Words by The Birdheye View
Photos by Martei Korley
The Birdheye View is a journey into cannabis culture as seen through the eyes of Jamaican musician and herbalist Christopher “Birdheye” Gordon. Each month, Birdheye explores a different avenue of ganja, as he seeks out the best strains, grow competitions and marijuana travel destinations, and updates us on the latest in marijuana reform and technology.
Let’s start on a high by venturing to the most revered ganja area in all of Jamaica: Orange Hill, Westmoreland. The Birdheye View is on the ganja trail to visit the premier licensed master grower known as Mr. Junior Gordon. I call him the Undisputed King of Orange Hill.
The sun was out for reverence, as our smoke-filled Quattro quietly cruised to the Tender Buds Farm, an authorized marijuana company known for producing the best marijuana of the highest quality. It is a 400-acre property in the valley of Westmoreland. An unusual welcome party of goats, turkeys and guinea fowls greeted us as we arrived. It reminded me of a Texan ranch of sorts. They roam unharmed and freely. They are the happiest set of turkeys on Thanksgiving.
Lets take a trod down memory lane. Stay with I, seen.
Junior and I met during the Stepping High Festival in Negril in March, 2016. I simply uttered, “Congratulations on your High Times Cup.” He replied with utmost gratitude, and offered me his newest strain, called G4H. “I want you to be the first to sample it,” he said, as he passed me a wonderful stem with some hefty buds. The strain went on to claim the top prize at the event. Recently, he returned to the main stage by winning the Ganjamaica Cup at the Rastafari RootzFest held in Negril in December.
“Greetings, my brother!,” Junior said as we reunited on his property in Orange Hill. It was a most appropriate salutation. We share the same surname, and a love for the herbs — the Ganja Gordons.
“Lets take a walk, family.” We made our way to the smallest of Tender Buds’ many fields. It consists of about 500 plants… approximately. Junior doesn’t count the plants. So it’s a high guess, really.
The icebreaker turned into a reunion as I quickly recognized the fragrance of the freshly-flowering G4H. Aren’t you curious about the name? Thought so. Interestingly, this exquisite Jamaican indica was named by Junior’s eldest daughter: “G4H” is an acronym for “Good for Health.” The green buds, with their white-haze trichomes, popped perfectly against the rich, orange dirt.
“I don’t plant directly into the [orange] dirt,” Junior explained. “As you see, I dig a hole and fill it with my own super soil mixture.” This is done before clones are transplanted. Despite growing for three decades, Junior continues to innovate his grow and breeding techniques to produce a more potent harvest. He uses only organic amendments such as coir, earthworm castings and fishmeal, amongst others.
“It is hard to find the amendments you need for the soil in Jamaica,” Junior says. “I have to basically ship everything in. I create a more aerated soil so the roots can travel better and the soil is not that hard.”
He is a son of the orange-dirt marijuana mecca of Jamrock. His childhood days were spent as a rural island boy, not far from his current business operation. Junior was introduced to the plant by two of his friends at Clarendon College. He eventually migrated to the U.S. to complete his schooling in Connecticut. His love for the herb would take him throughout the country — Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Cali — giving him a wide range of experiences in the ganja field, so to speak.
Junior’s zeal to share this knowledge he’s collected seeps through like sweat on the back of a farmer. He is often called upon to help inform those seeking their place in Jamaica’s burgeoning legal ganja industry. “Knowledge that doesn’t share is no knowledge at all, my father always told me. No one else knows what you were doing, no one else can carry it on. I have no problem sharing.”
According to the expert grower, it would be unwise to stick to the same method or techniques for 30 years. After all, the type of genetics have changed significantly. I agree that the Jamaica sunshine, soil and water does give our ganja a palatable and distinctive taste. But our average yield does not produce the consistent quality and quantity of a global standard. “If you’re still doing today what you were doing 35 years ago, you’re lost,” Junior explains. “Even ganja today and five years ago is a big difference. You have to accept the changes, and get with the new program. If you don’t, you will be left behind. Your product will not go to the market.”
And what of the legendary lambsbread and sativa Jamaica is so renowned for?
“Everything has been cross pollinated over the years, because of the open-air breeding,” Junior says. “When you walk into someone’s field, you’ll see five, six phenotypes. If you hear anyone say they have 100% lambsbread or the old sativa that was in Jamaica before… you won’t find it. It does not exist.”
Evidently, you cannot start in the legal ganja industry on a small budget. Junior stresses the importance of having solid investor(s). He has been growing legally on the island for a few months now, one of the first farmers fully licensed by Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority. As I asked, “How was the licensing process,” it was obvious I posed a tough question. He sighs deeply. It was a tedious path. “What about those who wish to start?!” He advocates that ganja co-op groups are the best chance for small farmers to become legit cannabis cultivators. Unity is Strength, Rastas.
Holy Mother of Cannabis! After a hop over some fences and a short trek through a clutter of Cassia trees, we came upon a rassclaat field of tremulous beauty! It was a heavenly sight. Behold the Field of Champions. Here is where Junior grows the indica dominant G4H, and the original High Times Cup winner, APM — short for All People Medicine.
