Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown

Stepping out of the unregulated medical marijuana market in California and into the world of legal, adult-use cannabis, with licensing and high taxes to follow, has been no small feat for most farmers in Northern California’s hail from the Emerald Triangle, which includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. Considered by many as the cannabis capital of the world, this is where many of the cultivars we enjoy were first developed.

One such Southern Humboldt County farmer, Sunboldt Grown owner Sunshine Cereceda, was comfortable in the medical marijuana space, using the cooperative model where patients supported farmers. There, she developed and branded cultivars of her own, like Loopy Fruit, Wanderlust, Delphina and Redwood Summer.

Cereceda saw the writing on the wall with issues of legalization for the small farmers to the north, and her message is the still the same: Farmers need to brand themselves, their farms and their cultivars in order to effectively compete and be known.

They also need to do away with the middleman—or the “Bro Distro”—as Cereceda dubbed them. This refers to the old-school method of moving material and product on just a handshake, with the small farmer at home often getting the short end of the deal. It worked to a point back in the day, but today trust is being exploited by what she calls “corporate sharks.”

“Cannabis has always sustained us, even through the hard times, so why is it not going to get us through now, after all these years?” Cereceda asks. “In my mind, the small cannabis farmers need to change their mindset. They need to do away with all the bad habits developed in the past unregulated markets in order to move forward.”

Cereceda went on to explain that in the days of prohibition, they were functioning without a future. But now, small cannabis farmers can leverage their own history as they legally build their businesses. 

“Rookies and bad habits built the industry during prohibition. From my roots in activism, I understand the challenges of the messenger,” she said. “But we have this product that’s already branded from our region—we’re known as rockstars in the industry. There’s no stronger cannabis community in the nation. We’re just in transition. It’s a learning curve, to say the least.”

Born Into Activism

Cereceda’s mom brought her to Southern Humboldt from her birthplace of San Luis Obispo, CA, when she was seven years old. 

“I was raised by an activist,” Cereceda says. “My mother organized and protested nuclear energy and weapons. She was there during the Diablo Canyon rally in 1978 with [CA Governor] Jerry Brown—she was one of the organizers.”

Part of her mother’s advocacy included protecting the redwoods, and Cereceda followed in her footsteps, majoring in geology at Humboldt State University. “I studied geology mostly because it’s Mother Earth, and I wanted to understand the earth” she said. “I thought it was all about plant life, but then I realized it was the rocks and the earth itself.”

The degree led her to work on road inventories for Humboldt Redwoods State Parks, followed by a gig with Pacific Watershed Associates. 

Watershed stewardship is an important issue in California and is directly tied to the health of the forests and rivers. For decades, the watershed was largely ignored by small and large-scale cannabis operations from both the unregulated medical and illicit markets during the days of the Green Rush. They would reroute water coming down the mountains to suit their needs, with unpermitted roads crisscrossing the hills, making it nearly impossible for literally hundreds of hill farmers to come into compliance today.

It’s important to note that the erosion of the roads is also a direct result from the timber industry, now expected to be corrected and paid for by the farmers.

“During a town hall meeting prior to legalization, water experts were brought in to let us know that, even in a drought, we could gather enough water to care for our crops using rain-catchment systems,” she said. “Cannabis farmers have taken the lead in responsible water use for agriculture in the state.”

For the Love of Farming

Responsible agricultural practices are key in sustainable and regenerative farming, which is what the Emerald Triangle is known for. But it’s not enough to compete in an overregulated market, where the farmer feels the brunt of taxation—not only on the farm, but also on the shelf, as retailers bump their losses down to the farmer at check-out.

“Farmers are at the end of the line in a capitalistic system, and we carry the tax burden as it gets kicked down from retailers and brands that buy bulk and package it themselves,” Cereceda says. “I’m lucky that I have good retail partners, but that took time and consistency to establish. If you’re still using your Bro Distro, you’re losing a big chunk of income.”

With the promise of distributors and umbrella brands representing farmers a clear disappointment—garnering a mere $400 to $500 per pound—Cereceda says it’s time for farmers to represent themselves in the marketplace and build a brand.

Doing all the work herself with her team, from seed to shelf, including packaging, Cereceda said she’s been able to get $1100 to $1200 per pound.

“Farm management skills [and] managing workers—it takes a lot of years and a concentrated effort to be good at it, and that all adds to your bottom line” she says. “You can’t just get a license and think it’s all going to work out alright with your output. Historically, we pay for our operation out of each harvest, but that’s like working paycheck to paycheck with no guarantee your next crop will be moved. Our distribution right now is weak.”

Reducing risk plays a big factor in succeeding in the regulated market, and Cereceda says the more a farmer opts out of their own work, the less they’ll make. It’s just common sense.

“How about growing what you can move yourself?” she asks. “This is capitalism, count your blessings. This is how it works. The middleman will take all your profits if you let him. And your Bro Distro isn’t much better. It takes one year to grow a crop; it takes several years to grow a business.”

One distributor Cereceda speaks fondly of is Berner, CEO and co-founder of Cookies, with longtime Southern Humboldt Farmer, Kevin Jodrey in the mix.

“Berner is underrated,” she says. “He’s doing a great job supporting farmers and has gotten more customers off the black market on the streets and into shops than anyone else. He allowed so many black-market growers back in the day to prosper growing his genetics—they got brand recognition for his cultivars. Can’t say enough good about Berner.”

Berner is a stage name for San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop artist, Gilbert Anthony Milam, Jr., who branded his Cookies cultivar during the medical market in California. Cookies was made legendary after the Scouts of America forced him to shorten the name from Girl Scout Cookies to Cookies.

Branding a Life

small cannabis farmers

Showing the face of the farmer—telling their stories in today’s social media marketing mindset is everything.

The once shy Cereceda is now posting photos of herself on social media from the farm, holding her colas in the forest, telling the stories of how they were created and named—sharing her charmed farm life with the world.

Typically, it takes years to create a cultivar. It’s not uncommon for each farmer to have specific stories surrounding the work, the detailed variations of the flower, and the cultivar’s name, which often involves a sentimental or meaningful story from the farm.

Sunboldt Grown’s website beckons, “Taste the Redwoods,” noting all cultivars are grown in the loamy ancient soil, taking on nuances, just as in viticulture in the South of France and the growing of grapes for wine taking on the essence of lavender or rosemary nearby.

The plants are grown in the flood plain deposits of the Eel River, with no additional water needed. This is called dry farming, and the farmers refer to themselves as “terroirists” (from the French word terroir, meaning earth or soil), who allow for the place to be expressed in the flower they grow.

Cereceda’s crops are also grown by the cycles of the moon, not uncommon among farmers. In fact, the historic Farmer’s Almanac still provides lunar cycles as a planting guide. The almanac explains that just as the moon’s gravitational pull creates the tides of the oceans, it also promotes plant growth by creating more moisture in the soil. 

