The HempList #37: On the Forefront of Cannabis Legalization, Education, & Growing with Farmer Tom

Farmer Tom started growing cannabis in a collective back in 1998, and has been on the forefront of cannabis legalization, growing, education, and has even worked directly with the Federal Government to drive regulations. In Vancouver Farmer Tom hosts tours of his outdoor cannabis farm, additionally he managed 58,000 hemp plants in Oregon this last season!

Here’s a quick wrap up of the episode, and some links where you can watch the full length interview..

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In Summary

Farmer Tom Lauerman join us on the HempList this week, hosted By Chase Nobles, Founder of

Farmer Tom started growing cannabis in a collective back in 1998, and has been on the forefront of cannabis legalization, growing, education, and has even worked directly with the Federal Government to drive regulations. In Vancouver Farmer Tom hosts tours of his outdoor cannabis farm, additionally he managed 58,000 hemp plants in Oregon this last season!

This interview covers everything from the history of legalization, to how the 2020 growing season went amid the pandemic.

Transcript (auto-generated)

now that we’re live let’s uh let’s tell
the story of Farmer Tom Lauerman
welcome to the show farmer tom how you
been it’s been a hot minute uh we go
we go pretty far back in history here
how’s that
good you know yeah it’s been going well
you know steady
steady on my course for sure right
there’s a lot of been a lot of ups and
downs in the industry and stuff and i’m
just kind of
riding the wave well a lot has changed
since you used to give tours of your
medical cannabis grow
in vancouver washington back when we
were cush tourism way before
back in like 2014
and what has changed since then and
and and what led well actually you know
what let’s just back all the way up
farmer tom how did you get in cannabis
what’s the story there
okay well um when i was growing up
uh my uh cannabis worked for me you know
it kind of
made everything happen for me and i was
a surfer and a skateboarder and
i’ve been landscaping my whole life
since i was 12
and so i had my hands in the dirt and i
got sick of waiting for the guy with the
toolbox to show up basically
and uh you know so i was bound and
determined at that point
to whatever i could help the
legalization movement
help more medical patients out and me
and my wife were
part of the first collective garden in
san diego
in 98 and uh
we got raided in 99 and that kind of
catapult after the worst thing that
could happen
happens to you it kind of catapulted me
into a space where i could speak at
and uh just kind of uh start pushing
farmer tom out there so you know we we
our collective was different than most
collective gardens we
what we did is you pay you bought a
light paid 50 bucks a month and took
what you want there was no cash register
we didn’t have no
jewelry case out front and that kind of
catapulted me and my wife
into what we’re doing now this is all in
san diego and in 2002 we moved to
williams oregon
where i was a farm manager on organic
seed farm down there for a couple years
and then we bought our place here in
vancouver washington
and uh we’ve been here since 0-404
you know it’s been i think 18 years now
we’ve been here
so we’re pretty pretty established and
we love our farm and
yeah so in between there i worked at
pacifica i was
a director of manufacturing and so uh
what happened at that point is i you
know the last three years i was director
of manufacturing i did inventory control
purchasing and stuff before before that
but that kind of
got me in these meetings and branding
was about everything
so i would sit there and i was kind of
over being there for seven years
and we had us we had our farm here we
had a little medical grow
and we grew vegetables all the time so
at that point i just sat back and i said
you know i could speak at all these
events i can do all this stuff
i’m going to build a brand and we kind
of did it backwards from everybody else
we built the brand before the products
and after watching medical go up and
peek and crash
and watch a recreational go up and kind
of peak and crash
and hemp i jumped into the hemp thing go
up and crash
uh you know it kind of uh
got me motivated to start putting some
products but i’m gonna backtrack a
little bit to
when we met and uh you know we were the
first outdoor
cannabis tours in the world from what
the research we did
there was a lot of indoor doing but we
were we were the first and
we had a lot of people who who still
contact me who’d come through
paid their 75 dollars i toured them
through the farm
we told them what we did how we did it
and uh
this was you know prior to i-502 in
so nobody had any idea what to do so we
had like a lot of the big early players
come through
just trying to figure it out they had
