Glen Ellen farm wins cannabis award at state fair

Glentucky Family Farm, an agricultural property in Glen Ellen owned by Mike and Mary Benziger, has won a gold medal in the inaugural California State Fair Cannabis Awards competition.

La Bomba, a proprietary strain from the farm, won in the limonene category, a grouping of cannabis entries that include limonene, a prominent terpene found in several cannabis strains and many other plants that is used to make medicine. The farm has been at the forefront of growing cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Mike Benziger founded Benziger Family Winery on Sonoma Mountain in 1981. He served as its CEO, producing award-winning wines, until he sold it in 2015. He then began growing plant-based medicine and the recent award reflects the success of his efforts.

“We were blown away by the cannabis award,” Benziger said. “It is so ironic, because when our first wine to win an award at the Sonoma County Fair — our 1981 vintage sauvignon blanc — won the sweepstakes award in 1982, it was totally unexpected, and helped to put us on the map.

“Forty years later, we have won the gold medal at the state fair for one of our cannabis products, and we again hope that it will help to get the word out, but this time we hope it will help spread the word about good farming practices and set a good example for the community.”

Jess Durfee, chair of the California Exposition & State Fair Board of Directors, praised the inclusion of cannabis at the fair.


“Adding cannabis cultivation alongside wine, craft beer, cheese and olive oil was a perfect fit with the California State Fair’s history of celebrating California’s rich agriculture history,” he said in a news release.

In the state competition, rather than judging cannabis entries by tasting or imbibing, they were evaluated by chemistry and computer analysis. Lab testing was provided by SC Labs, one of California’s premier testing facilities, to determine the winners in 10 categories: cannabinoids, consisting of CBDa, CBGa and THCa; terpenes, which included myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, limonene, ocimene, terpinolene, pinene; and a co-dominant category.

Flowers were evaluated in three divisions: indoor, mixed light and outdoor. La Bomba was one of eight winners in the outdoor division.

Glentucky Family Farm is one of 140 Demeter-certified biodynamic farms in the United States. Based on the teachings of Austrian esotericist and social reformer Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic farming provides a way for land cultivators to develop a symbiotic relationship with their soil.

Biodynamic practices take the life force and natural elements of the land into consideration when cultivating crops, establishing a more biologically harmonious environment and more efficient farm management. Glentucky Family Farm provides an excellent spot for biodynamic farming because it is protected from the wind and has excellent volcanic soils as well as plenty of sunshine and warmth.

The farm also grows specialty crops for family members and Glen Ellen Star, a restaurant owned by the Benzigers’ daughter, Erin Benziger-Weiswasser, and her husband, chef Ari Weiswasser. These crops have included amaranth, apples, arugula, basil, beans, broccoli, carrots, chicory, eggplant, flowers, peas, peppers, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins and tomatoes.

In Sonoma County, the farm’s cannabis products are available at SPARC dispensaries in Sonoma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol; Solful dispensaries in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol; and Organicann dispensary in Santa Rosa.

“We’re not really in it for the business, though,” Benziger said. “If a small farm breaks even financially, it’s doing a good job. Our goal is to grow super-clean and super-potent medicinal crops that can help people.”

He also emphasized the importance of boosting small farms.

“For Sonoma County to stay successful, we need to have a good amount of small farms,” Benziger said. “To be successful, they can grow grapes and cannabis, but there aren’t a lot of other crops that are profitable.

“I think that it’s important for Sonoma County and California in general to help small farms to stay in business. If incentives and others things can be done to help them to stay alive, let’s do them.”