When Dave Crockett was growing up in Northern California, there were certain friends he could invite over – and others he couldn't. His parents were growing marijuana. It was a way of life in their mountain community, Crockett recalls.
Today, Crockett is a celebrated grower, breeder, and entrepreneur. His seed company, Crockett Family Farms, is also a third-generation family farm.
Crockett has been growing cannabis – and smoking it – for almost his entire life.
"I was born into it," he says.
When Crockett was eleven years old, he got stoned for the first time. His cousins were all smoking pot, so he gave it a try. It worked.
"I felt it," he says. "Some people say you don't feel it on the first time, but that was not the case with me. I got really, really, really high. I loved it, right off the bat. I've been smoking it ever since."
A Passion for Breeding Cannabis Genetics
After finishing high school, Crockett traveled to Vancouver, British Colombia, where he bought cannabis seeds for the first time. Back home in California, he started crossing strains, creating new phenotypes with different characteristics. He was interested in breeding cannabis strains suited to the Sierra Mountains, the climate where his family was growing outdoors.
The climate wasn't the only thing that made the Sierras ideal for pot growers. The rugged landscape also provided a sense of security.
"Back in the day, generally, we'd be looking for somewhere secluded," Crockett explains on the "Free Weed" podcast.
Growing cannabis was still highly illegal. Even medical marijuana seemed like a pipe dream. But the Crockett family took pride in what they did.
Crockett Family Farms Is Still a Mom-and-Pop Business
Crockett's son Brian manages thousands of square feet of cannabis production. (Crockett loves to brag about him.) The younger kids help out with cleaning and packaging. But being a literal mom-and-pop doesn't mean Crockett is scared of big business coming into the industry.
"I have a lot of friends and family who are afraid they'll lose their brand or their business due to the corporate takeover," he tells podcast host Danny Danko, "but I just keep telling them, you've got to keep putting out a superior product. People will notice it."
Most industrial-scale cannabis grow facilities, Crockett explains, are not producing the same quality as boutique growers. He's optimistic that small-scale cannabis farmers – the kind he grew up with – will survive in an increasingly corporate global industry.
"A lot of industries show mom-and-pop shops can survive and thrive in corporate settings," he says.
It's true. In the alcohol industry, for example, microbreweries have blossomed alongside the global beer behemoths like Coors and Budweiser.
A Crockett Family Farms Partnership
Crockett knows firsthand how family businesses and corporations can be mutually beneficial. In 2008, he met the owners of DNA Genetics, a cannabis seed brand based in Amsterdam.
Crockett was on a flight to Amsterdam when he met writer Mark Haskell Smith. Smith was traveling to the Cannabis Cup to conduct research for his new book. (A few years later, when Smith published Heart of Dankness, he included Crockett in its pages.)
Smith told Crockett he was going to meet the guys from DNA Genetics – the two brothers, Don and Aaron, who had founded DNA. (Get it? D 'n' A.) The brothers had founded the company back when Amsterdam was the world's only legal market. Then they expanded to a global scale.
Last year, DNA Genetics announced a partnership with Tweed, whose parent company, Canopy Growth, is valued at over $10 billion.
So, Crockett is now linked to a publicly-traded global corporation.
Still a Family Farmer at Heart
"Ninety-five percent of everyone involved in our business is family," he says. "When we're winning awards for our genetics, I'm standing up there with my family. My actual family, the people I sit down and have dinner with every night. My wife, my son, my daughters, my cousin."
When Crockett Family Farms participates in the Cannabis Cup, the Crockett family members work the booth. As Crockett's son Brian gets busier managing thousands of square feet of greenhouse space, Crockett has started bringing his young twin daughters to cannabis competitions.
Despite his anti-establishment roots, Crockett is grateful for his partnership with DNA Genetics. Though the company's access to global markets and capital, Crockett was able to bring his cannabis seeds to the masses.
In 2012, DNA Genetics Released Crockett's Tangie Strain
"That's what we got famous for," Crockett recalls.
The strain immediately won awards at the Cannabis Cup. It took the cannabis breeding world by storm. Crockett was flabbergasted.
"I never thought I would be able to be involved in creating a game-changer like this," he says.
With its unmistakable citrus flavor, Tangie revolutionized the Amsterdam breeding scene. There, in the pre-Tangie era, sativa strains had been dominated by Haze genetics. The citrus flavor had been notably absent.
