“We grow for people who want to get excited about a really high-quality product.”
For a company that’s classified as a microbusiness by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, RiverRun Gardens has an oversized footprint in the state’s green culture and economy.
For starters, there is the company’s co-founder Ed DeSousa, who has been an effective and outspoken advocate for sensible regulations since long before his current business existed, and even before the Bay State had a framework for recreational cannabis. From the importance of social equity to the unfairness of community host agreements for cannabis companies, he’s always a reliable voice cutting through industry nonsense. That proclivity applied on my recent trip to the RiverRun cultivation in Newburyport.
“The problem right now is we’re selling Kobe beef for hot dog prices.” Before he and Director of Operations Will Ried showed me around, we spoke briefly about plummeting prices, and how the tailspin even impacts the likes of their outfit which is known for its superlative flower. DeSousa continued …
“People are just finally coming out of the cannabis closet and getting comfortable going to stores, but unfortunately the original market keeps on winding down unless you know where to go. You go to a dispensary and there is no leveling of product—it’s mostly all on the same shelf. You have products that are sitting right next to our product that are from the set, forget, cut, sell [type of businesses].”
Which brings me to the other asset that helps account for the micro RiverRun’s mighty rep—those outstanding aforementioned buds. DeSousa’s vision that Ried and the team there takes from seed to sale is a simple, straightforward one: “Bring the original market to the legal market.” Asked to clarify, DeSousa explained, “You’re not just taking someone off the street who wants to work in cannabis, teaching them a thing or two, and hoping for the best.” Instead, he takes pride in the value they place on “… hand-crafted, hand-packed prerolls, whole-bud prerolls not sifted for kief … not taking any shortcuts.”
All of which was on display during my visit. DeSousa describes Riverrun’s approach as a “meticulous cycle of maintenance,” and from the clone room to the trim op, everyone is all-in—leaning over plants, taking notes, plotting the best approach to trim a new crop before breaking out the shears. (They have an electric bud-trimmer on site, but after mixed results decided to unplug the thing; it’s currently being used as a note stand.)
“As a group here at RiverRun, we are all consumers, smokers,” Ried said. “We want the best product—we’re not going to put something on the shelf that we wouldn’t consume ourselves. When we are going through our quality control process, that’s what we go for—we want to invoke that same reaction about the flavors, the aromas, the crystallization of the trichrome. We grow for people who want to get excited about a really high-quality product.” (His current favorite is their Project Z, a Runtz x Zkittlez cross from Exotic Genetix, while the overall team’s top pick is Payton’s Pie (Gary Payton x Georgia Pie) from Raw Genetics, which Ried reports yield “big, huge baseball-sized nugs”).
“It stinks being out of the shop [selling, running the business side of things], but I get to come back here and be like, Look at what we just did!” DeSousa said. “It’s like, your favorite show just came out with a new episode, and now that’s your new favorite episode. … Coming in and seeing the finished product it’s like, Oh my god, you guys topped what you did before.”
“As a policy, we don’t enter cups, because our cup is that repeat customer,” the co-founder added. “If you spend your har- earned money to patronize us, and you get a 10 out of 10 experience, that’s our cup.”
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.