Bud, Sweat & Tears
By James Bridges
“A lot of who and how I am today is because of my upbringing and living on a farm.”
Jason was speaking about his upbringing. A foundation of experience that would one day catapult both Jason and Avis to coming ever so closely to that nirvana which we all seek. The type of feeling that allows you to embrace your strengths, balance your weaknesses with your partners strengths, and accomplish great things no matter how tall that mountain may seem.
Bud Sweat & Tears is locally owned and operated by Jason and Avis. The couple has dedicated most of their adult lives working for corporate America. Both with a proven track record of creating efficiencies and improving quality standards.
Life on a farm to many is something that could easily be romanticized. Especially to ones that have never operated or lived on one. “I couldn’t tell you a 9/16 from a 1/2-inch wrench when I moved to the farm as a boy.” Jason was reflecting on the earliest times on that family farm. “My uncle would call out to my 4-year-old nephew to go grab the wrench. Unlike myself, this little guy would bring back the exact wrench that my uncle needed.” Jason described how he felt at that moment that he really needed to learn some things. It didn’t take him long to learn all the intricacies of working on a farm, and eventually ended up running his uncle’s entire farm.
“There is no such thing as a weekend, or you know just working weekdays, when it comes to a farm. It is no different when you are cultivating cannabis. When I am at the farm, I work till the lights go out. I’m the first one up the next morning. I don’t think you’ll find anybody that works harder than a farmer. We won’t go and enjoy life until the work is finished. That’s a way of life I picked up from farming.”
“These girls out here,” Avis pointed over her shoulder. “These girls are our boss. Ultimately, we don’t do anything until the ladies have been taken care of. They are the ones that approve for us to have a night out on the town.” I glanced over at the beautiful flowering plants as she explained. “I am at the grow 7 days a week. There is no such thing as a 5:00 quitting time, no sick days, or vacation days in farming-life.”
While Avis grew up as a city girl, she has always respected farmers and recognized that it’s a way of life. “If you think about a farmer, people know farming and hard work go hand-in-hand. I don’t think that we, as cannabis-farmers, receive that sort of same status.”
Avis brings up an interesting question. “Does the national farming community give respect to the dedication, education, and progression of cannabis cultivation methods?” I do not possess the data nor claim this as fact. However, in my opinion, which derives from the opinions of many cannabis farmers and some that are not, is that the respect level to cannabis farms remains minute in comparison.
Most farms of this level are “family” farms. That is just fine and dandy with this couple. While speaking with them, I was able to grasp an overwhelming sense of positive flow. The two have not only discovered an efficient and prosperous way to cultivate good clean medicine, they figured out a way to make this a part of their family life.
It’s rather unique to find something that should not work and witness it actually succeed and exceed expectations. The couple works as an efficient machine that consists of patterns and puzzles only known by Jason and Avis. Some might say only the closest of souls could achieve this together.
The couple realized quickly they worked extremely well with one another when they were able to drive in their own lanes, in a manner of speaking. They play off each other’s strengths and balance each other’s weaknesses fluidly. While neither have things they “wouldn’t do” their talents naturally align them to specific jobs.
For instance, Jason is the ‘muscle and brute force’ at the farm – construction projects, fixing building or equipment issues, and he’s the one you will find monkeying up and down the racks a million times. While Avis is the ‘data queen’, she keeps the farm compliant and knows all the numbers. She focuses on ways to keep a room full of dirt – exceptionally clean and takes on the meticulous aspects of the business. Together, they bounce off each other to identify the best workspace efficiencies and workflows. Genetics brought into the farm, vendors they select to work with, or dispensaries they choose to have represent their brand is always a joint decision.
“As the data queen, I’m a big fan of having procedures and tracking data.” Avis describes her satisfaction with organization and having the information in front of her, “When we are ready to expand, we have standard operating procedures. Our SOP’s document all our processes and the different stages of harvesting. These exist for us to reference back to and forward-looking for when we hire a staff, to be able to say this is exactly how to do any portion of a harvest successfully.” These SOP’s have been created through many of our own lessons learned, as well as from some of our trusted industry-experts, and our mentor.
If I were a home builder, the first thing that I would do if I had the opportunity to enter a new acquaintance’s home, would be to look at how it is built. Specific little details that would indicate whether or not this person should be allowed to swing a hammer. I asked both Jason and Avis if they do the same when going to other grow operations.
“When I look at other grows, I feel like there’s things that I learn that could work for us and there’s other things that wouldn’t. If another grower has already learned a lesson and shares that story with us – we are happy to not repeat that same mistake. When talking with them, there is knowledge that we share. I am always looking to see if another farm is in compliance, help them to improve their marketing strategy, or give tips on processes. We both love giving pointers to how our growmies can protect themselves or improve based on our experience.”
