Southern Oregon’s fertile Applegate Valley is known for its temperate climate, with long dry sunny summers that are ideal for growing wine grapes, organic produce, lavender and cannabis. This rural region north of California’s Emerald Triangle has attracted cannabis farmers since the 1960s, when grows were hidden in the hills amongst manzanita brush. After Oregon legalized medical marijuana in 1998, cannabis cultivation came out into the open and large gardens began popping up right on the road behind tall fences. Now that adult recreational use has been legalized, this community of cultivators is braced for change as the state works to establish a regulatory system.
Local breeder Alex Schutz explains that perfect environmental conditions allow for bigger plants and better yields without harsh chemicals or mold concerns.
“In Central Oregon you get half the yield,” he says. “Or in Trinity County in California you have smaller plants at a higher elevation that finish quicker.”
Schutz began producing his own seeds five years ago after observing that friends who either ordered from seed banks or started from clones wound up with considerable variation in their plants. He wanted to be able to grow large crops with identical genetics and identical traits, rather than a mix of different phenotypes. His emphasis on providing predictably and uniformly ideal genetics is reflected in the name Supermodel Seeds.
On a 60-acre farm with multiple greenhouses and indoor grow rooms, Schutz has the necessary space to execute his methodical approach. Selecting from a stock of stable hybrids that were already popular with Applegate Valley farmers for their dependable yields and flowering times, Schutz inbred the most desirable dominant phenotypes over several generations. The resulting lines are true-breeding hybrids, which should produce reliably similar offspring.
Schutz’s seeds are tailor-made for commercial outdoor farms that provide medicine to dispensaries throughout Oregon. These large-scale cultivators value consistency, and Schutz’s inventory is currently backlogged with wholesale orders for hundreds of seeds at a time. Since these strains have developed a positive reputation among patients, some dispensaries sell 10-packs for home grows. But the genetics are designed to meet the needs of commercial operations, with a focus on hardy plants with dense flowers that finish early and satisfy the demands of the medical market.
At one point, Schutz and his team pondered naming their strains after famous supermodels like Cindy Crawford or Kate Moss, but commercial growers are more interested in pedigree than branding, so for now, their creations are simply identified by their parentage. This season’s inventory includes Peaches Trainwreck x Afghan Big Bud, Blackberry Cherry Cheese x Shishkaberry Hash Plant, and Thai Haze x OG Kush x Super Silver Haze x Afghani.
Schutz is particularly excited about a Sour Diesel cross that incorporates Shishkaberry, Hash Plant, and Skunk #1 that is essentially an improved version of the original Sour Diesel.
“It’s not quite as pungent,” he says, “but people can’t really tell the difference.”
With the signature Sour Diesel aroma, flavor and effect, but a significantly faster finishing time and denser flowers, he calls the cross “the big winner for this year.”
His current personal favorite is Mango Diesel, a Mango Kush and OG Diesel hybrid he describes as “really cool nighttime medicine,” with vision-inducing psychoactive effects reminiscent of opium.
At present, Schutz says the company caters exclusively to the medical cannabis community because the state of Oregon is still in the process of issuing the first licenses to recreational growers.
“Right now we haven’t decided whether to stay medical or go rec,” says Schutz, and numerous business decisions hinge on this pivotal distinction.
If Supermodel does obtain a recreational license, the company may move toward retail sales, perhaps even opening a year-round nursery that offers seedlings as an alternative to clones. In order to be granted a license, however, applicants must be able to prove that they have water rights on a property. While the farm is located in a sizable watershed and is permitted to collect large quantities of rainwater, resolving the question of water rights is generally a complicated task for outdoor growers.
At the moment, the rules around licensing are still in flux. The Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act that legalized adult recreational cannabis use in Oregon in November 2014 specified that the preexisting medical marijuana program would remain unchanged. Nevertheless, the state quickly began implementing new limits and requirements for medical growers, who had previously been relatively free of oversight. Schutz will likely be forced to contend with water rights issues and other regulatory headaches in the near future.
Despite his frustration with rapidly changing guidelines imposed by bureaucrats who lack practical understanding of their implications, Schutz remains upbeat. Business is good, and whatever happens, he knows one thing for sure: “There’s always going to be a market for sungrown organic marijuana.”
TELL US, have you ever tried to grow from seed?