money they knew they want to get into
the industry
so they came and we you know kind of
walked them through what we were doing
and uh you know how to you know how to
progress into the next few stages
yeah being right there in vancouver
washington you’re so close to portland
you know yeah yeah we had a seattle tour
but it wasn’t anything like what you
were doing
you know nobody would show us an outdoor
grow at that point there there weren’t
a ton of them in the medical space uh
back when the medical industry was was
the medical industry it was mostly
indoor kind of
underground facilities you know what i
mean up here yeah and
you had a you had a you had sunshine
shining down and growing the plants
in vancouver that was a pretty amazing
sight to see back in 2014 i’d have to
say it was yeah
i mean everybody everybody took a
different route everybody was trying to
cash in on the gray market
and i was i was building a brand and you
know and a reputation
and i love to grow and i love to promote
my grow and i
i taught i i was the first guy to talk
to most of the media
i was on nbc squawk box in the early
days i had jane wells
carol merrilling my products on
worldwide tv
with my branded label and you know a guy
in 2014 i think he
found he saw the work that i was doing
and he said you want to be the first guy
to put his name and like this on a
cannabis product so
we jumped at that opportunity and then
that kind of led to
us and being so open with our farm
working with the federal government so
we were the first to work with any
federal agency the
home department of uh health and human
services cdc
niosh and they write the
they write the studies that are then
turned into ocean
osha rules so we um we’re the foundation
for all workplace health and safety
we actually got a chance to educate them
because they were getting all their
information from youtube and i said well
that’s really not
fair to our industry well you know why
don’t you come to the farm
so they said we’ll have to make your
pharmacy care location you’ll have to
have a
heavy duty background check so i said
we’ll dig in because me and my wife play
by the rules
right you know like dig deep you know
we’re not mailers i’m not a baller
i’m long-term into this industry you
know and i’ve invested into it and we’ve
all the leg work i’ve you know i’ve been
keynote speaker at a ton of events i
spoke at every pretty much
every event out there and uh when had
became legal the
my friends at the feds called me and
said well here’s your opportunity
you know and then at that point i kind
of segued
from just the regular cannabis events
over to the hemp side
and it’s been good you know we started
being uh my partner dustin
started hemp farming academy and we’ve
got 200 students worldwide we were first
to market online hemp farming school
and uh yeah we’ve done uh we’ve done a
lot of stuff in the in the hemp industry
now i’m an expert witness
in the hemp industry because of 2019 and
all the chaos that went on
all these court cases are coming to
court now and
you know i’m i’m the guy so it’s it’s
it’s and i really enjoy the expert
witness stuff
so i’m finding ways to maneuver through
the industry
and to uh you know keep the lights on
here in the farm until
i launched my brand which is going to be
here and then in the next couple months
that’s amazing i do want to back up a
little bit it sounds like you it sounds
like you pioneered the cam
the cannabis membership model in san
50 a month oh yeah come and bring your
what what was you know what was that
back then in 19 you said it was 1999 19
or 2000
right in that time frame yes sir when we
got arrested it was 99
and basically we had a little compound
um in hillcrest in san diego we were
there was a gata in the front
and then um i was working with steve
nick williams back then
and we had we rented a part of the
that wasn’t finished out and so upstairs
we had the girl and then downstairs we
had a little community space so we had
about 20 patients at that time and
i was in charge of the grow and uh
so they would come and
pick what they wanted everybody get a
bag with a sharpie and
write what a strain it was and then they
took what they wanted it was more of the
honor system than anything else
and uh yeah we really thought that was
the way of a collective
so we weren’t at it for the money we
were out there to help patients out
right and that’s kind of been our drive
through the whole this whole this whole
and you mentioned you were at pacifica
for seven years for anybody that doesn’t
know what what is pacifica what do they
and uh how did that kind of roll into oh
they make body products
they make uh they make body products so
when i started they were like
two or three million a month and when i
left they were 25
and they just closed their facilities
here in portland during covid last year
and i went back to visit and they were
doing 56 million a year so
