When you list the names of famous marijuana seed breeders, it’s a short list, and it’s an all-male club…
Ben Dronkers of Sensi Seeds. Arjan from Green House Seeds. Tony from Sagarmatha. DJ Short. Breeder Steve. Subcool from TGA Seeds. Henk from Dutch Passion.
Others I haven’t mentioned. All men.
And many of them from Holland, which was the dominant country for marijuana seed breeding until U.S. medical and recreational marijuana laws gave American seed breeders a more legal and networked situation for cannabis seed breeding at the same time that the Dutch government started harassing the Dutch marijuana industry.
There are of course many talented women growing marijuana, and doing marijuana seed and strain development. But they mostly work secretly.
For the sake of safety they keep their identities and faces hidden from media view.
Now there’s one woman who’s publicly-known as a marijuana seed breeder. She calls herself MzJill.
Because of the inherent sexism in the marijuana industry and the larger world, many people mistakenly viewed her only as the hottie eye candy next to TGA marijuana strain breeder Subcool, as seen on The Weed Nerd marijuana reality show and at marijuana events.
If you’re familiar with TGA Seeds and Subcool, you know who she is.
If you’re not familiar with TGA, the fastest way to describe it is to say that thousands of serious marijuana growers consider TGA the top and best-known cannabis strain creator consortium in North America.
When I grow TGA strains (I most often use a rockwool drip irrigation system using Sensi Grow and Connoisseur pH Perfect bases along with Big Bud, Bud Candy, and Bud Factor X) I get high yields of buds with EXACTLY the look, taste, aroma, and high described in Subcool’s book “Dank 2.0.”
For me, that’s the mark of a truly superlative cannabis seed breeder: the seeds grow out to be what the breeder says they’re going to be, without fail.
In this exclusive interview with BigBudsMag.com, MzJill steps out to explain what it’s like to create beloved marijuana strains, grow cannabis, and be a female in what has traditionally been the male-dominated marijuana seed industry:
BigBudsMagazine (BBM): We asked marijuana growers worldwide to name women who’ve gone public and are in the top ranks of the commercial marijuana seed breeding business. You’re the only woman named! Please start by telling us how you got into creating marijuana strains.
MzJill: Along with Subcool and a team of marijuana breeder experts, I’m a founding member of one of the world’s most respected medical/recreational marijuana seed companies, TGA Seeds. We started TGA in 2003, and I began working with Subcool to create marijuana strains in 2004.
The first marijuana strain I take credit for is Jilly Bean. It was in the 2007 High Times Top Ten, and is a 60/40 Sativa-dominant strain that’s especially easy to grow in sea of green or screen of green. You get heavy harvests, and an eight-week bloom time. The next strain I developed was Agent Orange. Agent Orange is now semi-retired.
These two strains were developed from a clone-only strain I call Orange Velvet that was created from a cutting originally called ‘Melvin,’ a name that seemed totally wrong for such a beautiful burgundy-colored plant that smelled and tasted like an orange.
Right now I’m working on a cross of TGA’s coveted Space Dude with a clone of the High Times Cannabis Cup winner Strawberry Cough. Space Dude is TGA’s main male plant. He lives safe and sound in his own special room, as do all our male plants. Space Dude is our Space Queen male.
BBM: It obviously takes a lot of work, and marijuana breeder networking, to make elite cannabis strains.
MzJill: For sure. The way the Melvin clone came to us, and how we worked with it, gives you a look at that. The project started when I was helping the local medical marijuana patients and met a wonderful lady and her husband who gifted me a clone they called Melvin. They’d received Melvin from small-town hippie friends who’d grown the strain for more than twenty years.
We put the clone through our normal quarantine routine. After the clone was clean, it was transplanted into a larger pot filled with Subcool’s Super Soil and placed into the general veg room.
As she grew we noticed how shiny her foliage looked. The foliage maintained a shiny, very dark velvety-green appearance all the way through veg.
About forty-five days into flowering, the strong orange-skunk smell amazed us and the leaves took on beautiful shade of red. The temperature in the flowering room was approximately 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit during dark time, which is a 20-25 degree temperature drop compared to day temps.
Around sixty days into bloom phase, the aroma was entrancing and the foliage was velvety with burgundy hues going almost black. This strain was so shiny and colorful, it almost looked artificial.