Sunboldt Grown cannabis

“Wanderlust was inspired by sailing on the ocean,” Cereceda says. “The word implies an urgency to be moving, to not settle in one place.”

From its website, Wanderlust is a hybrid of Blue Dream and Agent Orange, with flavors of lemon-lime zest and fresh Douglas Fir needles, finishing with a splash of orange juice. The smoke is medium-bodied with a dense, velvety richness. A ten-week strain, its delicate flower is sensitive to the cold.

“Redwood Summer is named after the campaign and initiative from 1990, to stop the clear-cutting of all old-growth redwoods,” Cereceda said.

The backstory to the Redwood Summer campaign is heartbreaking and personal to the region. Earth First! began the movement. It was led by Judi Bari during the Timber Wars that continued into the 1990s and ended when Bari and her partner Daryl Cherney were seriously injured after a pipe bomb was planted in their car. The cultivar is a tribute to Bari and the movement that continues to educate and protect the old growth forests.

Delphina was created by crossing Purple Nepal with Rebel Moon (NorCal Diesel). Cereceda uses this cultivar to make old-school, solventless, bubble hash as it yields high-quality resin. A sweet and savory aroma, it’s spicy, and the smoke is likened to breathing in the forest floor, delivering a deep state of relaxation and euphoria.

“Delphina is a Greek woman from Delphi, Greece, where the Earth Goddess Gaia was first celebrated,” she said. 

According to author Darian West, the Oracle of Delphi was considered the most influential woman of the ancient world from 800 BC until 393 AD, when her last recorded entry predicted the end of the Roman Empire, declaring, “All is ended.” Delphina proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in the world, predicted the rise of Alexander the Great and foretold the death of Nero.

Farmer as Influencer

Small cannabis farmers have a hard time getting out of the illicit market. For the most part, they can’t afford licensing; can’t move product; distribution is weak; taxes are high; and ordinances are unreasonable and/or ill-informed to begin with, causing undue hardships.

“Everyone is codependent in this space,” Cereceda says. “The handshake deals don’t work anymore. The days of your best buddy distributing for you are over.”

For the first time in history, cannabis farmers are feeling the brunt of growing the world’s most illicit and beloved herb on the planet. Just as with food farmers, they aren’t getting a living wage, with no subsidy from the US government to bail them out when times are hard, or the price per pound is too low to pay the bills.

“Everyone is borrowing on us, and we’ve been way too complacent about it for far too long,”’ Cereceda says. “On the other hand, this product—this cash crop—is from Mother Earth, and the fact that we’re doing as well as we are up here is just amazing to me. We need to own our right to be here and work smarter.”

The post Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown

Stepping out of the unregulated medical marijuana market in California and into the world of legal, adult-use cannabis, with licensing and high taxes to follow, has been no small feat for most farmers in Northern California’s hail from the Emerald Triangle, which includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. Considered by many as the cannabis capital of the world, this is where many of the cultivars we enjoy were first developed.

One such Southern Humboldt County farmer, Sunboldt Grown owner Sunshine Cereceda, was comfortable in the medical marijuana space, using the cooperative model where patients supported farmers. There, she developed and branded cultivars of her own, like Loopy Fruit, Wanderlust, Delphina and Redwood Summer.

Cereceda saw the writing on the wall with issues of legalization for the small farmers to the north, and her message is the still the same: Farmers need to brand themselves, their farms and their cultivars in order to effectively compete and be known.

They also need to do away with the middleman—or the “Bro Distro”—as Cereceda dubbed them. This refers to the old-school method of moving material and product on just a handshake, with the small farmer at home often getting the short end of the deal. It worked to a point back in the day, but today trust is being exploited by what she calls “corporate sharks.”

“Cannabis has always sustained us, even through the hard times, so why is it not going to get us through now, after all these years?” Cereceda asks. “In my mind, the small cannabis farmers need to change their mindset. They need to do away with all the bad habits developed in the past unregulated markets in order to move forward.”

Cereceda went on to explain that in the days of prohibition, they were functioning without a future. But now, small cannabis farmers can leverage their own history as they legally build their businesses. 

“Rookies and bad habits built the industry during prohibition. From my roots in activism, I understand the challenges of the messenger,” she said. “But we have this product that’s already branded from our region—we’re known as rockstars in the industry. There’s no stronger cannabis community in the nation. We’re just in transition. It’s a learning curve, to say the least.”

Born Into Activism

Cereceda’s mom brought her to Southern Humboldt from her birthplace of San Luis Obispo, CA, when she was seven years old. 

“I was raised by an activist,” Cereceda says. “My mother organized and protested nuclear energy and weapons. She was there during the Diablo Canyon rally in 1978 with [CA Governor] Jerry Brown—she was one of the organizers.”

Part of her mother’s advocacy included protecting the redwoods, and Cereceda followed in her footsteps, majoring in geology at Humboldt State University. “I studied geology mostly because it’s Mother Earth, and I wanted to understand the earth” she said. “I thought it was all about plant life, but then I realized it was the rocks and the earth itself.”

The degree led her to work on road inventories for Humboldt Redwoods State Parks, followed by a gig with Pacific Watershed Associates. 

Watershed stewardship is an important issue in California and is directly tied to the health of the forests and rivers. For decades, the watershed was largely ignored by small and large-scale cannabis operations from both the unregulated medical and illicit markets during the days of the Green Rush. They would reroute water coming down the mountains to suit their needs, with unpermitted roads crisscrossing the hills, making it nearly impossible for literally hundreds of hill farmers to come into compliance today.

It’s important to note that the erosion of the roads is also a direct result from the timber industry, now expected to be corrected and paid for by the farmers.

“During a town hall meeting prior to legalization, water experts were brought in to let us know that, even in a drought, we could gather enough water to care for our crops using rain-catchment systems,” she said. “Cannabis farmers have taken the lead in responsible water use for agriculture in the state.”

For the Love of Farming

Responsible agricultural practices are key in sustainable and regenerative farming, which is what the Emerald Triangle is known for. But it’s not enough to compete in an overregulated market, where the farmer feels the brunt of taxation—not only on the farm, but also on the shelf, as retailers bump their losses down to the farmer at check-out.

“Farmers are at the end of the line in a capitalistic system, and we carry the tax burden as it gets kicked down from retailers and brands that buy bulk and package it themselves,” Cereceda says. “I’m lucky that I have good retail partners, but that took time and consistency to establish. If you’re still using your Bro Distro, you’re losing a big chunk of income.”

With the promise of distributors and umbrella brands representing farmers a clear disappointment—garnering a mere $400 to $500 per pound—Cereceda says it’s time for farmers to represent themselves in the marketplace and build a brand.

