Certified Ganjier ProFile: The Pheno-Hunter

Name: Jeff “The Kush Coach” Mages, Certified Ganjier

Location: Grand Junction, Colorado

Ganjier Graduating Class: December, 2021

Favorite Cultivar(s):

At the moment – and it changes about every 12 weeks – Breakfast in Paris, Ghost In The Darkness, Robert’s Creek Congolese, an Heirloom bubble gum, and a ‘96 Romulan. I like a bit of everything, but if it’s got a sour funk or a fruit pine chem twist, I’ll dive right in, no questions asked.

What was your position before joining Ganjier? 

Prior to enrolling in the Ganjier program, I was the regional manager of two locations at an indoor/outdoor hydro shop.  My primary job was HR, and customer relations. When I wasn’t doing that, I was deep in education, sales, marketing, and developing hybrid irrigation systems that convert from hydro to sub-irrigated living soil beds. 

What is it now?  

Now, I’m currently contracted with a craft seed producer called Brother Mendel’s Selections. My job consists of writing cultivar review articles, pheno-hunting and testing seeds and clones sent to me by my boss. It sounds like a dream job and it absolutely is! 

As soon as I graduated, the CEO of Brother Mendel’s Selections reached out to offer me the position. He needed a head customer service representative to help his clients become more successful in their grows. I believe I’m the only person working with a seed producer that works 1-on-1, day-to-day with hundreds of growers and carries the Certified Ganjier suffix.

Pheno-hunting for a craft seed producer is so much more than picking your favorites – it involves pushing plants to and beyond their limits, sometimes to the point of failure. This gives me an insane amount of insight on a line almost to a point I can pick out traits favored by a particular breeder. It also allows me to meticulously critique and assist growers over a messaging platform or a phone call. From seed germination to harvest, I’ll hold a growers hand, ensuring they learn about the plant and are puffing on some choice flower. 

Currently, I’m testing and hunting through some AK-47 seed stock from 2001 Serious Seeds. This particular project is special to me, as I first started growing cannabis in 2000 and the first “chronic” I smoked was AK-47 – exactly what I have now.  Twenty-three years and I’ve come full circle, working with seeds created while I was just getting started. It’s like they were waiting for me to graduate from the Ganjier Program.

What was your primary motivation for joining the cannabis field?

I just love helping and teaching people. I’ve grown cannabis for 20+ years and struggled when I started, as there were very few reliable resources to learn from.  I wanted to shorten that curve for the average home grower. That’s what started “The Kush Coach.” After work, I would come home and teach folks about my grow, and then offer advice to anyone looking to improve. I did this all non-profit in my free time out of pure love for the plant and assisting my fellow humans in creating a better life for themselves one day at a time.

Why did you choose the Ganjier program?

I was obsessed with quality. I needed to know how to categorize what I was growing and what others were growing. How can I say it’s good or bad without a measurable scale? Also, a ton of my heroes were Ganjier instructors (Kevin Jodrey, Frenchy Cannoli, Patrick King, Jeffrey Raber, Mel Frank) and I wanted that network. 

What were your expectations going into this course? 

My expectations going into the program were very high to be completely honest.  I had spent over 2 decades studying this plant and the work others were doing with it. I had studied the botany of cannabis after dropping out of high school at 16. All I wanted to know was cannabis. So going in, I knew I had already acquired a ton of knowledge about cultivation and cannabis. I knew I didn’t know it all, and was expecting to gather a massive amount of knowledge.

What did you find? 

A massive amount of knowledge, a ton of people just as passionate and knowledgeable as I was, and an incredible network of students and instructors.

The program gave me a level of confidence in the sense that I was on the right path prior to enrolling in the program. I was taken beyond the plateau I was stuck on for so long.

Was there a game-changing, “A-ha” moment for you during the course?

My biggest A-ha moment actually came from Wendy Kornberg while touring her farm. She was talking about plants sustaining themselves and we are just there to assist where needed. Up until that point, in my mind, the more control you have, the better the product, when in reality, the more you let nature take the wheel, the better things turn out.  

Another moment was discussing curing with Kevin Jodrey. There was a point where we were talking about shelf-life and how long a proper cure should be.  Ultimately, some cultivars are better just a couple weeks off the dry rack and others need a solid 6 months to really reach that pinnacle. I had stumbled over this a lot in my past and assumed I failed during drying and curing. In reality, I was curing too long.

What skills/knowledge/philosophy have you been able to take away and apply to your cannabis career?  

I could make a book from the answer to this question. The biggest skill I walked away with, was the ability to train and build my palate. Deciphering flavors and aromas is one of the hardest things I’ve ever learned to do. I don’t think I would have gone down that path had it not been for the Ganjier program. I use this skill everyday in my job when writing articles and comparing products. I even use it while eating a regular meal.

What impact did the Ganjier training have on your cannabis career/future?

It launched it! I was primarily just in the gardening scene with my primary focus being on cannabis as soon as I had the credentials to back what I knew and the skills to show what I’ve learned – it was like diving into a pool.  

People that didn’t take me seriously, started valuing what I had to say. The first day home from graduation I was hired on at Brother Mendel’s Selections.

To those considering the course, what advice would you give?

If you’re looking into this program and you’re passionate about something in the cannabis field, you can take the path of a Certified Ganjier and set yourself up for the future, or blindly navigate the industry hoping someone will take you under their wing. 

The former is much easier from experience. If you’re like me and think, ‘What could this program offer that I haven’t acquired already?’  If nothing else, this one thing is worth the entire course: The NETWORK! The people I’ve come to know and work with who are enrolled, teaching or graduated, have been amazing! We all have one goal: Quality Cannabis – and it’s a heck of a way to bond.   

What goes on under the surface here is nothing short of magical. In the last year or so, I feel like I’ve been leveled up tremendously by the people I’ve met in the program.

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