After the harvest dried and cured, we had a wonderful surprise in the taste that tantalizes your taste buds with the strong undeniable flavor of sweet orange.
My friend ToB smoked it, and said: “This reminds me of a warm summer day, eating Dreamcicles underneath trees in the backyard. This is one of the most pleasant tastes I have ever experienced. Like vanilla ice cream coated in orange sherbet.”
We decided she was definitely a keeper and a good breeding prospect, one of the loveliest plants we’ve ever seen, very photogenic, a good producer, with light nutrient requirements.
The name Melvin was certainly not suited to this lovely lady, and the name Orange Velvet came easy because she had a strong orange smell and flavor with beautiful velvet-like foliage, turning beautiful hues ranging from red to black.
Orange Velvet has proven to be a very good breeding strain. She breeds true, passing along strong orange flavor, shiny foliage, and large dense colas. She was crossed to our Space Queen male to create Jilly Bean.
BBM: I love the name Jilly Bean. In fact, it’s one of the first TGA strains I tried. It hit me like a freight train, and even if it had not been so potent, it’s a beautiful plant to grow and experience while growing.
MzJill: Yes, we hear lots of reports that Jilly Bean is an excellent strain, and I want to explain its three phenotypes. The first phenotype most resembles the Orange Velvet. It has strong orange flavor and is the most common Jilly Bean pheno.
The second phenotype is an equal cross of both parents, being the only one of the three phenotypes not dominated by the Orange Velvet. Subcool named this phenotype Candy Store because of its candy-like flavor, and it’s part of his special head stash.
The third Jilly Bean phenotype is referred to as the skunk phenotype. This one has a skunky candied-orange flavor, and reminds people of the Cali-O strain. It’s not the same as Cali-O, but likely related.
This phenotype occurs about fifteen percent of the time, is the shortest of the three phenotypes, and has high pistil to leaf ratio. It has the smoothest taste of the three, but the smallest yield.
Subcool and I have decided to cross my Orange Velvet with his Jack The Ripper, which is the offspring of the infamous Jacks Cleaner. With the dominant orange flavoring of the Orange Velvet and the dominant lemon flavoring of Jacks Cleaner strains, you’ll get a citrus explosion of lemon and orange flavored medicinal strength cannabis.
BBM: Here’s something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time: how does it feel to be a woman in the male-dominated marijuana industry?
MzJill: I focus on what I bring to the industry as a woman and a mom. For example, TGA works very hard to be a family-oriented cannabis business because we want to encourage women and families to be more active within the community.
Between us, Subcool and I have four very successful children, and are proud to be marijuana people, and family people.
My ethic as a woman affects how we present ourselves. We don’t use sex to sell our products. You never see a half-naked women straddling a dab rig in one of our ads like you do in other marijuana ads.
But obviously it’s not just me. The general increase of women in the marijuana community brings some balance and changes perceptions.
Marijuana used to be considered shameful, as bad as doing so-called hard drugs. But with the presence of women and families in the marijuana community, the perception has shifted from this being an underworld activity to a more widely accepted aspect of healthy functioning families and individuals.
The old, prejudiced stupid stoner and dumb hippie stereotypes are fading away as families, and people such as doctors, teachers, and other professionals become acknowledged marijuana growers and users.
BBM: You get lots of props for creating a TGA charitable organization. I hear people expressing sincere gratitude to you and TGA because of the charitable work. And some would say it’s an example of bringing a “feminine” influence to the marijuana industry.
MzJill: Yes, we have a special charity for autistic children and their families. The charity is Subcool School of Dank, which is run behind the scenes by Jinxproof and Miss Rose.
We collect donations year-round and do raffles at cannabis events we attend. All funds go 100% to the children and their families. We use the funds to purchase I-Pad minis, and food gift cards.
I’m working on a Christmas fundraiser for families from Mendocino, Humboldt, and Sonoma Counties. We’re placing donation sites at medical marijuana dispensaries, asking for food items or unisex gifts for children up to 16 years old.
We’re setting up a way for families in need to give us their name and phone number as well as the genders and ages of their children, with a brief description of their situation.
I’m working on a similar scenario for the Emerald Cup, an annual event for Northern California cannabis growers, held at Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
BBM: What got you into marijuana seed breeding in the first place? Isn’t it risky to be so public about being a cannabis seed breeder and activist?