Doing all the work herself with her team, from seed to shelf, including packaging, Cereceda said she’s been able to get $1100 to $1200 per pound.

“Farm management skills [and] managing workers—it takes a lot of years and a concentrated effort to be good at it, and that all adds to your bottom line” she says. “You can’t just get a license and think it’s all going to work out alright with your output. Historically, we pay for our operation out of each harvest, but that’s like working paycheck to paycheck with no guarantee your next crop will be moved. Our distribution right now is weak.”

Reducing risk plays a big factor in succeeding in the regulated market, and Cereceda says the more a farmer opts out of their own work, the less they’ll make. It’s just common sense.

“How about growing what you can move yourself?” she asks. “This is capitalism, count your blessings. This is how it works. The middleman will take all your profits if you let him. And your Bro Distro isn’t much better. It takes one year to grow a crop; it takes several years to grow a business.”

One distributor Cereceda speaks fondly of is Berner, CEO and co-founder of Cookies, with longtime Southern Humboldt Farmer, Kevin Jodrey in the mix.

“Berner is underrated,” she says. “He’s doing a great job supporting farmers and has gotten more customers off the black market on the streets and into shops than anyone else. He allowed so many black-market growers back in the day to prosper growing his genetics—they got brand recognition for his cultivars. Can’t say enough good about Berner.”

Berner is a stage name for San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop artist, Gilbert Anthony Milam, Jr., who branded his Cookies cultivar during the medical market in California. Cookies was made legendary after the Scouts of America forced him to shorten the name from Girl Scout Cookies to Cookies.

Branding a Life

small cannabis farmers

Showing the face of the farmer—telling their stories in today’s social media marketing mindset is everything.

The once shy Cereceda is now posting photos of herself on social media from the farm, holding her colas in the forest, telling the stories of how they were created and named—sharing her charmed farm life with the world.

Typically, it takes years to create a cultivar. It’s not uncommon for each farmer to have specific stories surrounding the work, the detailed variations of the flower, and the cultivar’s name, which often involves a sentimental or meaningful story from the farm.

Sunboldt Grown’s website beckons, “Taste the Redwoods,” noting all cultivars are grown in the loamy ancient soil, taking on nuances, just as in viticulture in the South of France and the growing of grapes for wine taking on the essence of lavender or rosemary nearby.

The plants are grown in the flood plain deposits of the Eel River, with no additional water needed. This is called dry farming, and the farmers refer to themselves as “terroirists” (from the French word terroir, meaning earth or soil), who allow for the place to be expressed in the flower they grow.

Cereceda’s crops are also grown by the cycles of the moon, not uncommon among farmers. In fact, the historic Farmer’s Almanac still provides lunar cycles as a planting guide. The almanac explains that just as the moon’s gravitational pull creates the tides of the oceans, it also promotes plant growth by creating more moisture in the soil. 

Sunboldt Grown cannabis

“Wanderlust was inspired by sailing on the ocean,” Cereceda says. “The word implies an urgency to be moving, to not settle in one place.”

From its website, Wanderlust is a hybrid of Blue Dream and Agent Orange, with flavors of lemon-lime zest and fresh Douglas Fir needles, finishing with a splash of orange juice. The smoke is medium-bodied with a dense, velvety richness. A ten-week strain, its delicate flower is sensitive to the cold.

“Redwood Summer is named after the campaign and initiative from 1990, to stop the clear-cutting of all old-growth redwoods,” Cereceda said.

The backstory to the Redwood Summer campaign is heartbreaking and personal to the region. Earth First! began the movement. It was led by Judi Bari during the Timber Wars that continued into the 1990s and ended when Bari and her partner Daryl Cherney were seriously injured after a pipe bomb was planted in their car. The cultivar is a tribute to Bari and the movement that continues to educate and protect the old growth forests.

Delphina was created by crossing Purple Nepal with Rebel Moon (NorCal Diesel). Cereceda uses this cultivar to make old-school, solventless, bubble hash as it yields high-quality resin. A sweet and savory aroma, it’s spicy, and the smoke is likened to breathing in the forest floor, delivering a deep state of relaxation and euphoria.

“Delphina is a Greek woman from Delphi, Greece, where the Earth Goddess Gaia was first celebrated,” she said. 

According to author Darian West, the Oracle of Delphi was considered the most influential woman of the ancient world from 800 BC until 393 AD, when her last recorded entry predicted the end of the Roman Empire, declaring, “All is ended.” Delphina proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in the world, predicted the rise of Alexander the Great and foretold the death of Nero.

Farmer as Influencer

Small cannabis farmers have a hard time getting out of the illicit market. For the most part, they can’t afford licensing; can’t move product; distribution is weak; taxes are high; and ordinances are unreasonable and/or ill-informed to begin with, causing undue hardships.

“Everyone is codependent in this space,” Cereceda says. “The handshake deals don’t work anymore. The days of your best buddy distributing for you are over.”

For the first time in history, cannabis farmers are feeling the brunt of growing the world’s most illicit and beloved herb on the planet. Just as with food farmers, they aren’t getting a living wage, with no subsidy from the US government to bail them out when times are hard, or the price per pound is too low to pay the bills.

“Everyone is borrowing on us, and we’ve been way too complacent about it for far too long,”’ Cereceda says. “On the other hand, this product—this cash crop—is from Mother Earth, and the fact that we’re doing as well as we are up here is just amazing to me. We need to own our right to be here and work smarter.”

The post Face of the Farmer: Sunshine Cereceda, Sunboldt Grown appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Growing Soil for Cannabis, the Regenerative Way

Soil preparation for the garden begins in the fall at harvest time, and the process is completed in the spring. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to run out and buy bags of different powdered nutrients, premixed fertilizers or a bottle off the shelf that has all of these nutrients in their proper proportion—and maybe even says organic on the label—but where is the fun in that?

Here at Swami Select, in California’s Emerald Triangle, we source materials as close to home as possible. We’re trying to save the planet by moving agriculture away from petrochemical ingredients and revitalizing the soil through natural inputs and regenerative practices.

Benefits of Cover Crop

Cover crop at the home of Swami Select, in Northern California’s Emerald Triangle.

The basis of fertile earth starts with planting a cover crop of legumes and grasses just before or right after harvest in October and November, or in the early spring. Cover crop seeds are available in different formulas of premixed bags, often called Organic Soil Builder or OSB. Alternatively, some nurseries let you combine your own selection of seeds. Sweet pea, vetch, fava beans, alfalfa and ryegrass are some of the most common “green manure” crops.

The advantages of planting a cover crop in the fall are many: The soil is protected from erosion during the winter rains; beneficial plants prevent unwelcome weeds, malevolent fungi, bacteria or other pathogens from growing. Best of all, the bacteria around the roots of the cover crop legumes gather nitrogen in a form that can be easily utilized by the cannabis plant after the cover crop is harvested in the springtime. This is called “nitrogen-fixing.”

