It’s a rare treat when someone who’s bred and sold hundreds of thousands of marijuana seeds lets us into his world to tell us how he became one of the world’s top producers of cannabis strains. We’re fortunate to have the exclusive, fascinating backstory of Tony, the man who founded and owns award-winning Dutch marijuana seed company Sagarmatha Seeds.
You may not have heard of the mononymous Tony, but most marijuana growers have heard of one particularly famous strain that only Sagarmatha Seeds offers in its original, authentic form.
This strain is known by two names — one name you can say in front of anyone, the other is for adult-only utterance. The general-admission strain name? Matanuska Tundra. The R-rated version? Alaskan Thunderfuck.
The colorful second name was the one bestowed to the strain by people who first grew it where it was developed and cultivated, in Matanuska-Susitna Valley in southern Alaska.
According to folklore, the name indicates that this cannabis is so strong that it hits people like thunder. As they sit back and smile, in the grips of the high, they’d say something like: “Fuck, it feels like thunder in my head” — but in a good way.
We’ve been given the rare opportunity to hear firsthand from Tony about how a legendary Dutch cannabis seed breeder got into and flourished in the cannabis industry.
The Journey To Amsterdam, According To Sagarmatha’s Tony
I arrived in Amsterdam in 1990 after graduating from college, looking forward to a long summer vacation in that beautiful, charming, historic, world-class city. I remember how wonderful it was to be in a place of happy smiles and cool people, the only place in the world where you could smoke a joint at a café without worrying about going to jail for it.
But pretty soon I ran out of money. I started working at a youth hostel, cooking breakfast in the mornings, and being their security guard at night. The pay wasn’t making me wealthy, but there were other benefits, such as meeting beautiful people from around the world — especially the amazing ladies.
My next job started me on my marijuana seeds career — it was at the Sensi Seeds headquarters in Amsterdam’s De Wallen red-light district. That’s the safest red-light district you’ll ever see, and Sensi Seeds and its founder Ben Dronkers were very good to me.
It was such a great opportunity to learn everything about breeding and growing fine cannabis. I grew almost every strain they had, and they had the best, because Sensi Seeds has always held to a high standard of quality and creativity in making and maintaining their cannabis seeds stock.
After five years of working with Sensi and learning the highest cannabis growing and breeding wisdom, I realized that my connections with the international Grateful Dead travelers community, and other international hippie travelers, would help me to procure rare cannabis genetics from all across the world. I wanted the rarest genetic gems so I could produce magical beans of equal or superior quality to what Sensi or anyone else was producing.
So, with Sensi Seeds’ blessing, I started my own seed company, which was called Cerebral Seeds. The name was chosen because we were breeding many different plants that boost brain power and have spiritual uses, such as rosewood and peyote. This was at a time in the Netherlands when substances like hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote were still legally sold.
Cerebral Seeds was in business several years, but then Simon, who was working closely with me in the business, left to create Serious Seeds, another of the fine Dutch cannabis seeds companies that has won many Cannabis Cup awards.
I decided to start a new marijuana seeds company. After a trip to Nepal and a visit to Mount Everest, I named my company Sagarmatha, which is the Nepalese word for Mount Everest.
The word means “sugar mother.” The Nepalese revere Sagarmatha because its glaciers and watershed are crucial for Nepal life and ecology. In my creative mind, I made the connection [between] Sagarmatha, glaciers and snow, [and] the beautiful female cannabis plants covered in resinous trichomes, like sugar. That’s why I chose this name for my cannabis seeds company.
Breeding Gifted Cannabis Genetics
Shortly after I started Sagarmatha, I had the wonderful good fortune to start collaboration with John Hill, one of Holland’s most distinguished and respected greenhouse growers, and a behind-the-scenes cannabis pioneer. He took me under his wing and guided me in the world of professional-level cannabis growing and breeding.
Working alongside John gave me instant credibility in the cannabis world. We collaborated for many years until his untimely early death, may he rest in peace.