Avis left me with a strong sense of solidity in her words, “Cleanliness and preventative maintenance are two important keys to success. Simple things like using a sterile room to disinfect your shoes and clothing before entering, wearing rubber gloves anytime buds are being handled, and even limiting visitors that come into the flower space.”
“While we always learn from other grows, one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is to be transparent before another grower enters your building or you enter theirs. It is surprising that farmers would invite you into their grow only to realize after you walk in, they have been fighting an outbreak with mites, thripes, powdery mildew, or another transferrable issues. We believe as a cultivator you should always speak up before exposing another farmer to a known issue that could be easily transported back to their farm. We understand this happens throughout the state and is often a novice mistake of not asking before entering – Are you experiencing any issues in your personal or commercial grow? Vendors that visit our farm, we always request that we are the first (or only) farm they visit that day”
In respect to being inside others grows, Jason added, “I’m looking for wins, but I’m also that checkbox type of person. You know… is that HVAC set up right? If they’re going to have problems with that, how do we fix it? Can we make this more efficient? Why did that not work? In the past several years since medical became legal in Oklahoma, I’ve been in other grows at least 3 or 4 times a month. It’s a beautiful thing, I’ll ask those questions of wins and losses. We talk them over with one another. We learn.”
Avis commented that “Even late at night Jason will be on social media. He will ask me a question about something random that we are doing that works well inside the grow. I’m like… ‘Why are you caring about that right now – it’s 11:00pm!’ Then Jason says something like… ‘These guys are looking for a solution and what we found might help.’ He definitely has a passion for helping others succeed.”
Avis continued, “Going into business with someone that you’re dating was scary. If we’re not good business partners then that affects our entire life. That could either be the end of us or that could be the best thing ever. We had a really solid relationship when we started this business. We’ve been dating for almost eight years and plan to get married on our upcoming anniversary.”
The couple have essentially opened their relationship as part of what’s at risk. In order to balance this risk, to achieve the proper amount of reward, and maintain positive flow – a solid understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses must be created. Once the Blackburn’s collectively connected those strengths and weaknesses, they were able to focus on the emotional side of things. In other words, they’ve got each other’s back.
“When we were going through and trying to figure out a business name, we recognized there were some catchy ideas that other companies had come up with.” Jason remembered watching the cannabis community start in Oklahoma. “While we wanted a catchy name, we also wanted our name to have a meaning behind it. One of us would come up with an idea, and the other would say ‘eh’ – so we started a list, that way when there was a name one of us thought of, it had a place to be referred back to” The two would go back and forth with names. They kept an ongoing list. Almost as if they were debating naming their soon to be newborn children. Finally, it came down to a deadline to choose.
“The deadline for a name was approaching,” Avis was laughing. “That weekend was when we needed to make the decision so we could file. Jason rattled off ‘what do you think bud, sweat and tears’? Without a word, I jumped on the computer. He asked me ‘Are you going to add it to the list?’ I told him, no that’s IT! There was no question. We purchased the domain and LLC immediately, and that following Monday we were able to file our OMMA paperwork. Now here we are!” Their company name represents what they produce, the hard work that they put in, and the emotions or occasional tear.
As I am noticing a sense of worry about some unanswered questions, I wanted to know how they felt about the specific evolution of the cannabis industry in Oklahoma.
Jason pleaded, “I would love for there to be some sort of growers alliance, that is statewide. We need to work alongside one another. We need to come together and protect our craft brands and have a way to separate the boutique from the mass production or outdoor quality.”
During my visit, I was able to fully understand and get a sense of the passion it must require to gain loyalty from a patient, as a medicine provider. It’s quite remarkable. There are specific strains that the power couple from Bud, Sweat and Tears cultivate that have such lasting and medicinal values for it’s consumers that they seek them out from across the state. When was the last time you called Paul Ehrlich, creator of chemotherapy, to ask for the best line of radioactive juice? Or even someone from the Sackler family to ask why they are perfectly content with being responsible for so many atrocities, such as creating OxyContin?
This cannabis community is becoming exactly what it was meant to be in my point of view. A community for the community. A little Bud, Sweat and Tears can go a long way when you have a ton of people alongside you ready to do their part.
Both Jason and Avis can be an inspiration for many. It is possible to work alongside one another as a family unit. It is okay to recognize one another’s strengths and weaknesses. It is ok and can be perfectly satisfying to join all of those worlds as they intertwine and grow to its natural evolving self.
You can learn more about this power couple and the journey of Bud, Sweat and Tears on their website at bud-sweat-tears.com or on Instagram @bud.sweat.tears