The cut plant material is then used as mulch or green manure. Alternatively, the cover crop can be turned over so the roots of the plants are up. But, it is better to just cut down the above-ground part and let it lie where cut to form a mulch.

It’s also beneficial to leave the stalks and roots in the bed after harvest so as not to disturb the microbiology in the soil that has developed during the growth cycle. The stalks are then pulled out in the spring when the cover crop is harvested, but by now, the finer ends of the roots have been composted into the soil, adding organic material. In addition, fungal hyphae have developed about the root ball. Cannabis prefers a predominantly fungal environment in the soil—like the trees in the forest—rather than a bacterial environment such as the meadow grasses.

The Theory of No-Till Farming

In the practice of Regenerative Agriculture, there is either “no till,” or tilling is kept to an absolute minimum, only mixing in the amendments in the topmost layer. The theory of no-till farming rests on the fact that different microorganisms thrive at different depths in the soil.

Bacterial life is most abundant below one-and-a-half feet, and if it is turned over and brought to the surface, the bacteria will binge eat all the available nutrients near the surface. Once all of the nutrients are gone, they die from exposure. This actually depletes the soil. If every different microbial life form in living soil remains in its optimum depth environment, the soil food web is not disturbed and fertility increases.

Disposing of soil after each harvest is a bad idea. With the right regenerative practices, each year you can improve the soil and its fertility, substantially reducing the costs and benefiting the environment by doing so.

Testing the Soil

Swami testing the soil.

Early spring is the time to take a soil sample. There are basically two kinds of tests: a mineral/chemical test or a biological/microbial test. The first assays the amounts of NPK and other elements the plant needs to thrive, such as calcium, magnesium, boron, iron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, sulfur, chlorine, manganese and nickel.

The biological test surveys the microbial life, identifying beneficial and detrimental bacteria, fungi, nematodes, ciliates, flagellates, amoebas and more. This test is three to four times more expensive, but it should be done when starting a new garden site, or if there are fertility or pathogen problems. Healthy living soil is more resistant to pests or pathogens.

Contact a local testing lab and they will send you information and instructions for gathering a soil sample to mail in. It is relatively cheap and definitely worth the price—without any soil tests, you are literally operating in the dark. The test should be done annually in different parts of the garden, which will give a baseline and guidelines for how to increase fertility over time.

Reduce Costs, Preserve the Planet With Living Soil

Making wood chips for cannabis soil
Swami making his own wood chips for their garden’s living soil.

How we create living soil is by using compost, worm castings, wood chips, manure, straw and alfalfa mulch, rice hulls and coir as soil amendments or top dressings. This year, we are using homemade biochar in the mix to help reduce our water usage. During the growing season, we make compost teas to energize and augment microbial life, and we also grow companion plants or trap plants as part of integrative pest management.

Bags of compost, worm castings, manure and other items can all be purchased at a nursery or from a local farmer. There are many different kinds of manure, but you want to be sure the animals haven’t been treated with antibiotics or other medications. Compost bins and worm bins can be made at home, but for a large cannabis garden, you will probably need to purchase these items, unless you have a large farm and can produce your own animal manure and straw mulch.

Once you have the soil tests with their recommendations, you can choose what amendments to add. If you are hoping to jump-start the garden, then you can use certain mined mineral products such as gypsum, glacial rock dust, greensand, oyster shell, Azomite (which is crushed volcanic rock and contains many necessary trace elements) and insect frass. I prefer not to use bone meal, blood meal or feather meal, primarily because they attract bears, but also because I am a vegetarian and wonder about the treatment of the animals in the slaughterhouses.

I have also moved away from using bat guano, sea bird guano and perlite. Although they are all effective in the soil, each of these has environmental issues. When bat guano and sea bird guano are collected, it disturbs the hibernating or nesting areas of the animals, threatening their survival. Additionally, imagine the working conditions for those who do the collecting: shoveling bat shit or bird shit all day.

Perlite isn’t approved because when soil with perlite is disposed of (a common practice for indoor and greenhouse farms), the perlite gets in the water supply and then into the stomachs of fish and other wildlife.

After a year or two, if you are adding the right organic ingredients, you won’t have to resort to these granulated additives. If you want to go hard-core regenerative, you can skip the mined mineral additives altogether and rely on wood chips, manure and compost teas. It will just take a bit longer. Wood chips are best made from your own trees. Leaves are gathered in the fall so they have the winter rains to stimulate the microbial growth in the piles.

After the cover crop has been harvested in the spring, it is time to mix all the aforementioned gathered ingredients into a big pile. Once all the amendments are thoroughly mixed—either in a wheelbarrow, cement mixer or tractor with a bucket—each plant bed should get an equal portion of the pile.

Water it in, then top it all off with organic straw mulch. You can start with the routine of a compost tea soil drench every ten days or two weeks. When you repeat this process every year, you end up making a layered lasagna of organic ingredients. After three or four years, the beds will become truly fertile with a living soil food web. Your plants and the Earth will thank you.

The post Growing Soil for Cannabis, the Regenerative Way appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Is Cannabis Legalization Killing Weed Events?

There was plenty of weed at the recent “Harvest Ball,” the first edition of the newly rechristened mid-December cannabis event which was focused on celebrating northern California’s sungrown harvest, formerly known as the Emerald Cup. (The official “Emerald Cup” happens in May in Los Angeles at Green Street Festival.) This non-Emerald Cup was just the “road to the Cup,” if you follow. The only trouble was getting your hands on any weed without burning an hour waiting in line or running afoul of the law.

The first big cannabis event to happen in California in the COVID-19 era that’s not a business conference, the Harvest Ball was also the first cannabis-consumer forward event to happen under the watchful eye of the new Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), the single state agency formed last summer by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It was also the first “Emerald Cup” event to happen after the brand’s new format signaled a shift away from its Emerald Triangle roots and towards population centers in Southern California.

For all these reasons—COVID, Newsom, rules, commercialization—significant changes were inevitable. Much has happened since the old days of bursting turkey bags and mason jars stuffed with head stashes, lids unscrewed every few minutes so growers can swap sniffs of terpene bouquets or exchange fistfuls of bud for cash, for different bud—or, just as likely, for the joy of sharing.

But according to event organizers as well as attendees, things were so difficult that unless state law is significantly revised—to allow farmers to sell directly to consumers, and to loosen (or at least clarify) rules around what stashes can be sold or not—events such as the Harvest Ball/Emerald Cup/whatever-you-call-them simply won’t work.

“We need modifications so that future events are viable,” said Taylor Blake, the event’s co-producer and daughter of Tim Blake, the Mendocino County grower and founder who now serves as CEO.

What went wrong? And what needs to change so things go right?