By now, I had a catalogue of Sagarmatha strains that people were loving all over the world and that were winning Cannabis Cup awards. These strains include Western Winds, also known as Kali Mist, Mongolian Indica, Slyder, Stonehedge and Bubblegum #6.
Sagarmatha’s reputation always attracted a pilgrimage of international seed collectors and breeders. One day, a tall, humble, pleasant cannabis professional came to Sagarmatha — his name was DJ Short, the original breeder of Blueberry. He brought in six incredible Blueberry phenotypes that John and I worked on to stabilize and reproduce.
DJ was from Oregon, and even though I wanted him to continue working with us in Amsterdam, he missed his home in America and he left us to go back. But his Blueberry genetics stayed behind with us. John and I worked with these phenotypes and created one of the finest hybrids ever created, a cross of Bubblegum and Blueberry that we call Bubbleberry. This strain was an immediate hit because of its powerful, uplifting high, great taste, and ease of growing.
At the Dutch cannabis coffee shops, Bubbleberry was so popular that I remember several times walking from my shop to the Grey Area Coffeeshop during the Cannabis Cup and seeing a line around the block, waiting for Bubbleberry buds. Let me tell you, that kind of appreciation makes a seed breeder feel very happy and proud!
From Alaska To Amsterdam
Things were so great that you’d think they couldn’t get any better. But then they did get better, when Sagarmatha fans — guys who had bought my seeds from a long way away — come strolling into the store carrying gifts from the Great White North.
Who’d think cold Alaska would be the origin of super cannabis genetics? These were growers who had grown and loved some of my strains, and they wanted to gift me with seeds from a rare Alaskan strain. We named it Matanuska Tundra, but it was already called Alaskan Thunderfuck by people in Alaska. This name comes from the fact that the strain grew in the Matanuska Valley’s grasslands, which are known as a tundra.
We developed this strain and stabilized it, released it, and the rest is history. Sagarmatha’s popularity owes a lot to Matanuska Tundra. It’s one of the most enduring marijuana strains on earth in terms of demand for seeds.
Getting Busted For Cannabis Growing
People think everything is chill in the Netherlands when it comes to growing cannabis and making seeds, but that’s not true. There have always been risks for those of us in the cannabis business, and Sagarmatha has its own particular experiences of drama and tragedy.
One tragedy happened in 2002, when we had just won the Cannabis Cup with our indica entry Yumbolt, a wonderful, high-yielding plant with a full-bodied aroma and taste so yummy we had to put “yum” in the name.
The Yumbolt genetics were given to us by a close friend and master marijuana grower named Vince, from Humboldt County in Northern California. Vince was in charge of a consortium called Nor Cal Growers. When he gave me the beans, he didn’t have a name for the strain, but told me this is going to be one of the best-tasting buds I would ever savor, and he was 100 percent correct. This weed also had a knockout punch.
Years later, I gave Yumbolt’s Cannabis Cup to Vince, because he deserved it more than me. I was so lucky he’d entrusted me with the original beans.
So, just after we won the cup for Yumbolt, I received an urgent, panicked call from one of my employees, saying one of our grow-room hydroponics reservoirs had leaked some water that had gone through the grow-room floor and through the ceiling of the downstairs neighbor.
I raced across town, hoping to get there in time to deal with the problem so nobody heard about it. It was such a small amount of water, but that was enough for the bastard (later, I forgave him) to call the police. The police broke into my grow rooms and my state-of-the-art psychedelic mushroom laboratory, and I was in deep trouble.
It was quite a huge scene for my neighbors, seeing massive amounts of growing equipment, plants, cacti and lab gear that police were removing from my gardens.
What was really funny, in a bittersweet way, is I had two other grow rooms just down the road, and the building they were in was in plain sight of where the police were dismantling my main grow ops. My best friend was in those other grow rooms, taking them down, and the police never went to those other addresses of mine. I guess my guardian angel was looking out for me.