um they do we start they started off
with candles
and soaps and then they did body butters
now they’re in alta and they’re in um
fred meyer’s krogers across the country
i mean not fred meyers not kroger’s uh
target across the country so they got
two accounts now
and uh they’re doing they’re doing
really well
and i learned a lot working at pacifica
especially being in the board meetings
about how branding
was everything you know and everybody
kind of gave me a bad time in the
in the beginning you know about uh you
a brand without like in 502 without
products but
you know there was a bunch of hurdles
and you know we really didn’t we
still own all of farmer tom me and my
and uh it’s better that way because once
you start taking in partners
instead of us it’s we and then there’s
they’re the most important part
not all the you know the 20 something
years i’ve been in the industry
they’re the most important part and uh
it kind of gets convoluted at that point
all my other peers through the medical
they’re all they all seem to be gone you
know what i mean they kind of
just disappeared yep um and
yeah and what we did we just carried on
you know i just kept
on um you know after educating the
federal government here on my farm
i started to teach at clark uh community
college here in vancouver
cannabis in your health courses i’ve
taught hampton hemp farming 101 the good
the bad and the ugly
i teach at hemp university um
yeah so i’ve been into education has
been my main
my main focus uh uh i really loved
educating the federal government here
and i love teaching i love giving people
the knowledge especially with our school
hemp farming academy
we’ve got students worldwide crushing it
out there and
and it’s really satisfying you know i i
really i enjoy the educational part
but now it’s time to bring some products
and put it behind farmer tom’s name
that sounds amazing i i see a picture in
the background there
uh you got a whole valley filled up with
him but it looks like
uh tell us tell us what y’all did this
year and uh kind of what the outcome was
um and what the growing season was like
for for the team
okay yeah well last year it started out
i was doing the hemp farming 101 i did
one in ashland in january
february i was in santa fe new mexico
and these are all day just for just me
all day
you know going through different parts
and and most of it’s
of course the agriculture part and how
to plan and how to start but it’s
vetting out
seed breeders and then it’s vetting out
partners and then it’s
it’s all about vetting out and not and
teaching people
how to surf their way through the
industry and not get taken advantage of
so and then in march it was uh which is
unfortunately such a big piece
which is such unfortunately such a big
piece of this space is uh
navigating you know kind of the potholes
and the the issues um within the network
in the community because there there’s a
number of them and
and i know that integrity is incredibly
important to you and your brand and and
your team
um so it’s it’s it’s it’s pretty
refreshing to hear you say that was one
of the number one
places to start was how to how to how to
you know the genetics how to vet the
partners all of that i think that’s a
smart place to start in this space
you’ve seen you’ve seen a lot and so we
over here and i think that’s probably
pretty sound advice for the for the
community anybody think about that oh
yeah people get a lot out of it
yeah and so after that i was in puerto
i went back to do some consulting uh
covet happened
lockdown which is pretty serious down
there i mean you couldn’t go out on
sundays there was total curfew between
7 p.m and 5 a.m in the morning um you
couldn’t go out
just to you couldn’t go to the beach all
the beaches were closed
so i was stuck down there for two months
i got the last flight in the first
flight out as soon as they got back
a couple of my students and dad and the
sun team were
going to do this grow down there and
they brought me out part-time
and then the father passed away and then
they brought me on full-time
so we grew 58 000 plants and we had a
couple hurdles you know there were some
hard pan issues so i had them top 58
000 plants and um we worked with the
health department during covid
and the ag department we’re pretty much
the model
um this was in myrtle point um down in
central oregon towards the coast
right so uh yeah it was beautiful valley
um and you know there was a river that
went around it was like a big moat
um and the soil was you know the sandy
type loam stuff
and you know they uh but they didn’t
all they did was rototills so we had a
hard pan so i had them like
top 58 000 plants and it turned out
unbelievable we had the tester guy keys
i never take pictures but this is the
most amazing thing ever
so i start a video i start a video
catcher voice eyeball so we take
we say that in front of the camera and
