Growing the Industry: A conversation with Flora Farms’ Mark Buddemeyer and JT Fugere
Missouri’s medical marijuana market is growing rapidly, estimated to bring in over $300 million in revenue for 2022. Statewide, the medical marijuana industry now boasts nearly 7,000 employees credentialed for plant-touching businesses. Growing the Industry looks to highlight and introduce the individuals behind the plants that Missouri’s market is built on.
In 2021, Flora Farms was the state’s third highest-selling cannabis brand by dollar, according to data from BDSA. Flora Farms also garnered recognition from industry operators and patients, being selected as Greenway’s Best of the Industry award for Best Flower Cultivar for their Bubba Fett.
In this edition of Growing the Industry, we speak to Cultivation Directors, Mark (Budd) Buddemeyer and JT Fugere who oversee and manage Flora Farms’ cultivation facility in Humansville, a facility the company says was built from the ground up and designed with cultivation in mind.
Give me some background on you as a person.
Budd: I was born and raised in Kansas City, Mo., and grew up in Raytown before moving to Lee’s Summit where I graduated high school.
Are you married? Do you have kids? I’ve been with my cannabis queen for 4 years and we’ve been best friends since 2004. No children except the 30,000 babies at the facility.
What are your hobbies? Cannabis is a huge chunk of my passion. I enjoy cultivating, consuming, and teaching people about it. Other than that, the outdoors is where my heart is.
JT: Where are you from? Born in California, joined the Army at 18 and moved to Colorado in December 1997.
Are you married? Do you have kids? I am married to Amanda and have 3 kids: Hank 7, Scarlett 12, and Brodie 14.
What are your hobbies? My hobbies are gardening, building cars, motorcycle racing, and disc golf. Anything outside!
Can you give me some professional background?
Budd: I grew up operating heavy equipment for my father’s construction company. I was raised around construction sites, home remodels, and land development. This piqued my curiosity with how things work and how large projects need every step to be precise.
I got into the cannabis industry in 2009 by sweeping floors and helping the dispensary close for the night. Within the first 12 months, I had moved into a management position and was working in the gardens daily. I quickly realized that being in the gardens was my passion. Fortunately, the dispensary and the gardens were attached, and I was able to immerse myself in the sales and cultivation departments simultaneously. After 6 years in Colorado, I made the big jump to Jamaica to work in the emerging cannabis market. There, I developed a 5-acre outdoor cannabis grow with an on-site extraction and distillation lab. Once Missouri’s medical marijuana program was more than a rumor, it was time to head home.
JT: I started in the cannabis industry as an Armed Security Guard, then transitioned to a trimmer and eventually a cultivation assistant. I skipped zero steps on my way up. I started where everybody starts. I eventually became an owner and sold my business to join The Flora Fam. Started in the closet now we’re here!
What came first for you, a passion for plants or cannabis?
JT: Plants came first but marijuana was closely behind. After using marijuana my concentration and drive was solidified. Turning back was not an option. It works so many ways for so many different people.
Budd: I’ve always loved being outdoors. Hiking, camping, being on the lake or in the mountains… Nature has always drawn on my soul. Growing up in the church, I never thought I would be an advocate for the “devils’ lettuce.” At age 22, after dealing with constant digestion issues, I tried cannabis for the first time on a vacation to Vail. I spent an entire week without my typical stomach issues. This was the “Oh Wow” moment for me and there was no turning back.
What does medical marijuana mean to you?
Budd: Medicinal Marijuana has shown me so many positive things, time and time again. From my own personal health revelations, my family opening to it, and even watching RSO heal a stage 4 cancer patient. It’s truly an amazing plant with immeasurable benefits.
JT: Medical marijuana for me is a healthier choice to western medicines that are addicting, over-prescribed and generally not healthy. The appeal for me was when I witnessed what it did for infants with seizures. Drugs are pharmaceutically compounded; my medicine comes from a seed.
What information can you give me about your grow method?
Budd: Our primary focus is hydroponic gardening. This allows for maximum control of plant health while reducing out nutrient waste.
JT: A collaborative approach to science-based growing using a crop-steering method.
Tell me about your genetics.
Budd: It all starts with the arduous task of pheno-hunting. The process of selecting new cultivars can take up to 6-9 months, and you still might not get the strain you want in the end. Our massive strain library consists of over 60 cultivars with a multitude of variations and originations.
What is the biggest obstacle you face with a grow like this?
Budd: Supply chain issues are an increasing concern with the cannabis industry. With the explosive growth in the cannabis sector, agriculture suppliers are struggling to keep up with the demands for cultivators.
JT: Maintaining consistency can be a very real challenge in a facility this size.
What lessons have you learned from day 1 to now?
JT: It takes a team. Not a single grower can do this solo.
Budd: Consistency is king.
What are some pet peeves you have related to cannabis; growing, knowledge, or otherwise?
Budd: Late, Lazy, or don’t listen.
JT: When someone yells “it’s 4:20” down the hallway. LOL. More seriously though, my biggest pet peeve is people believing everything they read on a forum and accepting it as science.
What’s your favorite cannabis cultivar and why?
Budd: It’s a toss-up between Cobalt Fire and Silver Ghost. I’m a little biased to these since I spent so much time developing them. If I had to pick, it’d be Cobalt Fire. The distinct flavor of the Blueberry Headband combined with the THC kick of Gift of Fire gives me the perfect balance.
JT: I have always really respected and looked up to Bodhi as a breeder and his Blue Lotus is one of my favorites of all time. It’s a blueberry x snow lotus cross. Snow lotus being blockhead x afgooey. It’s an Indica dominant strain with some real punch.
In your opinion, what’s the best way to consume cannabis?
JT: I think edibles are great and love solventless products. Flower will always be my “go to” lady. I love you, Mary Jane.
Budd: Daily. I got really heavy into dabs for a couple of years, but I eventually circled back to flower. To me, there’s just no replacing a big bunch of beautiful buds…say that 3 times fast.
What makes good flower?
Budd: Good flower starts with love. I know its cliché and corny, but it’s true. When every step in the process is followed with care, you end up with a final product that stands out over the rest. From the proper vegetative and flower conditions to holding the ideal drying/curing environment, all phases matter. When you skimp on any of these steps, you will fall short of perfection every time.
JT: Love. Growing marijuana is a huge commitment and requires love, dedication, and patience.
What can we expect from Flora in 2022?
Budd: New, amazing cultivars. Crazy terpene profiles and some Flora Farms exclusive strains.
JT: Bringing more fire to our amazing patients/customers. Really looking forward to recreational use getting approved by the people of Missouri.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
Budd: The fewer the variables, the greater chance of success.
JT: Awards become corroded. Friends gather no dust. If you’ve got time to do it twice, you have time to do it right.