RIP Big Buddha - Forever In Our Hearts
RIP Big Buddha: excerpts from our interview in 2022
With a heavy heart, I write this blog on our dear friend Milo Yung, founder & brains behind The Original Big Buddha Family Farms as well as the founder & face of the Big Buddha Seeds, (from whom he split from in recent years) has tragically passed away in his sleep after some time struggling with health issues. Michael Wei Hung NG, aka Milo Yung Aka Big Buddha, passed away on Thursday, 27th of April 2023.
Who was Big Buddha?
Big Buddha rose to fame in the mid-noughties with his 2006 Cannabis Cup win & his genetic workings using the Cheese strain after managing to score a cut from the infamous Zorro, then-editor of Red Eye magazine, which he forged his version of by outcrossing it to a pure Afghani male he started the Big Buddha Seeds company, and the Big Buddha Cheese began selling like hotcakes.
We were fortunate enough to help Milo with the launch of his highly successful latest seed venture Original Big Buddha Family Farms, which he launched with us in 2022. During the launch, we decided to sit down with Milo for an hour and dive deep into the origins of Big Buddha, the infamous Cheese cultivar, and gain some insights into the next steps for Original Big Buddha Family Farms. Unfortunately, tragically, we won't get to sit and converse again. Still, we wanted to publish this blog to immortalise Milo's story through our conversation with the legendary breeder who became forever synonymous with the Cheese strain.
Big Buddha Seeds & The Original Big Buddha Family Farms
After spending 12 years with Big Buddha Seeds, Milo decided that he wanted to branch out and make his own company The Original Big Buddha Family Farms; his new venture was focused on bringing his classic cheese genetics back to the market in the best format available to him as well as bringing together his network of friends that are all passionate cannabis connoisseurs and seeing what magic they could create by pooling their resources.
Equally, he felt passionate about using this venture to showcase some of his friend's creations that needed to be in a position to start a legal seed business. Over the years, many of his fellow cannabis connoisseur friends honed their skills to the level that they were able to make and produce fire & identify how incredible that genetic expression is, and Milo planned to help these individuals get these genetics out there and bring more fire to the masses through the Big Buddha Family Farms venture.
The Cheese Strain
Milo's first job in the cannabis industry was at Weed World Magazine, where he wrote and conducted interviews and decided to use the moniker 'Big Buddha' to complete the interviews. At this time, he was selling Cannabis and growing it to a pretty high standard when he got his hands on three cuts of the Cheese clone-only strain from a man called Zorro, who was the editor behind the infamous counter-culture Red Eye Magazine in 2003 or 2004, which stood out against High Times and the likes as genuine Cannabis Culture materials not aimed to be just a bunch of advertisements designed to sell a product.
Milo noted all his friends had fallen in love with the Cheese, growing and cropping it to sell it around their area. However, Milo saw the potential in these genetics and realised that the financial and cultural value lay in spreading these genetics far and wide across land and oceans. He achieved this by crossing the Cheese with an Afghani and decided to make seeds with it. In 2006, he won the Cannabis Cup with the Cheese from Big Buddha Seeds, and from there, the Cheese has taken him on a lifetime journey that tragically culminated in 2023.
Speaking about the Cheese Milo described it as one of those strains that don't have any barriers, no matter what race, colour or creed you are; it's as simple as good weed is a good weed, and that was something that always broke down barriers, & Milo has always been a great purveyor of this, as no matter who you spoke to they'd always hold fond memories of how Milo treated them. He likened the Cheese strain to the 501 jeans by Levi's, which remains a classic and goes in and out of fashion cycles, but regardless of fashion, plenty of loyal fans will keep rocking them daily & buying new pairs. Then there are various resurgences of style where things come back into fashion amongst the general public, and Cheese is an excellent example of this.
Milo noted how the great love of Cheese for many people was down to the fact it seemed to have a 'non-ceiling high'; this is a limitless high where no matter how much you smoke, you keep getting more and more stoned. He said on the variety of strains out there nowadays, 'Many cultivars that are popular these days you can smoke for a couple of weeks and find that you've become mostly immune to the effects of them; either it doesn't taste good enough, or the high has become bland, non-descript, but the Cheese is one of those classics that you can keep consuming and getting more and more sedated.
Milo continued that Cheese was the epidemic on the street at certain times; it was all everybody wanted, and it certainly brought some fame to Britain for being the force behind the Cheese. Milo viewed himself as a patron of that thanks to his pivotal role in making Cheese the great British classic it is today to the worldwide Cannabis market. We agreed that Cheese has forever become intertwined with British Cannabis, and the heritage behind it is forever woven with the UK Cannabis culture. We certainly agreed we all be proud of this heritage as UK citizens and take the Cheese genetics forward into the future, as Cheese is a particular cultivar that's captured the hearts of many.