they’re all for sure so
i’ve got a lot of uh really good
testimonials for the
product and we created new sops for it
instead of everything going into super
um we during covid we spread all the
tables like 10 15 feet apart
we had nine sections with three people
and they’re all about
uh six feet apart and then they would go
go through and sort them and only take
the top
smokable flower buds and then we put
them on a racking system
and stacked them 12 high loaded them
into a semi
took him to medford where we dried them
and then from there we sorted them out
again and
uh instead of putting them in into the
super sacks we put everything into
these big huge bags and uh we cured them
in the bags
and then we put them in cardboard boxes
so like those
like those big coffee bean bags or or
something else
no they were clear bags you know clear
plastic bags
and they were the size to fit into a
cardboard box that fit over a pallet
so four by four by five feet probably
and uh so we packed like 25 or 30 pounds
it was cbg
so we all know cbg is really fragile and
uh the trichomes just you know you could
put them in the air and tap it and watch
them just fall down
so we’re really careful it’s not that
sticky either which is probably a little
bit nicer if you’re out there trimming
it up you know
oh it is for sure you know what i mean
and and there’s definitely a place for
cbg it’s got a lot of good medicinal uh
properties out there
and um yeah so they’re storing it and
you know i told them
look we’re not going to sell it in
december november december just the
market’s too low
and our prime time to sell it’s right
right now the spring
and so they’re out there selling it now
and uh it was super successful
and i you know i really got to you know
flex my
flex a little bit as they say and uh
make it all happen so it was
really rewarding and we didn’t get home
until january 10th
of last year from medford we were pretty
much on from
except i was pretty much beyond 10
months out of the year last year
wow what a commitment were there any
issues with moisture
you know um is you know kind of similar
to vancouver how you have to deal with
you know
high humidity things like that was it
similar there uh
outside ashland well there were parts of
the no yeah this was outside of uh
uh coos bay and roseburg pretty much
yep and uh and the drawing was out down
there it wasn’t too bad we had big fans
and we
we dried it just perfectly we had some
issues in the fields
there were pockets um where the fog
would come up because there’s a river
that runs around
the whole um i think it’s the coquille
river runs around the whole property
makes this big moat well it’s actually
good for you know safety and stuff but
it makes this big mold but it also
brings moisture up into the field and we
some fog issues and stuff like that so
we were racing to
you know keep the botrytis set to a
minimum and we sorted through everything
and we
we did it we we were really successful i
mean the biggest challenge
in the last couple years has really been
uh the labor force
you know to get the right people out
there consistently
and you know the price is you have to
pay for labor
you know it’s like 26.50 an hour per
and you know and well at least they
all of the um taxes
and workman’s comp and all that stuff
which is worth it
but getting them to works a whole
different thing you know the old
work hispanic workforce that we used to
see out there there there’s
a couple of those old guys left who
really put their heads down and work
and then the the new ones you really
have to sort through and be real careful
who you bring in who you bring in you
know and literally
the last you know the last month to get
it all done
you know i was a supervisor and i went
to the other supervisor and said look
i’ve got a couple grand here for you
if you do finish the work the way i want
it and get it done
and believe me once once he got
part of the money up front and once he
got that you know he busted his ass the
whole way through and we got it done
it turned out had turned out nice but
labor is an a whole nother deal to you
really got to be careful on
who you pick and who you work with i
think this year
since the borders are kind of uh you
know there’s more
people there’s more workers coming in
this year i don’t think it’s going to be
big of an issue but the last two years
2019 which is a total disaster
and 2020 were really super hard to get
good labor you know
you had to pay them cash every day or
they go down the road to somebody else
right hey i got a question for you you
know um
coming from vancouver you know growing
pretty high value thc canada i know you
grew a little bit of everything at the
farm but uh
you’re not nearly at the scale that
you’re growing with hemp for anybody
that’s been growing cannabis
on a smaller scale what’s the main
challenge the main differences of
scaling up to
you know kind of the size of the farm
