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Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 01/14/2011

More to the story: How Terrapin Station developed catnip

By Tim Carman
Catnip bushes 1_opt.jpg Terrapin Station's catnip bushes: no armed guards required. (Photo by Terrapin Station)

In the course of reporting this week's story on value-added products (and even after the story was published), I had wide-ranging conversations with business partners Mark Brabazon and Carl Purvenas-Smith of Terrapin Station Herb Farm, which has thrived by turning surplus ingredients into jams and cakes and other processed items. They told me the story of how they got into the catnip business.

About 14 years ago at the USDA Farmers Market at 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW, Brabazon was approached by a stranger, with a USDA badge no less, who wanted to know if the vendor was selling marijuana. The customer apparently assumed that any farm named after a Grateful Dead album must be dealing dope under the table.

"I said, 'No, it'd certainly not be legal, but it would be a huge cash crop,'" Brabazon remembers.

The exchange sparked an idea for Brabazon. He realized that all the catnip around the farm, the "weeds" that just fell to the mower at the time, could be turned into a commercial product: dope for cats. Within a week, Terrapin Station was in the catnip business. Brabazon knew the name would be important for sales.

"We call it Bast's Cattitude Bud," Purvenas-Smith says. "Bast being the Egyptian cat god.”

“It’s very potent," Purvenas-Smith adds, "but we make a fair piece of change on that."

Terrapin Station sells Bast's Cattitude Buds for $7 an ounce, which is still well below the price of the cheapest ditch weed in the District (according to priceofweed.com), but it's enough to keep the Terrapin Station owners buzzed with gratitude. "It's our primary focus" during the winter months, Brabazon says.

So while you can’t get your customers high, you can get their cats high?

“Yes," Purvenas-Smith says, "although there is a guy who swears you get high from smoking catnip. The only thing I know is that you can boil it and make a tea that will stop the pain of teething on babies."

By Tim Carman  | January 14, 2011; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Shopping  | Tags:  Tim Carman  
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