants on the farm have lineage to the ’80s and ’90s. Stroud says growers who were active during that period gave him their seeds because they respect his dedication to cannabis. “They said, ‘Hey, you understand what we’re trying to do with this, and we see that you’re going to keep this pure,’” he adds.
One of the weed strains that may have the longest lineage in his farm is the Mazari Hash Plant. He says the strain was given to him by a longtime cannabis grower whose father used to bring hash from Afghanistan, where it was a native plant for years (referred by growers as “landraced”), in the ’60s and sell it to Santa Cruz surfers.
“It’s probably in its 50th generation, not to mention it was landraced back in Afghanistan before and now bred for hash production,” he adds.
What Stroud means about having a strain around for generations is that he keeps the cannabis variant from becoming a hybrid, mixing with another strain or altering its genetics. In other words, keeping the plant inbred, he says.
These classic strains that Conscious Cultivators grow produce full, thick buds, such as its Jimi Haze, a take on the Purple Haze variant that inspired Jimi Hendrix’s famous song back in the late ’60s. Stroud compares that plant to the one next to it, Wedding Cake, which has thin and elongated buds.
Strains like Wedding Cake, Stroud says, are popular with smokers obsessed with high THC content. These variants typically have nearly 30 percent THC levels, he adds, where the Jimi Haze has about 22 percent. But he says not to dismiss lower THC weed. It has what’s called “entourage effect,” when various cannabis compounds, such as terpenes, are consumed along with THC and makes the high stronger.
The higher THC weed gets attention on social media accounts and rappers, Stroud says, but Conscious Cultivators is dedicated to advocating for weed with more depth. “Educating the consumers to appreciate the diversity, the terpenes and the cleanness of the plant is more important than any THC score you could ever get,” he adds.
Although Conscious Cultivators is dedicated to preserving weed variants of yesterday, the company is also trying to meet consumers halfway where hype strains meet legacy ones. Stroud points to a plant called Purple Hash Dog that is a hybrid of the Chemdog strain created in the ’90s by legendary grower Greg Krzanowski and the Mazuri Hash Plant. “I’m trying to use those old school, authentic genetics — legacy genetics — to actually be the new hype strain,” he says.
Conscious Cultivators sells some of its clones (cuttings from a live plant) to other farmers in the state, most of which are mom and pop ventures, Stroud says. But there are some agreements that have to happen first, such as aligning growing philosophies with Conscious Cultivators. The Harrisburg grow site doesn’t use pesticides, he says, and it uses a proprietary soil blend — all of which is sourced from sustainable materials.
The cannabis genetics market, including the selling of clones and seeds, is an untapped segment of the industry, Stroud says. Being able to sell cannabis genetics materials, though, takes time, he adds. It often takes him several years of research and development to have something ready for the market. But he says he has hundreds of strains ready for market, all of which could help mom and pop growers in Oregon compete with corporate farms flooding the market with cannabis. Rather than compete against cheap weed, these farms can provide dispensaries with a unique product.
“I feel I got the solution,” Stroud says. “I have enough strains in our nursery to give every farm in Oregon two oftheir own proprietary genetics, like everyone can have their own specific one.”
Conscious Cultivators’ weed products are available at Flower of Lyfe, 114 W. Broadway, and Greener Side, 1407 River Road. Clones are available at Firehorse Trading Co., 233B W. 7th Avenue. Find Conscious Cultivators on Facebook.