What I received from Bountiful Farms was more than generous. The handsome wooden box, delineated with openings containing four pheno strains, and the question, which one would I choose if I were in charge of this quandary? Obviously, I’m not the one who would make that decision. But wouldn’t it be nice if my written notes on the flavor profiles could be taken into consideration and appreciated?
Well, that seems like the answer to the question.
I chose the Rainbow Belts 3.0 Pheno #22. It’s teeming with vaporous notes, crumpled salt-slicked seashells, crisp brioche toast soldiers bathed in molten brown butter, oozing with thimbles of green Chartreuse VEP and tangles of stone ground mustard at the finish. This is the essence of what I consider to be a most magnificent flower, perfectly cured with opulent droplets of pulled sugar and wisps of sticky Southern summer heat. The inexplicable scent of pluff mud, but only for a second, leads to deeper notes of roasted brown tea across my palate. The high/stone is quite cerebral, and then it becomes very emotional.
Each draw into my lungs brings an extremely personal experience. Every hit comes easily, and that one offers a candy-colored kaleidoscope smearing over your view and scope like Vaseline applied over a motion picture camera’s lens.
Warning: This is not cannabis for the neophyte or first-timer. It’s just more potent than most on the open market. But to a well-seasoned imbiber, Pheno #22 is truly pleasure-driven stuff. This is the brand of (kind) flower that lends itself well to cannabis-infused beverages or simply my Stonedware purse pipe for a quick hit. There are amazing terpenes that expose themselves to the scent-sensitive… So please pay attention before firing it up!
If a simple cannabis cocktail were in the works, I’d use my Levo2 to decarb and then infuse some of this pheno into raw honey to speed me on my way to the other rainbow over yonder. Maybe add to your steamy pot of sophisticated essences some perfumed Jasmine Tea? Check your neighbor’s raw honey infused with an infusion of Rainbow Belts? That pheno? Oh, yes. A dosage of freshly juiced European cucumbers. Mix together and serve over a large cube of ice?
Maybe some Chinola floated over the top?
Are you reading my mind? Yes, yes, yes….
And what about that alley cat sitting on my lap? Only she knows for certain.
Warren Bobrow: Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to the cannabis industry? It certainly is an enlightening industry.
Zach Taylor: I’ve been around plants my entire life. When I was growing up, my father had an interior plant-scaping business, which is what initially sparked my passion for agriculture. My father would design various displays both from an aesthetic perspective as well as agricultural (i.e., which plants will thrive under certain conditions). This combination of art and science is parallel to what I do today as a grower. My father passed when I was 11, and if he were still alive today, I have no doubt we would have gone into the cannabis business together. He was the most knowledgeable plant whisper I know. Additionally, when I learned about cannabis and the life-changing benefits it can provide, I developed a passion for the human-cannabis relationship that has only gotten stronger each day.
I’ve been part of the medical cannabis industry since 2007, when I began growing as a caregiver under the initial medical cannabis statute in Colorado. I was one of the first 18-year-olds to receive a medical license in the state at the time and was one of the first 5,000 licensed employees in the country. Before Bountiful Farms, from 2011 to 2017, I managed cultivation at a large cannabis cultivator in Colorado, which provided me with a great foundation and a good understanding of growing at scale.
Today, I am the Chief Cultivation Center at Bountiful Farms in Massachusetts. We have a medical dispensary in Natick, MA, a 40,000-square-foot cultivation center in Lakeville, MA, and more than 100 retail partners who carry our products. I joined the Bountiful Farms team upon its inception in 2018 and am proud to have had the opportunity to grow it from the ground up and have been able to control the design of the space and how we operate. I equate it to a chef who’s working in a kitchen that they’ve designed – I’m fortunate to have that opportunity.
WB: Please tell me about your company. What sets you apart from your competition? What kind of strains are you doing right now? Please tell me about the pheno-hunting exercise.