MzJill: Yes, I’m aware of the risks of being a public marijuana person, but all good deeds involve some sacrifice.
Our focus is helping as many in need as we are able, while always pressing forward to spread the knowledge, because knowledge is power, and we need the power to end the drug war.
I started using cannabis as a young adult. I use cannabis for many reasons, both medically and recreationally. It gives me an overall sense of well-being, physically as well as emotionally. I also use cannabis to control pain and anxiety.
In the past two decades, I’ve been witness to its life-changing medical marijuana benefits…for an autistic child who couldn’t talk, a chemo patient who couldn’t eat, a young man dying from a terrible disease who uses marijuana to ease his pain.
It’s not just the high, or the pleasure of growing and breeding that motivates us, it’s what cannabis can do for people and the planet.
BBM: I hear weed nerds describe you and Subcool as “the perfect pot couple,” and the “King and Queen of cannabis.” You two always look so happy, and so high, together. How did you and Subcool meet and become lovers?
MzJill: I first noticed Subcool online, many years before we met in person. I was a beginning grower fairly new to online marijuana grow forums and community and Subcool was one of my first mentors on an old online cultivator site called OverGrow.
Then we lost touch, and many years went by until Subcool and I reconnected through another online site called Cannabis World.
We always felt a special attraction, but we had to jump through hoops, overcome many obstacles, and cross endless barriers to get to each other.
Many, many phone calls. Letters written by hand front and back…writing until my fingers were purple and numb, all night writing. As the sun is beginning to rise, fold it up, seal it with a kiss and a spray of his favorite scent.
I guarded all he owned as if it were my own, not knowing that one day, all would become ours together.
I was not even sure I’d ever get to meet the man who had won my heart. Finally the day came, the day that we’d waited for… the ‘real’ beginning of MzJill and Subcool. The real beginning of what the world has come to know as TGA Genetics Subcool Seeds.
While building a successful, ethical, reputable business we also raised amazing children who are assets in the community and are making the world a healthier and more compassionate place to live.
Subcool and I are still focused on making TGA the best it can be, so we have brought in long-time friends, phenomenal growers, and outstanding human beings to help us manage.
With our children all nearly adults, and with TGA staffed with a fantastic team, Subcool and I are dedicated to spending more time for just the two of us, together and enjoying life…as life is precious, and too short.
BBM: I appreciate you sharing those heartfelt memories, MzJill. Let’s close this interview by re-focusing on TGA marijuana seed breeding. Growers have connected with TGA personally, like a family. Plus, your marijuana seed strains grow out just like you say they will. What part do you have in assuring the quality and value of TGA marijuana seeds and strains?
MzJill: I’m a pot snob! Only the best cannabis…that’s what I want for myself and all marijuana growers. That’s what TGA is all about.
I have a very sensitive taste and mind, and I am fortunate to have the ability to determine a winner from a loser when it comes to selection of mothers.
And maybe this sounds New Age, but we believe breeding top quality strains is not only a result of starting with excellent cannabis genetics, but that breeding is also influenced by the qualities and personalities of the breeders.
Upbeat, kind, caring, laid-back growers seem to produce cannabis that makes people feel really good. Sinister marijuana seed breeders seem to produce sinister cannabis.
My favorite strain is Jilly Bean, the Candy Store phenotype, but we have so many yummy strains. I love Space Bomb, Vortex, and Time Wreck. In the evenings I enjoy the heavy Indica high of Jesus OG Kush to put me down for the night.
I definitely prefer smoking cannabis flowers versus hash or any other processed form of cannabis. I like the full range of flavor from the whole bud, and I feel it does more for my personal medical needs.
I like to select my favorite nug, usually a medium-size bud cured at least 30 days in glass, a little more on the drier side. I break it up and pack it into my favorite glass on glass bong, with cold water and ice.
For an extra treat, sometimes I add a dusting of organic water hash on the top, made by one of the best hash-makers in Northern California.
To give growers the quality cannabis seeds they deserve, TGA says test, test, and test some more! Before any TGA strain is released, we grow it ourselves for head stash, and spend a lot of time with our team and growers internationally, analyzing it and making sure it’s absolutely special.
We always listen to what growers say, giving total respect and props to what the marijuana growing family tells us about our genetics. That’s the heart of TGA.