Too Much Fuss, Too Much “Bust”

Cannabis events and the law have always had an uneasy relationship but have yet managed to co-exist, if not peacefully and comfortably, at least functionally.

Implicit in most every weed event’s ethos is the acknowledgment that it’s a market.

Vendors pay money for booths so attendees can come and give them money for whatever they’re selling: T-shirts, posters, books or (at a weed event, this is what people really want) weed. Under current California law, the most difficult thing to sell at a cannabis event is cannabis.

Though most every cannabis brand had product available at their booths, not all of those brands have a state sales license. And with good reason—those licenses are expensive. If you’re not in the retail game, why would you have one? That meant anyone who wanted to sell cannabis at the event had limited options.

You could agree to sell under the event license—which would then take a 50% cut of your gross, a fee several aghast attendees described as “predatory.” Or, if you were a small farmer at the designated “small farmer area” (a description that used to apply to the entire Emerald Cup and not a subsection), you could set aside some inventory for the single sales counter, but that inventory had to be properly packaged, tested and entered into the state’s track-and-trace system.

The result was a lot of what retail and tech nerds call “friction”—that is, barriers. Visitors to a booth who saw cannabis they liked had to take notes or remember what they wanted; take that list to a line that could take an hour to work through; and finally give their order to an overworked clerk who was likely unsure if the strain name the customer uttered was still in stock or even properly prepared by the farm. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t make logical sense, but that’s the law.

Worse for some attendees was the omnipresent DCC, whose agents could be identified by their olive-drab jackets, blue hats with tiny fan-leaf logos and deep interest in how much cannabis one might be carrying—and whether it was over the eight-ounce limit imposed by the state’s legalization law.

According to photos and interviews, DCC officials swooped in on several friend circles where attendees said they were merely showing off their weed to one another—not selling nor sharing product marked for sale (which you can’t do; once product is entered into the track-and-trace system, it has to be sold or destroyed). They also may have been a little overzealous, which isn’t the vibe anyone paying $90 and up for a ticket was there for.

“The DCC hassled licensed farmers with booths who were showing their samples of their product,” said Trevor Wittke, a second-generation grower who posts on Instagram as @sungrownmidz and is the former executive director of the Calaveras County Cannabis Alliance. Wittke, too, reported being corralled and questioned by the DCC to see if he was playing by the rules—and shared a photo of what appeared to be an enormous trash bag, full of cannabis products, toted around by a DCC agent.

In a statement, Christina Dempsey, the acting deputy director of external affairs for the Department of Cannabis Control, said the agency didn’t confiscate any cannabis. The terminology the DCC prefers, according to an e-mail exchange, is “voluntarily surrendered,” an exercise in semantics that didn’t win regulators any points with exhausted and exasperated attendees like Wittke.

As for the viability of the event, the DCC is “in the midst of examining the current event regulations in order to improve and clarify the requirements,” Dempsey said. “This will include gathering feedback from licensees who participate in and run cannabis events. We’re also assessing what guidance would help event organizers, retailers and exhibitors better understand requirements and consider innovative approaches to events.”

Fix or Die

To hear the Emerald Cup’s people tell it, the major friction source was around product identification and safety. State law requires anything sold be tested before it can enter the supply chain. That was bound to cause some confusion and irritation with a crowd used to a freewheeling vibe.

One real easy way to fix at least some of that would be to give what small farmers have been screaming for from the beginning: the ability to do what they’ve always done and sell directly to a consumer.

“Fix the cultivation tax and allow us to sell to people directly,” said Casey O’Neill, the owner-operator at HappyDay Farms in Laytonville and one of the more visible and outspoken advocates for small farmers. Other vendors agreed. Simple solutions, maybe, but not so simple to implement.

Fixing the cultivation tax—which currently levies a tax of $10.08 per ounce on cannabis, or $162 and change per pound, a hefty sum in a market where $500 is a good wholesale price for an outdoor-grown pound—will require a 2/3-vote at the California Legislature. It remains to be seen if that’s possible. Fixing rules to make weed events easier would require lawmaker action as well.

And in the COVID-19 era, relaxing rules that some believe have strangled the Emerald Cup and similar gatherings are bound to discourage sponsors, vendors and attendees from even bothering to host or attend public cannabis events.

The post Is Cannabis Legalization Killing Weed Events? appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Growing Cannabis Outdoors: Good Yields from Bad Weather

Growing cannabis outdoors is the most natural way to grow your own. Your crops receive free energy from the sun, and their roots have more room to expand in the ground. This usually means plants grow bigger and stronger, with higher yields of more potent, tastier bud.

That said, we’re not all blessed with perfect weather. Some growers must risk heavy rain and brisk winds. Some places are colder than others, and some are too hot! 

This article explores how to get the best harvests, even when the odds are against you. We’ll look at your choice of seeds, where to plant them, and how to protect your plants from all but the severest of weather. 

Protecting Your Cannabis From the Elements

Weather can be unpredictable, no matter what climate you live in. This means cultivators must be able to adapt quickly and effectively. Learning how to protect your cannabis crops from the elements is an essential step for any budding grower. 

Wind

A little wind is vital to a healthy growing environment. It helps strengthen stems for future colas and reduces moisture. However, too much of it can break branches and injure your crops.

To protect your cannabis from intense winds, we suggest sowing your feminized seeds near a wall or hedge, to act as a windbreak. Alternatively, you can erect poles next to each growing plant, securing them with string to give your crops extra support.

Cold

Temperatures below 53 degrees Fahrenheit can devastate your cannabis plants. The cold slows down your crop’s metabolism, damages the root system, and can increase the chance of mold.

To combat low temps, we suggest placing frost covers over your outdoor crops to protect them during the night. You can also install heat mats to keep the soil around your plants warm, and to stop the ambient temperature from dropping too low.

If you’ve planted your weed seeds in pots, you could move them inside when the temperature gets too cold. Another trick is to use autoflower seeds. They’ll mature quickly and won’t need as much exposure to sunlight.

Humidity

High humidity encourages diseases like powdery mildew and mold. One way to help prevent these issues is by watering your plants at their base instead of spraying the leaves. This technique reduces the amount of water held around the leaves and buds.

If you notice white powder or spots on your plants, you should act quickly. Grab a bottle of plant protectants and spray your cropsbefore the illness spreads. In severe cases, you should cut off any infected areas.

Another method you should regularly practice is trimming the foliage, especially when growing seeds from the indica category. As mentioned earlier, this technique increases air flow and reduces moisture around the leaves.

homegrown cannabis when weather is bad water hose

Heat

Marijuana plants love warm conditions, but they become susceptible to health problems when temperatures exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Some signs of overheating include leaves curling and drying out.