Crockett realized his genetics were perfect for the new concentrate revolution.
In 2012, cannabis concentrates were displacing flower sales, and words like "dabbing" were taking over the stoner lexicon. Tangie fit the bill perfectly. Its citrus notes and flavorful terpenes were ideal for turning into cannabis concentrates.
"As soon as we made it into a concentrate, we knew it was a hit," Crockett says.
Tangie was so popular that other breeders attempted to create knockoffs. Crockett, who is sometimes referred to as "Tangie Man," was flattered.
He crossed it with a Purple Tangie male, creating the Crockett Family Farms Blood Orange phenotype. Crockett Family Farms Blood Orange has similar tangerine-tasting terpenes, so it's similarly well-suited to turning into flavorful concentrates.
Breeding strains for concentrates isn't what Crockett originally had in mind. He doesn't even smoke cannabis extracts very regularly. Ninety percent of the time, he smokes flower, he says. But his son Brian smokes more "hash."
"Maybe it's a generational thing," Crockett tells Cannabis Radio.
Strains Intended for Concentrate Production
In his greenhouses, Brian cultivates acres of Crockett Family Farms Strawberry Banana – another strain that's perfect for turning into extracts.
Even though concentrates are pivotal to Brian's livelihood, he doesn't smoke them exclusively. Sometimes he smokes old school flower, like his dad. Mostly in the morning.
"You don't want to slow yourself down with some hash first thing in the morning," Brian explains, joining his father on the Cannabis Radio podcast.
But even when he smokes flower, Brian sticks to "hashy plants," he says. He loves Crockett Family Farms Strawberry Banana, a cross of his dad's Banana Kush with a Strawberry phenotype.
Crockett is immensely proud of Brian, who is now winning awards of his own.
At a recent Cannabis Cup, Brian entered flower dusted with Crockett Family Farms Strawberry Banana kief. The entry won first place.
Brian is continuing a highly-decorated legacy. Today, the family's genetics have won over a hundred awards.
"Now I go to these competitions, and I see 50 percent are dominated by DNA and Crockett Family Farms," the older Crockett says.
When the family enters the Cannabis Cup and other competitions now, Crockett says, it's more about being part of the community. It's more rewarding, he explains, when he's provided his genetics to other growers who grow those genetics and use them to win their first awards.
"As a genetics company, you've got to win awards, especially when you're not a known company," he explains. Winning the Cannabis Cup introduced his strains to the world.
"Then it was like an avalanche of awards," he says.
Spreading the Knowledge
Today, Crockett's seeds are well known, and he consults to other growers.
Crockett has a soft spot for mom-and-pop operations.
"You can have any type of facility and be a mom-and-pop," he says. "Outdoor is the cheapest and easiest, and you can get really good results." (Outdoor is also his personal favorite way to grow cannabis.) "If you can't afford a greenhouse, you can look for specific genetics that grow really well outdoors in your area. There are very good genetics out there, that grow outside, and can compete with indoor bud."
With the right genetics, outdoor farmers can compete with the corporate "robot grows," Crockett explains.
"If you're a legal grow operation, you look for agricultural land that has good weather," he says. "If you're not legal, you first want to think about security – somewhere nobody would find your crop."
Advice for illegal growers isn't something you hear much in the corporate world. (Cannabis professionals are often eager to distance themselves from the industry's black market roots.) But Crockett isn't afraid of his history, and the industry has celebrated him.
On Wall Street, Crockett's directness may raise some eyebrows.
When DNA Genetics announced their partnership with the multibillion dollar Canadian company Tweed, DNA founder Don was publicly asked about the company's relationship with Crockett.
"Crockett Family Farms is its own thing, and DNA is its own thing," Don said. "[Crockett] needed a platform... so we teamed up and kind of gave him his breakthrough in Europe and also gave him a global platform, but then his genetics speak for themselves."
The DNA brothers are also Crockett's partners on his consulting company.
Although he consults at grows of various sizes, Crockett's advice remains consistent.
"It's all about genetics, man," he says. "It all starts with seeds."
Corporate takeover or not, there will still be seeds. Seeds you can grow outside, with sunshine and water, generation after generation.
It's a way of life Crockett loves. It's also a way of life corporations tend to disrupt.
But he doesn't seem worried.
"I'm going to leave this to my kids," he says.