Milo learned how to breed early from reading magazines and written content then; one of the central bodies of work he referenced was an article on breeding Cannabis that Jorge Cervantes wrote. Cervantes was talking about backcrossing back in that particular article, and breeder Steve, the famous breeder behind Spice Of Life Seeds, also wrote a pivotal piece on backcrossing and selecting suitable male and female phenotypes from seed to create new strains.
Milo also cited a reasonable amount of trial and error occurring in this early stage. However, things stepped up when it came to Milo learning how to create feminised seed stock: seeds that produce 99.9% female genetics through pollination by reversing a female rather than using a genuine male. He credits the late Franco & the iconic Arjan from Green House Coffee Shops for teaching him how to create reliable feminised seed stock; after some trial and error perfecting this feminised seed stock formula, they took it to their growers, and it has been an R&D process since then as you can always make mistakes and new tricks can always be learnt.
The love of the plant is what cuts through the difficulty of breeding; as Milo said, you can pop a thousand seeds now, and they'll all be different, so it's just a process of going through that seed stock and selecting the right parents to breed the next generation that provides the desired plant.
Speaking on the many different Cheese variants, he mentions that they worked with the original Exodus cut. Still, over his career/journey, he's tried countless varieties that people sell under the guise of being the 'original exodus cut' or the 'original cheese cut'. Milo speculated that some never had the original version; some versions likely changed from grow room environment, some changed genetically, and some metamorphosed by being produced poorly and then grown well. Over the years, many versions of Cheese breeding for seed release have occurred, and some have been close to the original and some less so, which once again impacts the Cheese strain's physical & more ethereal traits.
Milo always tried to source the best but admits there are many; his one in Ibiza is different from the ones in the coffee shops or the ones in the UK now. That said, all the varieties he or his friends have kept have the desired effect of producing that signature cheese funk by the end of harvest, that unmistakable funk that can permeate through everything.
Milo originally had backcrossed the Cheese to an old-school Afghan cultivar he'd received in seed form from an old next-door neighbour of his, Steve. Steve was an original 80's Hashish smuggler who would smuggle tons of hash back from Afghanistan, and on one of his runs, he'd been given a pouch of seeds. Milo seized the opportunity to breed with these Afghani seeds due to the purity of the lineage that had yet to be hybridised through crossbreeding, and after selecting a male, he used it to impregnate the Cheese cut.
Milo backcrossed it 5x to bring it to a pure lineage but found that it needed to be improved a little. But the previous backcrossed generations had some extra yield, extra vigour & extra potency, so these became the parents of the original Big Buddha Cheese seed stock.
2006 Cannabis Cup Win
Speaking on the Cannabis Cup win back in 2006, Milo admitted it wasn't something he thought he'd achieve, but it was his dream to win a Cup after reading about it in High Times magazines.
He recalled that at the Cup, Jack Herer & Ed Rosenthal came over and said, "Oh, it's him; he's the one with that real stinky bud". As soon as they smelt the bud Milo handed over, they recognised it from the Judge's pack as they'd already sampled it; he immediately felt that the Cup would go well. Then, later on, that night, Luc & Patrick from Paradise Seeds told Milo, "You're going to win this", and shortly afterwards, his name was announced as Cheese was crowned the winner. That night Arjan came over and congratulated him, and they ended up as great friends- Milo mentioned that this was the night that changed his life for good and set him on the trajectory of taking the Cheese worldwide.
When quizzed about if he knew how special the Cheese was before the Cup, he remarks that he did through how strong & potent the effects and flavour were. Even before he bred seeds with it, he was scoring and assessing the local Cheese and trying to hunt for the best version and get as much of the Cheese as they could. So the Cheese has always been part of Milo and his friend's lives, they even used to hold a bus test where they'd smoke Cheese on the top deck at the back of the bus and see if those getting on the bus below could smell it, and the Cheese always passed this test. They even used to smoke in the club to see everyone's reactions to the loud aroma.
But it did take it winning the Cup before everyone recognised the levels; later in our conversation Milo reflects on how Coffeeshops in Amsterdam initially turned down the clone before it had the hype of winning the Cup. However, once it won the title, the hype was building, and soon enough, every Coffeeshop in Holland was selling cuts of the Cheese based on the one he was initially given out before 2006; at one point, a single location was selling around 20,000 Cheese clone a week!
The 2006 Cannabis Cup-winning batch was grown in Milo's parent's loft, one of the first places he grew Cannabis, where he used soil as the medium and mixed different nutrient brands to sustain the plants. The justification he gave is that, as Humans, we would get tired of eating the same chicken and rice every day, so why not give the plants some variety in their diet? So he did just that, and when it came time to leave for Amsterdam, he put it all in a giant plastic container and drove with it through the channel tunnel.