There are several ways to maintain a comfortable environment for your cannabis crops, despite the heat. These methods include:

  • Watering in the morning or in the evening to ensure proper water retention.
  • Erecting a shade cloth over your plants to keep them away from harsh sunlight.
  • Placing your potted weed plants inside a second larger pot to create a buffer zone that keeps the roots cool.  Avoiding cold water for feeding, as the difference in temperature could shock your plants.
  • Using coco coir when planting your weed seeds, as this growing medium helps to retain water and stops the roots from becoming overheated.

Top Tips for Growing Outdoors

Through years of trial and error, the Homegrown Cannabis Co. has learned many tricks to get the most from their outdoor cannabis crops. While experience comes from hard work and dedication, every cultivator needs a good foundation; these tips should help. 

Choose the Best Genetics

When it comes to growing cannabis, it’s in your best interest to purchase quality marijuana seeds that you can rely on. Failing to do so will only lead to further issues down the line, like poor quality plants and dismal yields.

Remember that quality and pricearen’t the same thing. There are loads of places to find cultivars to suit your budget and skill level.Look at Homegrown Cannabis Co.’s BOGOs section if you aren’t convinced.

Find an Optimal Location

We suggest reading through the requirements of a particular cultivar and ensuring the spot you’ve chosen offers everything it needs. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to find a better location for your crops. Understand the pros and cons of pests.

Not all insects are pests. Some creatures can help your crops stay healthy by eating harmful ones. Here are a few techniques you can use to protect your cannabis plants:

  • Introduce some beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantis.
  • Erect netting around your crop to keep birds away.
  • Move beneficial plants like lavender and basil closer to your crops.

Regular Maintenance is Key

Cannabis isn’t the type of plant you can leave for months and return to find a bountiful harvest. You need to give your crops regular attention and care if you hope to reap the benefits. Check in on them every day and trim the lower leaves to assist with ventilation.

Use Quality Fertilizers

Cannabis plants don’t just need water to grow and stay healthy; they also require high-quality nutrients. We recommend buying a bag of organic fertilizer to give your crops what they need.

More Bud for Your Buck

As you can see, there are numerous ways to ensure you reap great yields, even in bad weather. All it requires is a bit of planning and regular attention. At the end of the day, your harvest is a direct representation of your effort.

Consider keeping a record of your plants’ journey with a Homegrown Diary. This will become a priceless source of real data specific to your grow.  You can also join the Homegrown Cannabis Coompany’s Homegrown Forum, where you can ask their experts and friendly community for assistance. Homegrown’s Youtube channel also features hundreds of videos covering all types of cannabis needs. 

Good luck and never stop growing.

The post Growing Cannabis Outdoors: Good Yields from Bad Weather appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The Environmental Impact of Cannabis Cultivation

As conscious consumerism enters the cannabis world, purchasing decisions may be based more on fair trade and regenerative farming than on orange hairs and THC percentage. With legalization taking hold, the industry has shifted from trying to protect people from the police to trying to protect small businesses from the behemoths that are inevitably entering the cannabis space. But while a lot of support for small cannabis businesses comes out of a concern for the people involved, there’s another party to be considered: the planet.

Large-scale industrial agriculture has historically been no friend to the environment. But where does the environmental impact of cannabis production really lie? It’s not necessarily size that determines how sustainable a cannabis grow is. A small, indoor operation wastes an incredible amount of electricity, while large-scale outdoor regenerative farming is possible with foresight and planning.

Of course, the cannabis industry right now isn’t set up to reward sustainable practices. California, one of the agricultural centers of the world, has so far allowed cannabis to be cultivated outdoors in only 13 counties, and as of now the products found on the shelves in dispensaries are more likely to come from indoor producers.

When considering the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation, it’s more relevant to examine the different methods used for cultivation and to remember that, unlike traditional agriculture, cannabis cultivation has another complicated dimension — one created by the remnants of reefer madness.

Elysian Fields, an off-grid homestead in Mendocino County, is run by Jennifer Gray and Simon Evers.

An Energy-Efficient Means of Production 

While greenhouse and indoor operations can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint like collecting and re-using water, soil and other natural resources, growing cannabis outside is the most energy efficient method of production.

The International Cannabis Farmers Association, a California-based organization formed to encourage policies supporting local farmers and sungrown cultivation, conducted a study of the various energy consumption levels for different types of production. Their data showed half an acre of indoor production (22,000 square feet) produces the same energy needs per year as 298 average households. Four season greenhouses account for 82 households’ worth of energy, while greenhouses that use the sun’s light for flowering emit the same as 15 houses. Hoop houses that take in mostly sunlight with some supplemental lighting are using the same as 0.5 houses annually, and of course, cannabis grown under the sun uses no additional lighting energy.

So, if the sungrown method is in line with the sustainability goal of decreased energy consumption, why is it allowed only in certain areas and why are the shelves dominated by indoor product? The answer to both questions stems from an artificial idea of “quality” that dominates the market, along with fears around cannabis being “too free.”

Under prohibition, pop culture and the media decided the characteristics that defined “quality” were primarily THC percentage and bud appearance. This would be like deciding the quality of a wine based on the alcohol percentage and color. This, along with the fears in the public overseeing cannabis growing out in the open, led to policies that support indoor cultivation in large, highly secure facilities.

However, growing cannabis on small farms in the sun — in harmony with the environment and without the use of chemicals — creates an objectively high-quality end product. This is because the full spectrum of the sun’s rays maximizes cannabinoid and terpenoid development and because healthy, nutrient-rich soil translates into cleaner cannabis.

Johnny Casali from Huckleberry Hill Farms in Humboldt County says growing with an extra attention to preserving the natural landscape has an impact on the plants that results in cannabis with a true terroir. Terroir, a French term often applied to wine, refers to the unique impact that environmental factors have on a plant phenotype.

“The ability to grow my cannabis in natural sunlight, on a property unique to any other, allows me to create strains that thrive in this area of Humboldt County,” Casali said. “The sun dictates my special creations by rising in the early mornings and setting just behind the madrone trees at 6 p.m.”

61 Alpenglow, a 80-acre farm in Southern Humboldt, grows cannabis outdoors alongside solar panels. The farm is in the “banana belt” of its region, meaning the property is warmer and more dry than the valley below it.

The Regulations for Growing Under the Sun

Sungrown production is currently allowed in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Growing outdoor herb provides for 1-2 crops per year, compared to the six harvests indoor operations can produce. However, under these states’ laws, cannabis cultivators are taxed based upon the final weight of the cannabis they’re selling, rather than based upon how many production cycles they have. For sungrown cannabis cultivators to compete in this marketplace, they’d need help from more production-based tax incentives.

However, there are a few methods that outdoor growers can incorporate to supplement the natural sunlight and squeeze more harvests in a year. Mixed light operations can range from hoop houses, where farmers pull tarps to create light deprivation, to four season greenhouses that use supplemental lighting to grow cannabis off-season. In addition to supplemental lighting, these facilities may require some seasonal ventilation, heating and cooling. And, like sungrown, this method is only allowed only in some states.