ZT: Bountiful Farms is a commercial grower who focuses on craft cannabis, and we’re proud to be one of the most awarded growers in the state. We had the honor of winning “The Best Cannabis in Massachusetts” two years in a row in a People’s Choice blind taste test, which is pretty cool.
At Bountiful Farms, we’re focused on being “devoted to better,” and what I think sets us apart is our artisanal, “hand-made” approach. From hand trimming our flower to hand packaging, everything we do is completely hands-on. With a focus on quality and consistency, we look at the “whole plant” and all aspects of the plant, including how it looks, how it smells, the dry and the cure, how it smokes, and finally, the high itself. There is so much more to cannabis than just THC levels and price points – it’s important to look at the mind, body, and soul of the entire plant, and for us, it’s the unique combination of art and science.
One of the most important parts of our cultivation process is our pheno hunt, which is the process we use to find the best strains with the most desirable characteristics that we’re looking for.
At Bountiful Farms, in 2020, we conducted one of Massachusetts’ largest pheno hunts, beginning with 4000 seeds with superior genetic lineage from 30 breeders to help select the best strains to release in the market. In 2022, we went at it again, this time asking for some assistance from our customers. It’s selective agriculture, and for us, it is essentially planting a bunch of seeds, all of which showcase specific characteristics and qualities, and then deciding which phenotypic variation is the best representation of that strain. When we’re hunting, we’re looking at the whole picture – cannabinoid content, terpene profile, potency, color, the overall health of the plant, the yield, etc. At the end of the day, this means we’re proud of the genetics that we’re putting out into the market.
With our new Bounti Hunters at-home pheno hunt kits, we’re inviting our community and consumers to join us in this hunt and asking them to weigh in on our next strain, more specifically, the pheno that they feel best represents the genetic potential. In the kit, we are providing kits with two 1/8s of the same strain but with different phenos and asking people to provide feedback on each via a survey. We’re dedicated to innovation and education, and the best weapon against stigma or misconception is information and knowledge. That is really what our Bounti Hunters kit is all about.
We’ve always tried to elevate cannabis to the same level of scientific sophistication as other agricultural plants, and we recently opened a tissue culture lab at our cultivation center with the goal of genetic preservation and viroid-free tissue. Tissue culture is where our industry should be headed, and as growers of an agricultural plant, we’ve seen firsthand the devastation viruses and phenotypic plasticity can have on any crop, and our goal is to alleviate these variables in order to bring the best quality product to consumers. Without viroid-free plants, the cannabis sativa species is in jeopardy, and we could lose a huge percentage of the genetic lineage that helps make up the strains we all love, so this is hugely important to us and our industry.
WB: When was the first time that you discovered the plant? How old were you? Do you remember who you were with?
ZT: I began growing as a caregiver at an early age because I saw the life-changing benefits of the plant not only for myself but for my patients. My first patient was my best friend’s mom, who suffered from lupus, and to smoke with “Lady” was one of my favorite pastimes.
WB: What are your six and twelve-month goals? Do you have a mentor? Who?
ZT: We are always looking to innovate, experiment, and educate, so we’ll continue to do that in the coming months. And we’re constantly working on popping others’ gear as well as some of our own whilst trying to grow and produce the best possible strains for our consumers.
My mentor is my 90-year-old grandfather, who has taught me, amongst many things, two key components/ philosophies to live by: treat others how you want to be treated and never compromise or be afraid of failure – “chase your dreams.” We are all students/stewards of the plant, so I am learning something new every day.
WB: What is your passion?
ZT: Outside of my family and my new baby, it may sound cliché, but I am living my passion every day with the work I get to do. I work with such an amazing community of people who all have a mutual love and respect for the plant, and I couldn’t ask for a better job. In fact, almost 18 years in, I do not see this as a job but as a way of life.
Separate from cultivation, some people also find it interesting that I have a passion and appreciation for fashion. When I’m not wearing scrubs at the cultivation center, you can find me in a funky hat or pair of boots, and I love creating my own custom jackets. There’s something really cool about being able to express yourself through fashion.
Photo Credit: Bountiful Farms