Itss a tough time in Washington’s cannabis industry right now – growers are facing fierce competition, plummeting prices, and plenty of still-evolving rules and restrictions.
No wonder the management team at Buddy Boy Farm has recently been given rougher, tougher, animal-themed nicknames by co-workers. Like Sales Manager D.J. Parker, who is now called “Gator,” or General Manager Galadriel Walser-Ruggles, who has been dubbed “Kraken.”
It’s all in jest, mostly. But it shows the ups and downs the Tier 3 grower has experienced in the last five years as Washington’s legal adult-use cannabis system suffered growing pains, and how cute and cuddly nicknames just don’t cut it anymore.
“We’ve had to do a lot of scratching and clawing sometimes, but we’ve never missed a payroll for our people,” Walser-Ruggles said.
Buddy Boy Farm, north of Spokane in Ford, near Reardan, was the ninth producer/processor in Washington to receive a state license and its product was one of the first units of legal cannabis sold in Spokane County. Some early licensees are no longer in business, and Parker also keeps close track of other growers that have shuttered in just the last year.
The company even faced its own public relations challenge last fall when a Seattle cannabis store that randomly tests products for quality announced that a dangerous pesticide was found in the oil in a vape pen cartridge – and Buddy Boy’s name was on it.
After closer examination, it turned out to be a strain that Buddy Boy Farms had never grown and a chemical they’ve never used. The processor that created and sold the oil had purchased plant pieces, or trim, from Buddy Boy and two other farms. After extracting oil from the plants, they packaged it with the Buddy Boy name and label.
The Buddy Boy team was certainly concerned, especially since the company has a long history of natural and organic farming methods. Steve and Margaret Walser, Galadriel’s parents, have been farming on their family property for more than 40 years and are also co-owners in Buddy Boy. They also continue to grow organic blueberries and alfalfa, and operate a winery nearby.
Buddy Boy officials quickly responded on social media and also sent out a letter to all retail partners clarifying these results. Parker spent more than a month visiting stores around the state reassuring them of Buddy Boy’s history and interest in continuing high standards of quality.
“We did find out that we had a lot of people in our corner,” Walser-Ruggles said. “This also showed the value of the relationships we’ve built over the years.”
Today, about 40 employees grow and prepare about 30 strains that are available statewide.
Plants are grown in 12 greenhouses – the set-up is officially called “indoor sungrown.” The roofs can be opened on bright days to provide additional natural light. Exposure to sunlight also reduces lighting/energy costs. Buddy Boy grows all year – harvests take place every five to seven days.
“We feel like we have the best of both worlds,” she said. “We’re also benefiting from my dad’s abilities to help keep costs down.”
The company produces three brands of cannabis: Buddy Boy, considered mid-range; LCG, a more budget-friendly line; and 420 Gold, the highest end which contains certain premier hand-trimmed strains and the largest colas. 420 Gold is also sold in stylish glass jars.
It also creates oil called Amazing Grace that has been known to promote relaxation. Some users say it improves their sleep.
A new popular product is “Little Buddies,” which are smaller flower nuggets.
“We had a greenhouse of Sour Diesel that came out a bit on the small side, so we came up with a new product so we wouldn’t lose what we grew, and it ended up that people loved it,” Walser-Ruggles said.
Later this year, Buddy Boy Farm plans to release its second series of trading cards. A few years ago, it designed 18 sports-style cards that were provided with every flower purchase. Each collectible card features a nice photo of a strain and stats about it on the back. Customers are encouraged to collect the whole set, including the five new ones.
Walser-Ruggles said Buddy Boy will continue looking for ways for customers to enjoy their product. They’re also starting to see more interest from shops that are also scrambling to get product on their shelves.
In the meantime, they’re ready for anything.
“We’re a good firefighting team now,” she said. “We all know what each of us are responsible for and we’ve proven we’re great at putting out fires.”
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