you you see behind you what
what were some of the unexpected things
that happened that uh
they hadn’t had to deal with on a
smaller scale back you know comparing it
back to whatever you were growing in the
medical days up here in washington
well you really need equipment and a lot
of equipment you know you need like
three big
tractors you know and you need boom
sprayers to fold your feed with then
you know i’m what i always try to do is
grow the best of the most quality so for
your feeding is a big part of it
we use the black mulch to help hold the
heat in and to keep the nutrients in
in and and where they’re where they’re
watered and after we topped them
well we stopped that tap root and we
promoted lateral
roots group growth and the
the t tape or the the drip tape we use
are 12 inch inner
intervals so you really water and feed
the whole bed so those roots go
way out in between the plants under the
mulch and uh
you know thus we had a a big success i
think scaling is the equipment is the
biggest deal
you know and then and then finding
people who uh
are willing to work through the whole
season we literally
did this girl with there was christine
and i
and then there was four other people and
there was two guys on the ground every
and then we would come in for a few days
a week and
so you know there’s mainly like four
who were able to manage this whole this
whole farm you know
and you really got to have people that
are interested in and hard workers so
labor’s an issue and then equipment’s a
must because if you didn’t have the
the proper equipment just trying to
plant it or anything
would be uh would be overwhelming for
most people
and then harvesting you know there’s a
there’s a bunch of different ways we
were going for flower so
basically we had loppers out there
and we had three rows of loppers and
then we had a big flatbed truck and we
would gently lay them on there
and then we take it back over to the
process testing area where we had
nine tables set up and then a bunch of
racks that are about the size of a piece
of plywood
with um netting in there and the netting
the holes were pretty big they’re about
an inch wide so you
really didn’t smash the buds so uh
you know just getting it getting it over
there but some of the mechanical stuff
um it’s it still needs to be tweaked you
know i don’t really think there’s
unless you’re making just biomass and
you know you’re gonna use a cultivator
get out there and just chop it all
up and you know send it through some
heating machines but
that doesn’t really seem to be the
market these days the market’s all about
really nice well-capped flour well well
cured you know and uh it’s hard in this
space whenever there’s a lot of people
trying to do it quick and cheap hey
i got a question for you uh spores
seeds males how how did uh how did you
manage the
you know the risk of getting seeded out
with the farm
you know with at that scale what were
some of the steps that you took for
anybody else listening that
they’d like to know how to you know
avoid seeds what were some of the things
y’all did to keep that at bay
well the last you know month and a half
we had the guys after they topped we had
them walk in the field every day
and i told them what to look for i i
mean i told them when you’re walking
through these
anything catches your eye that doesn’t
the anything that catches your eyes go
and look you know
and where you’re first gonna find your
hermaphrodites and your males are deep
down by the main stock
so you kind of have to pull that plant
apart and look at it
so out of the 58 000 plants i think we
got about
50 48 50 uh
uh males and her just mainly
you know and then we and they’re just
being diligent and walking those fields
every day and which is really important
you know to make sure you catch them
they open you know before the males open
up and start
putting pollen out there it only takes a
couple to
you know to really take down a whole
quarter of that farm there and it’s uh
it’s one of those things i don’t think
too many people think as much as they
should about because
next thing you know you got a ton of
seeds well it’s not walking the field
once it’s
that whole last month you know two guys
two rows and just every day walking and
going back to the beginning and walking
it again and it’s just due diligence
a lot of farmers they get into hemp
farming and they think it’s going to be
easy they think it’s going to be
growing corn or soybean or whatever and
after they get done with their first
year they
have no idea they had no idea would be
this much work
because it really it really is a lot of
it’s a lot of work and you got to stay
on it um with feeding your plants and
full you’re feeding them to get
really nice product and then making sure
you don’t have any males or the moldy
areas you know you want to get in those
areas first and harvest those first in