When considering the energy efficiency of different lighting systems, the two types of lights that should be considered are antiquated High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights and Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting. While LEDs are more energy efficient, this method is also more expensive. This means that HPS lights are more common, though LEDs are steadily gaining popularity.

Of course, some cannabis farmers don’t use electric lights at all — for their plants or for themselves — because their farmers believe in a lifestyle free of dependence on artificial energy. One such farmer is Simon Evers of Elysian Fields, a second-generation farm in Mendocino County.

“I choose to live off the grid, in the country,” Evers said. “I believe in homesteading and community a lot. And in that dynamic, [cultivating] sungrown [cannabis] just makes sense.”

Beyond growing under the sun, another way to improve a cannabis farm’s footprint is to adopt regenerative farming practices, which improve the quality of the land even as it is used for cultivation. These regenerative practices include the use of living soils, companion plants, beneficial insects, closed loop compost systems and water recycling.

HappyDay Farms is a small, diversified family farm located in the hills of Northern Mendocino County, California. The farm also grows produce and flowers for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and local farmers’ markets.

Cyril Guthridge, who runs Waterdog Herb Farm in Mendocino County, believes other natural elements beyond the sun influence the expression of his outdoor harvest.

“It’s about the benefits of the sun, the moon and the air,” Guthridge said.

Guthridge said that his use of companion plants improves the terpene expression of his cannabis, as does the stress of the natural environment.

The trend of cannabis farmers growing other crops on their farm is actually an impact of prohibition, as small craft cannabis farmers needed to create systems that would minimize their trips to town to decrease the likelihood of detection. This, along with a culture of land stewardship, has created a swath of earth-friendly, agri-creative cannabis gardens that are perfect examples of 21st-century farming. As Guthridge says, he’s a cannabis farmer “using nature to make nature better.”

Despite the benefits these farmers see from cultivating with regenerative practices, artisan operators are in danger because of many new cannabis regulations. Because of unique policy and licensing hurdles, cannabis farmers are not eligible for tax incentives based on energy conservation, unlike traditional crop farmers. In addition, there are also more environmental hurdles for sungrown farmers to getting licensed in a legalized environment, including more complicated water access permits and inspection processes.

Sungrown cannabis plants at Elysian Fields.

Shifting Perceptions & Blaming Prohibition

In order for sustainable cannabis practices to be feasible in a regulated market, two shifts in perception must occur.

The first perception that needs to change is that “quality” cannabis is defined by THC percentage and bright orange hairs. Instead, the cannabis consuming public must adapt to a new definition that includes the method by which the plant was farmed, the ethics of the companies that will benefit from that purchase and how that product has impacted the land.

The second perception that must be abolished is the opinion held by many local governments that cannabis grown outdoors is somehow a bigger safety and crime risk than cannabis grown indoors. We must start licensing sungrown cannabis, and encouraging new regulations that provide incentives to grow outdoors, as a part of the larger push for responsible environmental policy.

Ultimately, the only party to blame here is prohibition. Prohibition took a crop and forced it indoors under artificial light — and reefer madness is keeping it there. 

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Still Standing: Northern California’s 2020 Harvest In Review

The harvest was glorious, mellow and abundant. It was sunny and mostly warm up until the first week of November, when forecasts of the first rain and then a hard frost mandated that we cut the final cultivar a few days early. 

Other than the unfortunate farms that burned and lost their whole crops, and some other growers in the immediate area who were smoked out, the 2020 California sungrown cannabis crop doesn’t seem to have suffered much testable damage.

Photo Nikki Lastreto

Every harvest is different, but I would be lying if I didn’t report the unique challenges the cannabis community endured this season. Repeating the litany of crises can become wearisome, and I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. However, in spite of being declared an essential industry and evidence of a growing market for cannabis as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, I am not sure anyone in the legal cannabis business is actually making a profit. 

Most businesses in the legal market are just happy to be “still standing” at this point. We clearly are in a moment of transition, or in astrological terms, we are on a cusp, about to enter another phase. How much of the predicted events will in fact transpire – no one knows.

An Extra Helping of Hurt

For the cannabis farmers of the Emerald Triangle, the challenges came thick and fast in 2020. Like everyone else, we have been affected by “the virus,” a presidential election, Black Lives Matter, social distancing and the lock down. But as 2020 started, the cannabis community received an extra helping of hurt. 

First, there was the rise in the California cannabis cultivation tax, which doesn’t make much sense since excessive taxation is the reason for a thriving illicit market. This was followed by the COVID-19 lockdown, which brought the cancellation of most public cannabis events, including the 420 national holiday. 

Initially, cannabis dispensaries were shut down as part of the shelter-in-place orders. A ray of hope came when cannabis was declared an essential business in late May, and sales picked up, especially delivery and the newly authorized curbside pick-up.

Cultivators took this as a green light to carry on with the springtime garden preparations. However, at the start of the planting season, it was realized that even including all the drought years since 2000, the previous eight months had received the least rainfall since 1979-80. Subsequently, springs and creeks began to run dry, and farmers who are dependent on trucked-in-water were freaking out as towns put a limit on withdrawals.

This was followed by the belated realization that two thirds to three quarters of all cannabis licenses in California are provisional because they had not met the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The January 1, 2022 CEQA deadline suddenly seemed awfully close as county and state officials realized there were not enough working hours, staff or money to pay them to process the approximately 7,000 provisional licenses before they expired. This meant that 90 percent of the compliant cannabis businesses in the state could be shut down due to an unrealistic deadline.

Some counties even require an additional report of threats to sensitive species posed by cannabis cultivation in the mountains. The cost for the licensee to secure these clearances was estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Suddenly, it seemed that virtually the entire cannabis economy would be reduced to the biggest and richest operations while the small pioneer legacy businesses would go under.

Apocalyptic Skies

To top it all off, the fire season started earlier than usual. As anyone living in California in the summer of 2020 knows, the sky turned a dark, apocalyptic orange while ash fell like warm snowflakes that didn’t melt. It was so dark at mid-day that cars had their headlights on, and the street lights were lit. 

Many people lost homes, farms and crops. Fires blazed throughout the Emerald Triangle, the Santa Cruz mountains, Big Sur, the foothills of the Sierras, and even up into southern Oregon. Watching the fire lines, shown on the Cal Fire maps, as they inched closer to one’s neighborhood and ranch was daunting and stressful.

The only good news was that, for the most part, the fires were in forest land, which meant the ash was not nearly so toxic as a town or city on fire. But still, everyone was afraid that the entire crop for the whole state would be ruined by the smoke and ash. The talk among the cannabis community was focused on how to remove ashes from the leaves and flowers. Most people used leaf blowers or gently shook their plants.

