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Winning with Grove | Farmers Cup

The Farmers Cup Connects San Diego’s Cannabis Community Through Networking, Education, and Incredible Local Products

The legal industry has opened up a lot of possibilities for cannabis, but it’s also played a major role in stifling the legacy community who fought for legalization in the first place. That’s why so many legacy operators remain dedicated to uplifting one another, prioritizing medical patients over adult-use profit, and keeping the OGs’ community-based and compassionate industry ethos intact. 

The Farmers Cup founder and cannabis entrepreneur Josh Caruso leads the legacy effort charge in San Diego, where he first launched his business. From the now-legendary Farmers Cup  and industry networking events to local deliveries and grower collaborations, Caruso has introduced a myriad of industry resources to the San Diego community, where he works to establish that legacy love in one of the state’s most populated and influential regions—and it all started with some light research he conducted on the plant as a teenager.

Famers Cup competition

The early days of San Diego’s legal cannabis community

Like many of us, Caruso began dabbling with cannabis recreationally. A Californian teen coming of age in the ’90s, the plant was still incredibly taboo for him and his peers, and proper education was few and far between. 

“I got in trouble with cannabis a few times, but I always knew I liked it and it made me feel good,” Caruso said. “Fast forward to age 16 or 17, my mom got diagnosed with cancer, and it hit our family really hard. At the time, I didn’t think of cannabis as something that could help out; it was just for getting high and having fun. She passed away a few years later, and that’s when my life completely changed.”

Caruso began researching the plant and quickly saw there was way more to it than just getting high and having fun. He read about what it was doing for cancer patients and realized what a positive impact it could have had on his mom’s life; from that point on, he was dedicated to understanding not just how the plant worked, but how and why it became so demonized in the first place.

“The rebel in me really came out. I remember thinking, ‘If the government didn’t have this hate campaign against weed, my mom might still be alive.’ And that’s where my passion for the industry, community, and culture really began. From that point on, I continued to use cannabis and research it deeper. Eventually, Prop 215 came around, and medical dispensaries started popping up in San Diego. That really intrigued me,” Caruso said.

Caruso looked around for his first clue. Everyone he knew used cannabis, and with a budding industry on the horizon, he began to see a lot of potential. He soon launched his first collective: an underground delivery service for medical patients in the area.

“I saw that there were a lot of people like me who either had family members with medical problems or issues of their own, and they didn’t want to use any of the pharmaceutical crap being shoved down their throats,” Caruso said. 

“Then, I started receiving calls from high-level military members in tears, saying things along the lines of, ‘I’m a five-star general and I can’t believe I’m making this call, but I’m going to blow my head off if I don’t get some relief.’ These people in super high positions were asking me for advice about weed. And even though I wasn’t a doctor, it put me in this position of wanting to be responsible, do hella research, and help these people out. They had no one else.”

Caruso began by creating specific products for his patients’ ailments, but as word spread and more people started reaching out to him for help, it was clearly time to start thinking about expansion. That inspired him to launch his first cannabis collective event: a legacy space for community members to come together, connect, and provide as much help to those in need as possible.

“Our first event was a complete success. It took place in the back of a random warehouse and looked totally sketchy, but every vendor loved it, and we connected the San Diego cannabis community in a way that had never happened before,” Caruso said. 

Around 4,000 people showed up to support the event, which inspired Caruso to keep coming back for more. For about four years, he and his team put together networking events every few months. But eventually, it got big enough to attract police attention, which forced Caruso to shut things down—not for too long, though.

farmers cup win

How legalization got San Diego’s community thinking about new career potential

The forced shut-down was hugely disappointing to Caruso and his team, but instead of deterring them, it forced some creative innovation that resulted in a brand new San Diego-area effort: cannabis job fairs.

“Again, everyone thought I was crazy. But no one was doing any events in San Diego at the time, so we decided to put together a space where the industry and community could come together. It was the same vibe as the other events, but with a stronger focus on helping people understand how to get into the industry,” Caruso said.

“Adult-use legalization had just taken place, and people were coming out of the woodworks looking to get into the game. We provided these people with a platform to find jobs, access plant education, and connect with the community. From there, we were locked in; the events provided so much value for the city at the time, we decided to dig even deeper.”

