In a location hidden in a forest in the Dutch region of Brabant, something rather wonderful happened. It was the third edition of the HomeGrown Cup – an annual event that draws homegrowers together to celebrate their harvest.
I was lucky enough to attend the event last year as a guest – this year I had skin in the race. I was entered into the outdoor category. Multiple categories were covered including outdoor, indoor, hash and concentrates.
The principle of the cup is beautiful in its simplicity. Enter a category and you get to be a judge of that category. Samples are distributed early in the afternoon and then score cards are to be completed by a deadline that evening. Scores are processed and the award ceremony wraps up the festivities. This gives contestant/judges time to inspect their selection of samples. It’s free to enter, but you must supply enough of your submission for the judges to sample. Sponsors generously donated to cover the cost of renting the venue, food and drinks.
I arrived by foot, passing through a misty park that housed an impressive collection of trees from around the world. Frost was forming on the branches and spider webs, adding to the magically mysterious atmosphere.
The venue was a private event space that has been around since the 70s. A couple of plump chickens were milling around the parking lot.
I entered the venue and gave my name to the doorman. Being on the list, I was directed to the desk that collected the samples. The HomeGrown Cup team were relaxed, and friendly conversations were had along the way. I took a spot with a couple of guys representing Dutch Passion Seed Company, who were one of the sponsors.
They had a challenge ahead. They had entered three categories: outdoor, indoor (mostly sativa) and indoor (mostly indica). This meant that they had to sample 44 different strains. I was slightly overwhelmed with the 14 strains that I had to work my way through so was interested to how they would approach this with just two people.
The samples are judged on three criteria – look, smell and taste. So the densest, smelliest buds will rise to the top. Personally, the effects are the #1 priority for me, but it would be impossible to give a fair score for effects with so many entries in just one afternoon.
That said, the judging criteria were relevant and realistic given the time we had. Besides, this was more than about who can grow the best weed. This was a celebration bringing like-minded folks together to socialise and enjoy the bounties of their harvest in a relaxed and friendly environment.
Growing cannabis can be a lonely pastime for many. As the topic is taboo, many people keep their activities a secret and like all secrets, this can be a burden to carry. This cup was the ideal place for people to openly talk about their grow techniques (and more) without fear of being judged – although technically they were being judged, but you know what I mean.
Cannabis has many therapeutic effects. These are not just restricted to the consumption. Caring for your plant or plants gives people a purpose and many believe it is just as therapeutic as the consumption itself. On top of that, there is the social aspect which has been savagely gutted through years of prohibition. This forces cannabis growers into the shadows, carrying a burden of guilt and shame.
The HomeGrown Cup model allows people to forget about having to hide their passion, at least for one night. I would love to see such events pop up in all communities around the world, where peers can meet and have fun judging each other’s produce.
I don’t combust my weed, and as if by magic, a remarkable glass vaporizer appeared on the table. Known as the “De Verdamper, it’s a Heath Robinson looking contraption that plugs into the mains. You draw from one of the glass pipes and the vapour of your ground herb is pulled through a jar of water at the base, rather like the love child of a bong and a desktop vape. It looks very Dutch and I’ve never experienced a nicer way to vaporize marijuana. The water cools and adds humidity to the tasty clouds of vapour.
Throughout the evening various people came and went from our table. One person was a woman who looked just like a teacher. In fact, it turned out she was a teacher. She had been growing cannabis for a long time and produces concentrated oil to treat herself (I did not pry as to why) and her family. She teaches kids aged 12-16 and keeps her activities secret from neighbours and colleagues. Having read about the cup, she decided to enter the outdoor category. She said she wasn’t nervous about coming as everyone she has met who consumes cannabis is nice. About the concept she told me, “We have no need for a harvest festival anymore, you can buy all the vegetables you need from the supermarket. This event fills that void and brings people together.”
Speaking of consuming cannabis… my friends next to me were getting stuck into their mammoth task of judging three categories. They were smoking European style “spliffs” which mix cannabis and tobacco in a joint. They had a production line going. Holding a joint in one hand, the guy next to me was busy constructing four joints at the same time whilst multiple joints were piling up in the ashtray. They soldiered on like true heroes.
I was vaping my samples with a portable vaporizer from Storz and Bickel called “The 6”. After scoring them for looks and smell, I set to work testing the taste – just a small amount at a time in my vape. It was a lot more tidy and healthy than the smoke billowing joint factory that I was sitting next to. I finished testing my 14 samples in 2.5 hours which gave me a chance to mingle and take some photos of the evening. I still had battery in my mighty vape to spare, which was nice.
I met a guy who was giving away packets of cannabis-infused sweets going by the brand name of The Candy Man. They were made from extracts of the indica strain Lavender. As such products are not legal in Holland, there was no mention of the cannabinoid content of the sweets like there would be in a US dispensary. Cannabis coffeeshops would display their selection of sweets around the weed booth and list them on the menu.
It’s great that “medibles” are available to Dutch cannabis consumers, but it’s sad to see that consumers don’t get any information or guarantees as to what they purchase. A prime example of how the end result of prohibition means the situation is less safe for the consumer.
Anyhow, I decided to test them at a later date. I did, and they were quite potent. I wouldn’t advise taking them before a day’s work.
The Dutch Passion crew were done in 4.5 hours, which was pretty darn impressive if you ask me. That equates to sampling one strain every six minutes.
Throughout the event, food was served and all soft drinks were free. Table service was operating and the waitress seemed to have the perfect recommendation for teas as the day progressed.
This year’s HomeGrown Cup was so well-organized that the scores were processed a whole hour ahead of schedule. The awards for all categories were announced to much delight and revelry.
I spent the afternoon sipping tea, vaping dried cannabis flowers and chatting with nice people. I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to spend a cold, wet and foggy Saturday in December.
The 2017 HomeGrown Cup was a perfect example of how cannabis goes beyond healing individuals and can heal communities, too.
Hardly the menace to society we had been led to believe.
All Images Courtesy of Bill Griffin.