Pineapple Cannabis Plant
Photo Brian Parks

Building Hope

In spite of all this, the harvest turned out great. The days of August and September were hot and the nights were cool, furthering the development of THC and the terpenes. When we finally started cutting in the first week of October, there had been no significant smoke or ash for several weeks, and our feelings of hope began to rise. Even though we desperately needed the rain, everyone was glad that it held off until the end of harvest.

Once the cutting actually began, everyone shifted into high gear – literally. At Swami Select Garden, we harvest in the wee hours of the morning when it is still dark out. Because of all the smoke and ash, we added extra precautions: After each plant was brought in and weighed, we  dipped every branch in a diluted hydrogen-peroxide solution. Next, we dipped them in clean water before hanging them outside on wires strung between trees for a brief drip-dry.

Cannabis hanging to dry during harvest.
Photo Brian Parks

As the sky slowly begins to lighten, and all the plants for that day’s cutting are hanging, we take a break for breakfast, when I cook omelets or pancakes for the crew. Then, we go back to hanging everything in the official drying area.

Interestingly, the need to get up at 5 a.m. creates a bond between the team members. It is really a magical time under the moon and stars. The terpene aroma is delightful, the buds are at their peak, and there is a sense of pride seeing the giant colas come down and loaded onto the trailer. It’s hard work, but one can literally see the fruits of their labor.

Looking Ahead

All during October, the humidity was in the twenties and thirties, so the issue was preventing the flowers from getting too dry. Then, as the drying area filled up and the rain came in November, we had the dehumidifiers going full time. Drying takes between 10 days and two or three weeks depending on outside humidity and how many fans and dehumidifiers there are. 

Nikki deleafing after harvest.
Photo Zach Sokol

When sufficiently dry, the smaller twigs snap rather than bend. This signals that it’s time to take the branches down, off the drying nets, and roll them up in brown Kraft paper – like three-foot tall burritos. Now they are ready for bucking, when we remove any large fan leaves and take every bud off of its branch in preparation for the fully manicured trim at the processing center.

The farmer’s harvest work may be over, but it’s time to prepare for next year’s grow already. First, we planted a cover crop of nitrogen-fixing plants followed by spreading compost on top of the soil to discourage the turkeys from flying over the fence to eat the seeds. Finally, all the equipment and gardening gear must be put away for the winter. A good farmer is always thinking ahead to the next season.

The 2020 election has brought some positive news for the cannabis industry as 30 cities and counties in California passed cannabis legalization measures, which hopefully means we’ll see more retail outlets soon. The election wins in five states were also a boost, proving cannabis is the one thing most Americans can agree on. News like this is encouraging for us farmers who work so hard to grow the best cannabis in the world. We will not give up!

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What’s The Deal with Sungrown Cannabis?

Leading stoner comedian Ngaio Bealum is the creator of the album “Weed & Sex,” a frequent guest on “Getting Doug with High” starring Doug Benson, and a regular cannabis festival MC. He’s also our very own Dear Dabby, here to answer your most pertinent questions about the plant we all love.

Why do people prefer sungrown cannabis? — Al Natural

That’s a good question. I wouldn’t say that everyone prefers outdoor, er, sungrown cannabis. I remember 10 years ago, when indoor weed was all the rage and no one wanted outdoor weed, especially during harvest season. We used to have gigantic debates about which weed was better. I personally prefer outdoor to indoor and let me tell you why: OUTDOOR WEED TASTES BETTER! That’s it. Something about sun and dirt make for great cannabis. I think the French winemakers call it “terroir,” meaning like “earth” or something. Don’t take my word for it: a lab in Washington state has reported that outdoor cannabis had slightly more THC and a higher terpene count than cannabis grown indoors.

I’m not saying that indoor weed can’t be fantastic. I just smoked a Strawberry Banana grown indoors with dirt, using a “no-till” method, and it was flavorful and amazing. However, quality indoor is becoming harder to find, mostly because factory farming and commercial pressures have created a lot of mediocre cannabis brands. That Strawberry Banana I smoked and loved was grown in a small garden by a master grower. One would hope that the future of cannabis should be small batch, organic cannabis farms, but we will see if capitalism will allow these sorts of businesses to exist.

Oh, and outdoor cannabis is better for the environment. Sunlight is free, so you don’t need to use nearly as much electricity, nor do you need as many chemicals. And yields are bigger because you can let the plant grow and grow. The sky is the literal limit. Plus, with the new light deprivation technology, a good farmer can harvest outdoor weed 2-4 times a year. I feel like greenhouse and light-dep cannabis will be the wave that strikes a happy medium, and we can find other things to argue about, like cold water hash versus butane extractions.

I hate to throw away all the plastic waste from vape pens. Can you recommend any refillable options? — Petra “Kim” Ikal

I think I can. It’s kinda funny how the cannabis industry, which used to be filled with hippies and environmentalists, has embraced plastic disposable pens and cartridges with a quickness. I get that pens are convenient and very discreet, but does anyone care about leaving a small environmental footprint anymore? We shall see. End rant.

As to your question: PAX, Prohibited and a few other companies sell vaporizers that can be used for waxes and oils. They are fairly easy to use, and once you get the hang of it, you can load up a fat dab hit with minimal muss and fuss. Also, if you need to get rid of your empty cartridges and you don’t just want to throw them into the garbage, many dispensaries have cartridge recycling programs, so you can drop your empties in the box and feel better about yourself.

Can I do anything with the cannabis that I’ve already vaped? — Al Offit

Yes. Yes, you can. Use it to make a cannabis-infused oil or butter. Vaped weed still has a usable amount of THC and making a butter (or a tincture if you are fancy and have the time) is the easiest way to get that THC out of the plant and into your bloodstream.

What’s the best way to figure out how my cannabis was grown? — Praven Nonce

Um, ask the grower? Find the brand on Instagram? As cannabis becomes more and more like the fancy booze industry, it should become easier to find out where and when and how your weed was grown.

I live in California, so it is easy for me to find out the provenance of my pot. Hell, the fancier companies love to tell you that their bud was grown deep in the heart of Mendocino County, under the watchful eye of an ancient and venerable hippie farmer who only visits the big city when it’s time to buy new shoes. But I was just in Nashville, and while they had some good weed out there, no one could tell me where it was from or even what it was. Just a few years ago out on the West Coast, there were a bunch of “farmers’ market” style cannabis events where cannabis users could visit different booths and get a chance to talk to the growers to learn about their techniques and ingredients.

Sadly, farmers’ markets are no longer allowed in the new “legalization” era, although there are definitely a few underground farmers’ markets, especially in Sacramento — where luckily, I reside. However, I feel like in a few more years, legal states will once again be able to have legal farmers’ markets and cannabis users will find it easier to learn about the cannabis they consume. 

TELL US, how do you chase down the tastiest sungrown cannabis?

Originally published in print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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