Caruso and his team focused on planning more b2b-style events, like glass-blowing educational courses, home-growing classes, or legislative study sessions. They invited growers, scientists, lawyers, and other cannabis experts to share their knowledge, creating this powerful community hub for San Diego industry operators to lean on one another. And then, 2020 hit.

2020 marked the start of something new for San Diego consumers, growers, and retailers

Caruso and his team first heard word of COVID-19 a few days after they threw a massive hemp festival—one of the most nerve-wracking ways to learn about a global deadly virus. 

“At the end of the event, we were all smoking, passing around joints, when we heard this big announcement on the news: covid. And we were like, ‘Oh my god, we just did a 3,000-person event. Did we just spread this virus?’” Caruso said.

“We got super freaked out and immediately just shut everything down. I remember I was just sitting in my house during lockdown, wondering where we’d go from there. And then a few days later, my wife gave me this random promotion she’d gotten in the mail from an alcohol company. They’d had to cancel a tasting event due to the pandemic, so in an effort to keep their momentum going, they gave members the option to have a bunch of different craft beers shipped to their house for a mail-in vote.”

Caruso was instantly inspired. He got together with his team and came up with a new game plan: bring back The Farmers Cup, a small sub-event they’d tried out at one of their festivals a few years back where growers competed for the winning title of best product across a variety of categories.

“Everyone was freaked out at home, and we wanted to be able to bring them joy while keeping our events alive. We busted out our black book of legal dispensaries and started reaching out to see who would want to partner with us. From there, we began to align with operators and put this crazy idea together,” Caruso said.

It worked like a charm. Judges would safely pick up their boxes of participating products, try them out over a span of two weeks, and then decide which they liked best. Homegrowers were also included in the votes, splitting the competition into two tiers: legal licensed products as the safer route, and a legacy homegrown version for passionate connoisseurs with deep roots in the community and little fear of potential legislative backlash.

Since 2020, Caruso and his team have thrown about 4-5 Farmers Cups per year. While the judging period still occurs over a span of two weeks and can be done at home, participants are now able to attend an in-person event where the winners are revealed and celebrated among their community. 

“We’ve done about eight award ceremonies at the Sheraton, which ironically is the hotel I first got rolled at when the police jumped on our events. Our events have been amazing: thousands of people gathering at a mainstream hotel to celebrate cannabis. People can’t believe it, but they love it, and brands really cherish it,” Caruso said.

farmers cup

The future of The Farmers Cup

The Farmers Cup is still enjoying growth and acclaim in the San Diego area, but Caruso has even bigger plans for the event’s future.

“I want to go to different parts of Cali, and eventually other states. We’ve been through hell and back, but we’re finally fully licensed and freer than we’ve ever been; we’ve even married our Farmers Cup to our cultivation operations. We just put out our first drop of Farmers Cup-branded flower to San Diego dispensaries, and people have really accepted it,” Caruso said.

“We grow this specific cultivar called Donny Burger that checks all the boxes, and it’s been received so well by consumers and brands. It’s a little scary for us to keep expanding, but we’re a group that’s used to getting beat up and pushed to the side. We’ve always existed in the midst of this industry’s turmoil—we’re not afraid to keep going.”

The organization has also partnered with Grove Bags for exclusive 2024 packaging, which will kick off with an artistic Ethos One collaboration.

“These special edition bags also act as tickets to our Farmers Cup events, so make sure to find us at your favorite SoCal licensed dispensaries for access,” Caruso said.

  • Home Grow

  • Liners

  • Windowed

  • Child Resistant

  • Fresh Frozen

TerpLoc 55 Gallon White Drum Liner – 5 Pack
TerpLoc 55 Gallon White Drum Liner – 10 Pack
TerpLoc 1 Ounce Home Decor Series – Child Resistant Pouch – Bauhaus – Single
TerpLoc 1/4 Pound Velvet Soft Touch – Child Resistant Pouch – BLACK – Single
TerpLoc 1/4 Pound Velvet Soft Touch – Child Resistant Pouch – MultiColor  – Single
TerpLoc 1/4 Pound Velvet Soft Touch – Child Resistant Pouch – WHITE – Single
TerpLoc 5 Gallon Terpy Bag – 200 Pack
TerpLoc 27 Gallon Terpy Bag – 100 Pack
TerpLoc 1/4 Pound Window Pouch – 20 Pack
TerpLoc 1 Ounce Window Pouch – 50 Pack

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