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Corn or cannabis, we are all farmers.
Corn or cannabis, we are all farmers.

The way the rural economy works here in Mendocino County, cash is king. People develop a reputation and build or don’t build on that. Cannabis funds the tradespeople, the local businesses. My family works in the trades; we make good money here because people have access to a cash crop on their farms that allows them to expand infrastructure and make appropriate business investments without taking on onerous debt.

I used to think “Man, I’d love to talk about what we’re doing here,” but I felt like the response from “real farmers” would be “You’re not farming — you’re cheating.” Five years into our CSA, my feelings on the matter have evolved. I now see that it IS something worth discussing, especially with other farmers.

It took years for me to shake my deviant label and accept myself as a farmer. I remember the first time I heard cannabis “growers” described as farmers, talking to Samantha and Tim about the Mendocino Farmers Collective several years ago. I had a little trouble with the term at first — our cultural conditioning and stigmatization runs deep when it comes to our chosen type of farming.

The idea that one type of seed raised from soil with water, fertilizer and love to harvest is somehow “not farming” is part of the cultural travesty that has been allowed to spawn the environmental degradations we hear so much about. The inevitable social impressions and stigma that came with cultivating cannabis under a system that defined it as criminal has kept the industry in the dark and allowed terrible things to manifest.

Daylighting the qualities of good cannabis farms will enable us as a culture to encourage good farming practices for all farmers in all agricultural industries. Cannabis is in the spotlight and it is our duty, honor and opportunity as a people to represent the good things we stand for, to learn from each other and to work together for the future of humanity.

Support California Small Farms — Open Up Legal Cannabis Cultivation

Cannabis is the fulcrum that can heal our damaged landscapes and support our rural communities; we must create a system of regulation that honors and supports small-scale, quality practitioners.

Incentivization of good practice through tax breaks for things like water storage and erosion control work should be standard government practice. Cannabis is the perfect crop for supporting a renewed rural landscape of invigorated small farms. Instead of the government offering a small-farm subsidy handout program, it should regulate cannabis farming in a manner that supports and sustains the estimated 53,000 heritage cannabis farms in California.

Encouraging a diversified crop portfolio helps farmers to better grasp their balance sheets and the potentials for lowering costs and increasing sales. The more we understand ourselves as farmers, the more we come to understand and grasp the business side of the business.

Getting System Support Like All Farmers Do

It’s easy to blame cannabis farmers for not following the rules, but we never had the systemic support that would allow us to do so. If you’re a corn farmer, there are myriad of systems available to you from USDA, ATTRA, and a host of NGO’s and private consulting services. If you’re a cannabis farmer, you’re wondering if talking to regulators is going to get your door kicked in and a cop’s boot on your wife’s neck while CPS hauls your children away. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work in America.

Cannabis should serve as an explicit small-farm support tool. It should be reserved for crop sizes measured in square footage, not acreage. It should be made available to all farms with an uncapped number of licenses in a tiered system that would further support small farms by exempting them from square-footage licensing fees that would be applied to larger operators.  Good practice should be incentivized; market premiums for quality producers will develop in a regulated system that enables access to small producers.

There are a great many costs involved in producing a love-grown, connoisseur cannabis pound. The bulk of these costs are in human labor. This creates tremendous opportunity for a rural-urban fulcrum that transports capital to farms in exchange for the time, effort and skill required to produce a craft product. People who know nothing about cannabis have been passing judgement about our skills and abilities for decades.  We are craft farmers — we know the quality of what we produce because we do so for our own spiritual upliftment.

Read Part 2 about how craft California cannabis can move forward!

Source for corn photo: Wiki.j0hn620 via Wikimedia Commons. The cannabis was grown in the Emerald Triangle and the photo contributed by a local ganjier.

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