in the areas that are subject to those
you know closer to the river for us and
closer to the fog
and and kind of work back so uh you
it’s just due diligence and a lot of
common sense right
and uh you know farmer tom it’s been uh
it’s been uh it’s been a little while
since we’ve seen each other i
i appreciate the huge commitment and
everything that you’ve done for this
you’ve been a pretty big pillar up here
uh really with big support of of cush
tourism back whenever we got our company
first started so
i’m excited to see that you’re still
here you’re still rocking
you know you’re moving and shaking and
making a name for yourself in this space
and continuing to grow that brand before
we close this out because we’ve been on
the phone for about 30 minutes now
tell us a little bit about the products
that you came in the market with here in
and uh and where where you want to take
yeah we’ve got a um a great website
and marketing team behind us that’s been
after me to
to work with them the last few years and
finally last year i said okay well now’s
the time well
you know these markets go up and down
and the hemp market kind of hit the
bottom but it’s going about
up up so i knew that this time it was
time for me to start putting some
products out there
so we’re doing old school uh glycerin
we’re doing some soaps of course i’m
gonna do like a beard oil
with you know kind of my beard and uh
we’re doing
gummies and um chocolates and
and we’re going to start off with the
slow roll we’re going to do like a
couple of products
and then each quarter um
do introduce a new product because you
can get a little bit of explosion so
it’s it’s well thought out it’s my
time at pacifica also the buyers they
new products at least one a new product
two products a year
you know so every quarter the the buyers
for the
for the big stores neiman marcus and
stuff like that
they want new products to put next to
your other products so
you know for for financial stake so i
don’t have to bring in a bunch of money
we’re just going to roll out a few
a couple of products and then you know
every three months or six months
we’ll roll out another product you know
and and we can get a little
bit of explosion so that’s our marketing
and uh i think it’s gonna work well um
it’s you know for us it’s all about
quality of the product and
making sure everybody’s getting what
they’re you know what they
they we say they’re gonna get and i
already have
you know when you’re building a brand
and putting a brand out there
we did it differently we built the brand
we did the work with the federal
government i’ve been on squawk box
nbc you know nightly news you name it
i’ve been on
every magazine all this stuff and
it’s really tough for a lot of these
brands who really don’t
have much to go on you know maybe the
ceo smoked a little wheat in college or
their grandma’s sick or
something you know and i mean they’re
trying to come up with this story on how
to build the brand and i’m saying
get out there and do the work you know
prove without a shadow of a doubt that
you’ve done the work and you are who you
say you are
and you have a lot better chance of
succeeding as opposed to
creating products and then trying to
build a brand around
something that isn’t real because people
these days they can
dig through and they can look and they
you know they can find out the
and with covid people have that they
have a lot of time to do that
so you know be who you say you are
and do what you say you’re gonna do and
and you’re gonna be able to sleep nights
you know and i think and you know with
the true brand instead of these
celebrity brands and stuff
actually people who’ve gone out there
and done the work for a number of years
we really feel i know we’re going to do
really well
you know i’ve got this iconic brand that
i’ve had for years and
we’re we’re super excited to get in the
market it was just timing for me though
you know
i didn’t want to jump in too early
i think that’s some really sound
branding advice to everybody out there
do the work
be who you say you are and good things
will happen so
farmer tom it has been a pleasure to
have you on the show can’t wait to see
you next time we get together and uh
we’ll have to be in touch good luck uh
everybody you can find farmer tom on
and uh and reach out to him directly thank you for all your
contributions to the community it’s been
a pleasure talking to you all right
chase thanks so much for having me on
and uh keep up the good work buddy we’ve
been we’ve been at this for a long time
it’s been a minute it’s been a minute
maybe maybe next time you’ll see me i’ll
be able to grow a beard i was just a
baby whatever we met so uh
uh maybe i’ll be able to use that beard
oil you’re making
there you go buddy all right thanks so
much for your time chase
and uh best of luck we’ll talk soon talk
soon farm time

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