WASHINGTON: “Farmer Tom” Lauerman has invited us to tour his five acres of freedom, the “Garden of the Green Sun” – an organic vegetable and marijuana farm in Vancouver, WA.
Farmer, medical marijuana activist and author, Farmer Tom greets us with a big bear hug like a beatific Walt Whitman of Weed in a great bushy white beard, green grower’s cap and black Hawaiian shirt.
Tom is a well known figure on the West Coast cannabis scene. You can regularly find him vending his squash and marijuana at local medical marijuana farmer’s markets, and at high profile events like High Times’ Cannabis Cup and Seattle Hempfest, where he happily poses for photographs and signs copies of his Cannabis Consumer’s Guide, a compendium of pot knowledge that he has amassed over his decades as a pot grower and smoker — a stoner poet “Leaves of Grass.”
Farmer Tom met his wife Paula in San Diego in the 1990s. They fell in love as comrades in arms in those seminal days of the early California medical marijuana movement. She was a massage therapist, and gave him his first massage after a particularly stressful day in the trenches. Although she had known and worked with him in the past, she felt something undeniable when they touched and they have been together ever since.
When we arrive at the farm, a three-hour drive from Seattle that I make with my dog and a fellow MJ News Network reporter, we are treated to cool water sweetened with lemons and entertained with wonderful stories of the early days of the struggle for patient rights, which they recount with passion and fire.
Tom and Paula are fully embedded into this rural southern Washington town, growing organic vegetables as part of a community-supported agricultural cooperative (CSA) alongside crops of organic cannabis. For Farmer Tom it is all about organic. “I grow my vegetables and cannabis the same way. I love growing organic food – organic vegetables and organic cannabis.”
Whether it is by good fortune or good deeds, life’s serendipity has found Tom’s farm ideally situated in Washington, one of only two states with a legal recreational marijuana market (though Oregon just across the Columbia River will likely pass its own recreational law in November, and currently supports a healthy medical marijuana industry for which Farmer Tom supplies product).
Recreational marijuana makes it possible for Farmer Tom to move beyond farmer’s markets and to begin serving the larger commercial marketplace. These days there is a lot of interest in organic cannabis – and in Farmer Tom as a brand icon.
“I just want to save the farm. I just want to feed my family – It doesn’t get any more American than that.”
Tom’s photogenic looks have not gone unnoticed as investors and savvy marketers eye the emerging legal market looking for viable brands. Farmer Tom has recently done several deals, one for a limited series of trading cards, and another for the creation of a full-line of Farmer Tom branded cannabis products. He’s got the looks and the resume to be a household name brand, and in fact, he is one heck of a farmer.
In between rows of impressive organic corn, snap peas, lettuce, squash and tomatoes, the Garden of the Green Sun sports two hoop-houses full of the biggest, bushiest, healthiest looking cannabis plants I’ve ever seen. As a business journalist covering the legal marijuana industry, I’m used to touring indoor grow rooms full of gorgeous indicas and sativas, but nothing I’ve seen compares to the size and impressive girth of these bushes.
As we wind our way through neat rows of well labeled plants all sporting Farmer Tom’s likeness, we inspect Black Knight, OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookie and other popular strains, and even get an up-close look at a rare Asian plant with most unusual leaves.
At the end of our tour, we are given sharp knives and rubber buckets and pointed back to the vegetable rows where we pick our own lettuce, squash, kale and beans. The sun is shining and Paula graciously waters my thirsty snow dog and points us back to the interstate with our bounty.
It’s been a great visit, well worth the long schlep. As we leave, I’m struck at how quintessentially American this agrarian scene is — a small independent farmer growing good organic crops to support his family and community.
Who knows, with cannabis’ new-found legality, Farmer Tom and Paula may turn out to be a modern-day Ma and Pa Kettle success story – hard working farm folks striking it rich, but keeping it real.