I’m a hands-on guy—I dig the soil
We could have called this article “Oregon’s Funny Farmer,” because Jim Belushi is funny and a farmer, but we didn’t want to seem disrespectful. Growing cannabis is no joke. Frankly, neither is comedic acting. Ask Belushi—he’ll tell you.
Although he makes his work look easy, this man takes comedy and farming very seriously. In fact, he quickly admits, “I’m as obsessive-compulsive about my plants as I am about my characters I act.” Having spent most of his life in a business that’s meant to make people feel good (get them to light up, you might even say), he recognizes that he is blessed with a tendency and temperament that keep his eye on the ball in acting and cannabis farming alike. The euphoric results of his painstaking efforts behind the scenes in each area have more in common than they might seem to at first.
Of course, each of his callings is harder than it looks, but Belushi is a natural. It became clear very early in our conversation the he is down to earth in more ways than one. “I’m a hands-on guy—I dig the soil,” he told me. Although he owns the place, he wears many hats when he is up there. “I’m the guy who puts up the three-foot barrier for the grasshoppers . . . I’m like Elmer Fudd.”
Far from a pretentious Hollywood star or landed country squire, Belushi comes across as accessible, charismatic and a good guy to have as a next-door neighbor, even if your closest one is miles down the road. These days, he spends about a third of his time on the property and commutes by plane from his home base in Los Angeles. For Belushi, the farm is primarily not a vacation retreat, although he knows how to kick back and stay amused in the bucolic setting.
The farming venture began about three years ago with “a little 48-plant medical grow” under Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP). Belushi explained that the operation has expanded steadily to what is currently a “seven-greenhouse, light-dep situation,” referring to the “light deprivation” method of cultivation. On 22,000 square feet, he now produces about 1,200 pounds per year throughout two harvests. Although that’s half a ton or so, he acknowledges it as being “not a lot.” Some of the trim is converted to oil, and the flower winds up in dispensaries across the state, as does Belushi himself on occasional public appearances.
Belushi carefully took his time in getting his farm up and running, and his products to market. He waited for two years until he felt confident that he was doing things right, meanwhile learning as much as possible every day, which he continues to do by attending industry talks and science conventions, and working with expert growers. “I want to learn everything there is to know about it,” he told me, “and it’s just been the greatest education.” He is comfortable discussing insider details like individual strains’ respective THC-content and levels of myrcene and other terpenes as well as their role in the so-called entourage effect.
In the past year, he has rebranded his product line as Belushi’s Private Vault. Among the various celebrities who have entered the cannabis space, Belushi is unique in being directly involved with the actual growing and harvesting of the commercial crop.
Belushi couldn’t be happier with the territory he’s happened on, which he called “a spiritual little spot.” He knows how it all comes together, from nature to nurture. “We pull the water right out of the river . . . It’s the most beautiful water. It almost comes out a perfect pH,” he proudly told me.
In addition to growing cannabis, Belushi tends “some beautiful fruit trees” and enjoys fly fishing in the river. His land hosts 50 pregnant cows from December through May, for a neighboring farmer. He and his crew sometimes blow off steam by plowing dirt around and throwing hatchets. By many accounts, Belushi also throws an unforgettable harvest party.
Belushi currently grows several strains, including one that he has not yet released to the legal market: Captain Jack’s Gulzar Afghanica. (The word gulzar means “flower garden” in Dari.) It has never been crossbred or cloned, only grown from seed to flower.
John “Captain Jack” Murtha, a master cannabis grower who assists on Belushi’s Farm, originally brought the seeds stateside from a trip to Afghanistan. Belushi calls it “the most unique strain I’ve ever had.” The plants have unusually wide leaves and look like they belong in your salad. Captain Jack originally grew Gulzar Afghanica in the Emerald Triangle in the early 1970s, but, according to Belushi, “he pulled out of there because people were stealing it from him.”
By the mid-1970s, Captain Jack had introduced this rare strain to the cast of Saturday Night Live, who put it to good use. Soon known backstage as “the smell of SNL,” it provided inspiration to the program’s writers and actors. Belushi said that he recently confirmed its utility when he and six friends shared some of it one night. “For the next sixty minutes, we were riffing off each other. We laughed so hard, we had so much fun, and I just watched this, and I went ‘Ah, I see what was happening with the writers of SNL.’ This is really creative dynamite!” He mentioned several familiar, early SNL skits that “came out of the smoke.”
Belushi’s team is currently having extensive botanical research done on Gulzar Afghanica before releasing it. Although the farm has grown it every year, Belushi said, “I don’t just want to put it out on the market, I want to make sure that scientifically it’s at its finest.” He is working to keep the terpene content at 4 percent, 72 percent of which is myrcene, a level he describes as “extremely high.”
I asked Belushi how much of his output he figures is used for medical versus recreational use. “It depends on your definition of medical.” His is pretty broad. “It’s all medical to me. I think everybody needs medicine of some kind in their life. Everybody has suffered from some trauma . . .” Belushi is heartened that his products are aiding veterans with PTSD, particularly his Black Diamond OG strain.
From experience, Belushi feels certain that cannabis use leads to more peaceable social interactions than drinking alcohol does. He relayed a recollection from his formative days spent around an urban bar culture. “I was a bouncer in Chicago, and let me tell you, I have split up a lot of fights. Not one fight happened between two guys who were high on pot.” He considers cannabis a “nonviolent medicine [that] helps heal families by healing individuals . . . one of the greatest gifts we can give our community.”
Cannabis growing, far from the big city, gives Belushi a newfound sense of purpose. “The fun is working the farm, getting closer to the land, Mother Earth,” he said. “It grounds you spiritually. Farming is beautiful.” He deeply believes in what he’s doing, and he sees it as a productive societal resource.
Belushi has hit the ground running, and he doesn’t intend to stop. He intends to keep learning, and a conversation with him about his present and future is highly inspirational. When I asked him what his secret is for keeping the right attitude amidst the day-to-day challenges of operating a commercial farm, he immediately quoted some all-purpose advice from the first production I ever saw him in. “There’s a great David Mamet line that I happened to deliver in a movie called About Last Night: ‘Don’t ever lose your sense of humor, Dan! Don’t ever lose your sense of humor!’” That seems to be Belushi’s Farm’s motto, and it seems to be bearing fruit.■