Of course, the police officials were kind enough to give me a weekend stay at one of their finest bed-and-breakfast jail cells. Solitary confinement is great for enabling one’s ability for self-reflection and meditation to discover the deepest truths. What truth did I discover the most? Don’t get busted on a Friday — because the judge does not come in until Monday.
All joking aside, this was a huge setback for Sagarmatha Seeds. Yet, we were fortunate to have a great lawyer who got most of our seed stock back, and we worked hard to save our besieged mother plants.
It took us three years to get fully back into high gear, but then, in 2006, we got busted again — and it was on a Friday again! Thank the gods that my angel was still looking out for me, because we had a huge warehouse-growing operation that stayed under the radar and wasn’t harmed by this second bust.
However, I was a guest of the police yet again, and after being found guilty of a cannabis crime, I was given a sentence of community service. The lesson I learned this time was: Stay out of the grow rooms.
Unwelcome Changes To Netherlands Cannabis Laws
I must say that things have changed for us in the Dutch cannabis seeds business, and not all for the better.
The Netherlands used to be the mecca for cannabis growing, cannabis seeds and cannabis tourism, but the government has worked against us for many years now. In the last 12 years, the Amsterdam cannabis-growing scene has become just a shadow of its former thriving self.
Amsterdam is no longer the weed capital of the world. Dutch politics have done a 180-degree turnaround from what they were 20 years ago, and forced most of the truly great cannabis growers to stop or move out of Holland.
It seems that nowadays only criminal gangs are involved with the lion’s share of growing herb. Not only have the laws tightened up, with stricter penalties and bigger fines, but also our housing organizations have changed their policies so that now if
you are caught growing, you lose your house! It’s a real shame, because some of the tastiest crops have been homegrown.
Even our local Dutch national culture has changed a bit, with more people now favoring beer over weed. It seems like the tourists are the main customers for the cannabis coffee shops, although there are still Dutch customers as well.
From what I’ve seen, anyone in the cannabis business who could do so has moved south to Spain or west to the United States. The Sagarmatha team chose to go to Spain. Together with the best Spanish growers, we’re continuing to replicate the traditional Sagarmatha strains, and creating truly superb new strains as well. Things are moving forward and in 2018 we’re going to be releasing some breathtaking new strains!
Cultural Decay Of Cannabis Community
Maybe I’ll sound like some old man complaining, but I feel sad at what I’m seeing now in several aspects of modern culture.
First of all, the hippie generation that was concerned about the environment, legalization, justice, equality, kindness, and [human] rights is getting old and dying off.
Secondly, when I heard about cannabis legalization starting to happen in America, I was very excited for all the folks in [the US]. Of course, I knew it would mean more people buying more Sagarmatha seeds. But to my surprise, what started as a grassroots movement, where hippies and other cannabis lovers fought hard for legalization, has now morphed into what I see as a corporate cannabis cabal.
This phenomenon has left the home growers behind and created a monopoly of rich players in the growing game. With all the hefty state licensing fees and the stack of rules aimed at keeping small growers down while encouraging wealthy people to buy their way into the cannabis industry, what they call legalization has left a sour taste in my mouth more disgusting than smoking a bowl of popping seeds.
These super-large, legalized, commercial grow ops using megawatts of grow lights are a giant carbon footprint, and they’re mostly owned by multimillionaires investing in these grows only to make themselves richer, not because they have any connection to the plant. This is corrupting what could have been an authentic green revolution.
Yes, we all need to make enough money to live, but the manner in which the commercialized cannabis industry is conducted is all about greed, and it goes against my hippie ideals.
Let me put it this way: I would much rather have 10,000 small growers than a hundred commercial large ones. With small growers, each working with their own choice of genetics, the cannabis quality and diversity is greater, the carbon footprint is lower, and the love is greater.
Everyone knows that once you reach a certain size in a grow op, quality slips away. Just look at the beer industry for example. The large beer companies brew crap; small microbreweries create magic.
