ExpendaFarms: A Different Kind of Celebrity Cannabis Brand

Santa Cruz-based ExpendaFarms is redefining what it means to be a celebrity cannabis brand.
ExpendaFarms
Courtesy of ExpendaFarms

Founded in 2016 by weed-worshiping West Coast reggae-rock royalty, The Expendables, ExpendaFarms is a holistic and localized alternative to the typical flashy packaging/licensing deal shtick. While most mega-hyped celeb brands throw money at overblown marketing campaigns—often neglecting flower quality in the process—vertically integrated ExpendaFarms lives and dies by their legacy cultivation practices and robust “hand me down” genetics, rendering a clean, terpene-rich flower that meets or exceeds their own strict, self-implemented standards. By establishing a 0.0PPB policy and laidback company culture steeped in lifelong friendship, ExpendaFarms breaks the mold and raises the bar for the next wave of celeb-branded cannabis ventures.

Grassroots

It all started when they were kids. Just a small town group of troublemakers known to cruise Pleasure Point, Geoff Weers (vocals/guitar), Adam Patterson (drums), Raul Bianchi (lead guitar), and Ryan DeMars (bass) have as much history in cannabis as they do in music—or is it the other way around?

Immersed in the quintessential old-school Santa Cruz grower lifestyle from the jump, founding partner and fellow childhood pal Blake Gallick explains that for ExpendaFarms, “It’s all about that legacy mentality – hand me down genetics, information, and knowledge from these old growers. Our grandparents, Cam’s [former band member and founding partner of ExpendaFarms] dad, my uncle … they all had a big influence on cannabis and the direction that we were steered at a young age.”

Their career as a touring band began as teens in the late 90s, and the guys were exposed to a variety of genetics from growers in every corner of California. Gallick says, “It started with backyard shows, colleges, a lot up in Chico, then northern California, the Bay Area, then SoCal … their weed consumption was huge and everybody knew it at the shows. They were passed so many different [kinds of] flower from so many different growers and they were able to be some of the first multi-area testers in the state.”

The resulting sky-high standards for nose, taste, and everything in between shaped what eventually became the status quo for ExpendaFarms.

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

“We’re doing it [at ExpendaFarms] the way we used to do it as a band … In our twenties we would do whatever it took to make sure our shows were successful, even if that meant flyering every Tuesday before the show. We had a map in our band house with areas that every guy had to be responsible for and flyer up,” Weers reminisces.

Continuing their grassroots methods and street team mindset, each partner brings a different skill to the ExpendaFarms table—just like they do with the band. According to Gallick, “the four of them are basically in charge of all product control, making sure everything is third-party tested … and then actually trying and testing it themselves. They are our number one [for] QC.”

While the band doesn’t handle day-to-day tasks in favor of playing and creating music, they are involved top-to-bottom—even going so far as playing acoustic sets at dispensaries. Weers shares the motivation for his die-hard dedication: “I want to be a source of good cannabis for the people. We want to be a trusty place for people to come and get good, sustainably grown, well-practiced/produced stuff that tastes great and is not that bad on the wallet. We want that sweet spot in everything we do.”

So how do they make sure they hit the sweet spot? The answer lies in the cultivation facility.

Video by @shotbyamp

How Do They Do It?

Twenty thousand square feet of greenhouse sits behind a nondescript chain link fence somewhere off the 101 freeway. Former band member and founding partner Cam Hanson’s baby blue Volkswagen Bus is parked out front, filled to the brim with instruments and equipment for a gig later. Nestled between row crops and redwoods in the rolling hills of Aromas, California, ExpendaFarms incubates the next harvests of the brand’s signature strain, Expendaberry—the quintessential “frosty purple nugs” immortalized in their 2004 hit “Bowl For Two.”

Hiding among the sticky flourishes and black leaves, head grower Josh Blake peers through his readers and gives the row a once-over. “These are coming down in the next few days”, he says confidently to himself.

The second-generation, UC Davis-educated horticulturist utilizes an array of regenerative methods to keep the plants pest-free, disease-free, and terpene-rich. While some variables are environmental—“we have good well water from the mountains surrounding us,” Blake says—most are the result of a conscious effort to operate as organically and sustainably as possible. Utilizing “organic pesticides, microbes, and beneficials like ladybugs and Persimilis wasps and lacewings,” he is able to cultivate a living, breathing mini-ecosystem.

Blake continues, “We also add certain beneficial fungi to the soil to help compete with pathogenic pests … like mycorrhiza that helps pull nutrients out of the soil and extend the root systems to keep the plants healthier.” Healthy soil plays a big role in ExpendaFarms cultivation ethos, which is why their signature blend of “coconut fibers, coconut chips, redwood (sometimes), peat, beneficial fungi and minerals” is always mixed in-house. Once the soil completes a life cycle with the plant, it is mixed with fresh soil and reused in the next run.

ExpendaFarms claims the “regenerative” label, “as much as we can,” according to Hanson. However, they do not claim the “organic” label, even though in a practical sense, they are. Gallick explains they “use all OMRI certified organic nutrients and compost teas. If we were tested by the FDA we would pass as organic, although there is nothing to currently certify cannabis farms as ‘completely organic.’” Semantics aside, this “sunkissed flower”—a term they coined—is as clean as it comes.

Affordable, high-quality bud notwithstanding, the Expendables unique team dynamic and relaxed, yet strategic approach to business has made ExpendaFarms a true unicorn among cannabis brands. It may not usher in a new age of conscious celebrity lines just yet, but that doesn’t mean brands and the celebs they represent can’t take notes.

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