This is my favorite by Mr. Gordon. The APM is a hybrid stain with a 50/50 ratio. Its majestic statue and radiant purple stems have more than great looks. And by purple, I mean 100% purple on some of the phenotypes. The APM is testing at over 25% THC. Medically, it is producing great results as part of groundbreaking research on prostate cancer on the island. I personally love the overall profile of the plant, and what it represents for Jamaica’s industry.
My admiration for it even led me to Junior’s U.S. farm, in the hills of California, where I had the privilege of seeing this crop at harvest. My Ganja God! These were the biggest marijuana plants I have ever seen. They stood about 12 feet tall and six feet wide with buds half the size of my face! I could build a treehouse in one of them. It’s a great reminder of the old.
I wondered why? Jahson Dixon is a part of the California Cannabis Company. He is Junior’s right arm. “APM grows larger in Cali because of the higher altitude with more sunlight; 3 to 4 months depending on when planted,” he says. This is Jahson’s first year of apprenticeship. He oversees APMs for Mr. Gordon’s Overseas Garden. “He is a excellent teacher with plenty of knowledge,” Jahson says of his mentor. “He has very good communication skills and loves to share his enthusiasm.”
As the sun made a smooth descent, we watched two of Junior’s employees spray caterpillar repellent to a reggae rhythm. Skankin steady through each row of the hectares of green goddesses. Funny enough, the spliffs glued to their lips resembled the massive cruise ships that dock nearby in Montego Bay.
Junior is proud of his team both yard and abroad. Truly a disciple of the plant, this is the culmination of his life’s work, having spent nearly 30 years in the business. “Every day is like the first day,” Junior says. “I just love it, man. It’s never about just the money for me. I have a passion for this. It’s hard work, but this is something I will do every day of my life until I can’t do it no more.”
The final gasp of daylight was shadowed by thick rain clouds. The mosquitoes came singing immediately. You don’t want to feel them bites. As soon as the sun descends, mosquitoes sense our body heat and attack. So, with this island knowledge, we returned to the extraction room for shelter. Westmoreland suffers from drought at times. Junior circumvents the shortage of water with miles of PVC pipes for irrigation to channel in brackish water. This water is excellent for plants. Another advantage of Orange Hill.
“You bring the blessings with you!” a worker shouted as we made our way out of the fields. On cue, the heavens opened and poured the well-needed rain. As the Good 4 Plants showers played Dinki Mini on the zinc roof, I blazed the most recent crop of Good 4 Health. My brain danced.
There is more. Junior decides to LargeUp a round of Silver Haze joints by sprinkling Sour Diesel, Blue Dream and Guerrilla Glue Kief in a ragamuffin #saltbae style. The terpenes of the Silver Haze resembles the old-time sativa we know in Jamaica.
We began to make our descent from the mesosphere. You know what they say. Times high… I mean… times FLY when you having some good weed. LOL. That’s the inner voice. The true Ganjasseurs can attest.
As a departing gift, Junior gave us some pre-release vape pens by Leaf of Life, filled with CO2 cannabis concentrates. What a delicious and clean taste of the future. The demand for concentrates has been on a steady rise, even in Jamaica. I would say that it’s way more popular since I was introduced to dabbing with Tony “Terps” Verzura and Marcus “Bubbleman” Richardson three years ago.
The health benefits, medical dosage, purity and ability to mobilize without being conspicuous make it inevitable that this will soon become the main choice of consumption on the island, surpassing even the ubiquitous spliff and chalice. There is no stopping concentrates. There are even private dab parties happening in the higher circles. It’s the way of the global ganja industry. Jamaica will have to get on board.
Real Talk. Junior Gordon’s Tender Buds Farm is the most promising sign of a prosperous future for the Caribbean Ganja Industry. It’s been many moons since Chris Blackwell plastered images of Bob Marley with a big-head spliff around the world. It was the Catch-a-Fire that saw herbs take its rightful place on posters and cover pages all over the world. Today, we enter into the era Peter Tosh called for on “Legalize It.” The global marijuana industry attained an unprecedented growth of USD $1billion in 2016, according to Forbes Magazine. Now it’s time for Jamaica, through the Cannabis Licensing Authority, to enter the marketplace.
According to both major Jamaican newspapers, there has already been three provisional licenses issued out of 106 applicants last year. There is even a fourth in the wings that missed the first batch based on ownership requirements. The CLA rules state that all cannabis operated entities must have a Jamaican citizen as the majority shareholder. So far it’s a small percentage but the list is set to increase shortly. If you doubt the CLA, then rest assured. Will you too join the club of licensees? Along with Mr. Gordon, let us bring Jamaica’s tranquility and healing, our “All People’s Medicine,” otherwise known as ganja, to the world.
On a High note, I am the Bird-Heye-View, as in bird’s high view from a bird’s eye view. You may need to be smoking to spell my name correctly.
#stayhighstayfly #givethanks #birdheyeview