It’s the same thing with marijuana. Many people these days don’t even think about ecology, but I ask them to remember that it was hippies who came up with the ecological movement in the 1960s and ’70s, and we were striving to grow weed mostly outdoors or in greenhouses. Some of the younger generation may think that indoor crops are superior to outdoor, [but] in my humble opinion [they’re] hugely mistaken.
It’s true that you have more control and consistency growing indoors, but I can show you outdoor buds that would blow away most indoor samples.
My experience is that outdoor weed has more flavor and aroma than indoor. When you’re growing amongst the giant redwoods, [or] in a valley full or orchids in Hawaii, or on a high plain in the pure desert, the taste and vibration of the nature around you shows itself in the cannabis. All those sticky trichomes hold those pure, natural smells and vibes for you to enjoy with every puff.
You asked what I think of the marijuana seeds business. I see there’s a drastic increase in the number of seed companies. But many growers tell me that the genetics offered these days are mostly mediocre. You rarely find a superstar that stands out as spectacular.
That’s why I’m proud that Sagarmatha continues great strains that people have loved for years.
But we don’t rely on our past. We have deep connections with cannabis lovers who provide us rare genetics to experiment with, so we isolate great phenotypes and breed new strains. We’re also doing breeding and research to make new hybrids of our old favorites crossed with the best new strains. It’s a slow process and we take great pride in doing it right.
It’s also true that you can’t keep mother plants from changing. Some of the strains we created in the 1990s and later have morphed a bit to the left or the right, but mostly they have stayed true to form. And we will always offer a satisfaction guarantee. If a grower isn’t happy with our strains, we will make it right. We stand behind everything we sell.
Favorite Sagarmatha Strains
Every strain we sell is special, but growers have favorites. Bubbleberry is one of those favorites. She grows out into a beautiful Christmas-tree growth profile, with a sweet aroma and special flavor that no other strain has.
Some growers tell us she leans a little bit more toward her Bubblegum ancestry, and we have to agree. Blueberry has always been a finicky mother plant, but we have worked hard all these years to maintain stable mothers that are about 65 percent Bubblegum and 35 percent Blueberry.
The flowering time, height and yield has remained the same 60–65 days and about a meter in height, untopped. I recommend that you grow our Bubbleberry, Blueberry or Bubblegum, and I guarantee you’ll love all three.
Our flagship is the wonderful Matanuska Tundra. We’re creating a new line of Matanuska relatives and calling it the ATF line. And that stands for American Thunderfuck. The reason we say “American” is that we’re crossing our legendary Matanuska with newer American strains including Girl Scout Cookies, Alien OG and Gorilla Glue. One thing we notice when using Matanuska in crosses is that she seems to make everything she mates with grow huge, as if on steroids!
The sheer mass of Matanuska crosses is much larger and more fragrant than the genetics we bred from to create them. I believe this robust vigor comes from Matanuska’s Alaskan heritage. It seems like everything that grows in the Matanuska Valley is huge. On a trip to Alaska, I saw that all the fruits were gigantic. The mountains are huge, the bears are huge, the glaciers are huge, the salmon are huge and the mosquitoes are huge!
Maybe that’s why Matanuska buds are so huge and potent! We’ve been so lucky with the tundra all these years, and ever so thankful that our friends brought us those magic Alaskan beans.
The new strains we’re developing are still in the testing phase and should be to market by autumn 2018 or sooner.
Another Sagarmatha strain beloved by growers is our Strawberry D-Lite — a cross of the famous Strawberry Cough and a Diesel. This strain is mostly indica, with a pleasing aroma and a mule kick that somehow Diesel never seems to possess on her own.
I’ve been making cannabis seeds for a quarter century, and I want growers everywhere to know that when you buy Sagarmatha, you’re buying seeds made with love. Made by people whose goal is to help you grow fat buds so your head will soar into the clouds when you use our strains.