A Mini Moment With: Auryn McCafferty of Purple City Genetics

Photo by Courtesy

When we set out to develop our own line of premier flower offerings, we knew it all came down to genetics. Genetics are the foundation of quality, and that meant connecting with the right breeder. Our search essentially started and ended with Purple City Genetics, an award-winning breeder based in Oakland, California. Founder Auryn McCafferty has a lifetime of experience growing, cultivating, and seed-collecting all over the world. From Spanish seed archivists to old-school icons on both coasts, PCG’s reputation spans continents. Breeders often swap seeds at Grateful Dead concerts; Auryn’s tales involve people wandering Congolese jungles for new seeds.

Although we love a great origin story, what really sets Auryn apart is a profound respect for all the possibilities of this plant and how it can enhance people’s lives. PCG is on the front lines of preserving cannabis diversity, passionately working to develop and promote a range of strains instead of focusing on what’s trending and most profitable. We worked closely with Auryn to find the perfect strains to represent our Times, seeking out the most unique terpene profiles, flavors, and effects to ensure dynamic options and keep things interesting within each category.

To celebrate the first harvest our premier genetics hitting shelves, we sat down with Auryn to talk about how he got into this business, the connections and crosses he’s most proud of, and his hopes for the evolution of cannabis culture.

MG: How were you first introduced to cannabis?

AM: I grew up around cannabis in northern New Mexico. My father was a grower, more of the smuggler/biker world. I was always watering his plants and by the time I was 16 or 17, started pollinating different branches to create seeds for myself, my dad, my neighbors, my friends, etc. I was good at it.

I grew in Arizona, then New York City for a while, then got a little burnt out. I took a break from weed for a few years to travel around Southeast Asia. Lived in India and Thailand. I was still collecting seeds wherever I went, though.

When did you realize you wanted to get into the breeding side of the biz?

The first time I came out to California in 1995, I visited Arcata in Humboldt County, and every house I went to had like 20 different jars of flower with difference labels for each strain. I’d never seen anything like it. We had great cannabis in New Mexico, but it all went by “Kind Bud.” Occasionally you might have someone claim something is Northern Lights or Blueberry, but these guys had strains I’d never heard of; more than just Dutch strains, like Trainwreck and precursors to many strains we see today. It got me really interested in how different strains can have different effects—the different tastes and profiles and seeing how they’d grow differently in different mother plants.

What’s your favorite part about this work?

There is a lady who used to run a garden store in Berkeley that I really love, a Grateful Deadhead kind of lady from Vermont who’s one of the most knowledgeable women growers I’ve ever been around. She went out of business during COVID, and eventually, she hit me up to get a few clones to start growing again. I gave her some, including a strain I bred called Estefan. She texted me a month later and said, “Oh my god. It opened up doors of perception that hadn’t been opened in 20 years. I was so happy, haven’t felt this good without taking LSD in so long. This weed makes me want to be a better person.” It was the best text message I’d received in years.

Today, when I try new flower on the market, 80% of it has basically the same effect. It’s sad to see the range of effects and characteristics diminish. It happened so quickly. People want more than what’s out there, and I want to get it into the right people’s hands.

How deep is your seed library?

Our current catalog of seeds contains 10,000, maybe 20,000 different varieties. Over the years, I’ve connected with seed archivists around the world. I have a small seed business in Barcelona, and it’s allowed me to build relationships with amazingly smart and eccentric people. There’s a group of anarchist seed archivists in Barcelona in their late 60s who have much of their collections organized by longitudinal coordinates. Like, you ask if they have Congolese, and they’re like, “Here are the coordinates where we collected that seed in the Congo.” Mexico, Colombia, Africa—they’ve gone all over.

At any given point, we’re probably growing 70 different plants in our facility. If we’re interested in a certain variety, we’ll try 5 different crosses just to collect the seeds, and then the amount of people who give me seeds is ridiculous. People who’ve done something with our genetics want to give me what they created, which is cool. It’s very full circle. But I have enough seeds to pop for another 3 or 4 lifetimes.

Do you have a favorite creation?

Midtown Haze. It’s a cross of Estefan x Swayze I worked on for like six years.

Estefan = Cuban Black Haze x Gush Mints x 1987

Swayze = NYC Piff #3 x Gush Mints x 1987 (1987 = (Collins Cough x Super Silver Sour Diesel Haze) x ( Kali Mist x SSSDH))

I selected it only for the high. It’s a slightly hallucinogenic, really upbeat and creative high with no comedown and no stacking. You can smoke and each time you come down, you return to where you were without any lag or heaviness. It’s almost perfect.

I wanted to create the desert island herb I can grow when I retire. The varieties used to make it are usually 15 weeks to flower, but this is 10 weeks. I’m very proud of it. Even my non-haze friends and family are like, “Yeah this is special.” My guy at work who only dabs and smokes heavy indica texted me at 11 pm one night and was like, “What the fuck is that one you gave me?” I asked why and he texted back a video of himself mopping his kitchen floor. That made me proud.

What's your current consumption ritual?

I don’t smoke at work anymore—too much paperwork and too many Zooms. I like a good haze at night if I want to be creative. I like OG Kush, Chem Dog, or Headband when I just want to feel ripped and happy. I really like Sour D too. I like something with a head change, gets the wheels moving in a different way than the daytime, and doesn’t make me feel groggy in the morning. I also sample a ton of the popular strains to see what we should put on the menu, and we are always pheno hunting. I can smell an herb and tell how it will make me feel.

What keeps you excited about this plant and this industry?

Honestly, seeing what brands like Miss Grass are doing to broaden the conversation and bring more women into the culture is really cool. As much as I love this plant and this work, I kind of hate stoner culture—how bro-ish it all is. I’ve honestly tried my best to avoid it. So I was really intrigued by Miss Grass’s approach to storytelling and community. Seeing how they’d ask questions to their followers about cannabis and sex, monthly cycles, menopause and all of that, I’d scroll through the hundreds of comments and it was like, Woah, this is a whole new world I’m getting to peek into. I remember talking to my wife about it. They’d created such a special forum.

What's one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when first starting out?

Don’t make business plans based on the federal government.