Our #GrowInspired series features our innovative and creative garden partners. Whether they’re working with two acres or 200 square feet, we are constantly in awe of their hard work and kick-ass gardens. These are some of our favorite growers and gardeners who inspire us to get out and play in the dirt.
John Plummer is the Founder and CEO of Bull Run Craft Cannabis, a cannabis farm located near Mt. Hood in Oregon. They grow all of their cannabis organically with minimal environmental impact, and use sustainable cultivation practices. They were one of the first legal cannabis growers in Oregon and their award-winning flowers are definitely grown with love. We chatted with John about how they got started growing legal cannabis, his favorite strain and why he loves being a pioneer in such a new industry.
How Bull Run Craft Cannabis Got Started
John first got into the legal cannabis industry five years ago when he saw a business opportunity open up. “A friend I owned a sailboat with was a medical grower at the time and as we saw our neighboring states Washington and Colorado go legal, we heard word that Oregon was going to be next,” he says. “So we started getting a game plan together to apply for a license.” John had a leg-up on other growers because as a bar owner, he knew all about the process of getting a license to grow as it was similar to getting a liquor license. “I reached out to my contacts that I had good relationships with and quickly realized the application was going to be complicated,” John explains. “I figured half the people wouldn’t even be able to get through the application process, so it gave me even more of a reason to go through with it.”
John and his business partners decided to apply early and got into the front of the queue. Through “a series of hilarious events,” they were chosen to be in the first group of seven licenses the state of Oregon gave out to legal cannabis growers. They started the application process in 2015 and had their plants in the ground by 2016. John says that out of the seven companies that were initially given licenses to grow, only Bull Run and one other are still in business. “In hindsight, it would have been a lot smarter not being early adapters and to let things sort of play out. Look at what worked and didn’t work for the early growers,” says John. “It was such a new industry.” But Bull Run’s success is due in part to their early start and clear vision for their company from the very beginning.
Branding A Cannabis Company
Bull Run Craft Cannabis stands out from competitors in that they have a strong point of view, brand, and a clear story. “This was always important to me, it was my focus,” says John. “My two partners were the growers and I did most everything else, but from the very beginning I went to a friend at a marketing agency and worked with them to come up with a good brand strategy.” John says he had this brand strategy clearly mapped out before they sold their first pound of flower. “We placed more of an emphasis on brand than a lot of others did and looking back, I’m certainly glad that we did it,” he explains. “I think that it was super smart, but at the time retailers were selling out constantly and consumers were pretty much buying anything they could. They didn’t really care who it was from or if it was organically grown.”
But five years into Oregon legalizing cannabis, John says that’s all changed. “The consumer has gotten more educated and smarter,” he explains. “Oregonians in particular are known as pretty savvy consumers and it only took a couple of years for them to sort of realize, like, ‘wow, that joint that you just passed me is terrible,’ you know? Just like any other product, people prefer one brand over another.”
On Growing Organically
Bull Run grows their cannabis using organic, sustainable methods. John says they started growing that way because of the amount of competition in the state. “Although the process was difficult to obtain a growing license, there were no caps on the amount of licenses that Oregon was handing out,” explains John. “Almost immediately the system was flooded with 2,000 applications for growers. An insane amount of cannabis was being grown after the first year, many times over the amount that could be consumed.” So Bull Run decided to grow their cannabis without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Instead, they use beneficial bugs and organic teas. “We paid to be certified organic and others weren’t doing that at the time,” says John. “The path of least resistance is always the least expensive way, but at Bull Run we will always grow the best cannabis that we can even if it costs more.” Because they are located on a farm, they can re-amend and re-use their soil quite easily, which creates less waste and overall a better product.
John’s Favorite Thing About The Cannabis Industry
John says bringing his ex-wife, Gretchen, into the business has been a highlight in recent years. “We owned a retail store for years and worked super well together,” explains John. “I convinced her to come out [to the farm] and become an understudy with the two growers at Bull Run. She really took to the growing aspect; she has a natural green thumb. She is so tuned into the plants, she calls them her ‘Ladies’ and is really passionate about it.” John says it’s taken some time, but he feels really blessed to have the team that he does now. “It’s a real joy; everybody is really happy and works well together, I think that goes a long way in producing a great product the consumer will enjoy,” he says.
Another aspect of the legal cannabis industry that John enjoys is the newness of it all. “I’ve always liked the thrill of being in a brand new industry,” he says. “With branding, marketing, creating products — you're not really following anyone else. You’re blazing your own trail. And it can be scary for sure, but exciting at the same time.”
John’s Favorite Strain Unique To Bull Run
“Definitely ‘Lite Me Up’,” he says. “It’s a strain that we’ve had literally since day one. It’s a really unique cannabis flower because it’s so high in CBD, which is all the rage right now. It’s an award-winning strain and we get constant emails and reviews from people that say it’s helped them in a big way. And even if you don’t need it for health reasons, it's a super mellow, really easy strain. I like to call it our ‘Soccer Mom’ strain because it’s kind of like relaxing with a glass of wine.” In 2018, Lite Me Up won First Place at the Cultivation Classic for best Indoor 1:1 Type 2 Mixed Ratio strain.
On Using C-BITEs at Bull Run
“We’ve been using them in one of our grow rooms because creating a little structure in each pot would be too time consuming, but using the C-BITEs to help keep our netting in place to hold up the canopy has been great,” John explains. He says they really like the versatility of C-BITEs and how they can be easily adjusted up and down as the plants grow, as opposed to using tape that was extremely messy to work with. “Also, you know what the really nice thing is?” says John, “The orange C-BITEs are impossible to lose, especially in the sea of green plants.” Our founder and inventor of the C-BITE, Jason, will be happy to hear this. He had cannabis in mind and specifically designed the C-BITEs in the bright orange color to be easy to locate and move as necessary.