Despite the initial fear, in the following years, he had developed some extreme confidence off the back of the Cheese's success, and he just felt sure that he'd make it through custom controls without issue. Repeating the mantra to himself, he's the UK's finest grower & he was bringing all the samples for the Cannabis Cup, and thankfully, it worked. He remarked that it was quite a severe personal sacrifice in those years, but it all worked out for the best.
On Cheese's Global Reach
Milo also spent some time reflecting on watching the 2022 South Africa edition of Strain Hunters that his excellent friend Arjan presented along with the rest of the Strainhunters crew. He marvelled at how even today, there were whole areas dedicated to growing the Cheese and how pleasing it was to see how far it travels & how much it is appreciated. Back in 2010, he would visit Morocco, and they'd go out to the hash fields, and he'd receive instant recognition as the cheese man, and the farmers would come over and request 50,000 or 100,000 seeds to fill entire farms in the valley to do a massive run of it. It was one of the primary hash strains at one point, as it held the terps well, and Milo took immense pride in this.
When asked about his smoking choices these days, he smokes a lot of hash from his friends in Barcelona who own clubs; Milo finds consuming hash these days is much more enjoyable than more old-school hash tended to be. He then mentioned his good friend Woody Harrelson; who recently opened a sun-grown consumption lounge in West Hollywood that uses recycled earth and has a clean, flavour-packed taste & he really enjoyed the strong tastes of these smokes. Still, equally, he loves indoor Bud for the large nuggets you can get.
When asked about how the Cheese fares outside, he explained that it fares well, but in the UK outdoor environment, it doesn't come out as dense as you might like, but all the same, it does come out nice, but he notes that you have to be weary about the neighbours due to how stinky it can be.
When asked about the Original Blue Cheese (which he re-released a few months after the interview), he mentioned how the original one was produced using a DJ Shorts Blueberry Male phenotype to pollinate the Original Cheese. The DJ Shorts Blueberry females had a crazy profile with almost a Coca-Cola, sweet, fruity blueberry profile resulting in a unique & flavour-packed plant.
He selected a killer male from that pack and crossed it with the Cheese; he then passed the resulting clone out to Barney's. Milo wanted his signature strains across two of the biggest coffee shops in Amsterdam, Greenhouse, with the Cheese & Barneys running the Blue Cheese.
This original Blue Cheese cut was lost in the Amsterdam days, and Milo noted that the more recent Big Buddha Seeds version could have been better; it didn't quite have that deep, dark colour and did not have as strong of a blueberry profile. He had to relocate the original cut of the blue Cheese from a friend and then cross that back to the Original Cheese reversal to re-release it as Original Blue Cheese in late 2022.
Collaboration through Big Buddha Family Farms
Lastly, we discussed the collaborative strains he put out with Jaime Kusher, the Off-Road & the Biscotti x Off-Road, and if working with Jaime was an obvious first choice for the Original Big Buddha Family Farms brand. It was a no-brainer, Jaime came up to Milo at Spannabis, and he's known him since around 2009 or 2010, and he'd been growing at that point and was a fan of the Cheese. But he didn't speak English, and Milo didn't speak much Spanish, so they communicated through the language of Cannabis to make sense of each other. Milo always recognised that Jaime had a great pallette and was striving to create new great genetics.
So once Milo started this new company and tried both, Big Buddha decided to work with Jaime for the next seed release. But it didn't stop there; he also had big plans with Grounded Genetics, and they recently dropped the Pink Cheddar at Spannabis, which is the Big Buddha Cheese, aka Original Cheese, crossed to the RS11. He also had plans for projects with Karma Genetics, who will look to continue this work in honour of Milo.
Milo Yung aka Big Buddha, spoke about how close he is with all of his friends in the industry and how there was never jealousy between them but just the desire to bring fire genetics to the table. Milo spoke about the Badazz OG, which he loved, and he used the Badazz Cheese to pollinate the Alien OG Kush recently with his recent Space Raiders strain. He speaks about how important it is to have a team of people with the same goals of maintaining unique cuts of strains, which is something he'd achieved in recent years & was crucial to success as if something ever happens in one spot, you've got other locations that should be ok.
We were extremely grateful to have been able to bring Milo Yung of The Original Big Buddha Family Farms out to the 2023 Spannabis show for what was sadly the final Spannabis show of the Iconic Cheese breeder, where his recent release of the Original Blue Cheese & his Mac N Cheese went down a treat for all those looking to get their fix of the legendary Big Buddha Cheese strains.