Traditional farm economics goes like this: purchase almost nothing, produce almost everything. A deliberate set of policies moved us away from the ways humans have always done things into a new paradigm. Removal of hemp and cannabis as staples of rural America for fiber, fuel, food and medicine concurred with a transferal to petroleum-based products that were deliberately pushed and lobbied for by large corporations with specific agendas.
The removal of hemp from the farm portfolio coincided with the beginning of the “get big or get out” movement, culminating in the “plow it fence-row to fence-row” mentality that we see mono-cropping huge tracts of genetically modified “food crops.” These denigrate the environment and keep the farmers raising them as fancified indentured servants in shiny pickup trucks — on loan from the bank.
Food Mono-Cropping Forces Farmers Into Lifelong Bad Practices
Current farm economics goes like this: buy everything at retail, sell everything at wholesale, pay for transportation on both ends. Specialize so much that you have to purchase expensive equipment and infrastructure that lock you into a specific paradigm for the rest of your life (think chicken or hog CAFO indentured-servant farmers or grain-silo-bankruptcy-tube farmers). Once you’ve invested your life in infrastructure, you’re wedded to it; you can’t change (see Joel Salatin for more discussion on this).
The old saying applies; “He who is good with a hammer thinks the world is a nail;” once you get on the tractor, you’re loathe to get off of it.
Small farms are more flexible, adaptable, and produce more on an acre-by-acre basis than large farms because we can engage in stacking of enterprises and because our farmers are embedded in the small acreages they steward. Cannabis is an unequivocal fulcrum crop; it provides critical leverage to keep small farmers on the land and promote best management land use practices.
Cannabis and Small Farm Sustainability
As a cash crop, cannabis provides stability to rural economies in the form of liquid capital to pay labor, make infrastructure investments and maintain cash flow. Any farmer will tell you, cash flow is one of the biggest issues farms face; a steady, stable source of cash-flow that isn’t credit-based yields a steady, stable farm populace. The Craft Scale production of cannabis has been essential in supporting small, mixed-crop farms because it provides a source of income without massive overhead that comes with larger operations.
If you factor obesity and ill-health, soil loss and nutrient degradation, the loss of small farms and much of the traditional American Agrarianism, we have much to atone for in the industrial paradigm. As in all things farming, economies of scale are ephemeral and have a sum negative effect when all externalities are applied.
The Quantity-Quality Barrier
America is re-crossing the Quantity-Quality barrier, moving back from “how much of it” to “how good is it.” This nation was built on the principles of Quality, but corporations geared towards profit, by definition, have a paradigmatic lens that denies them the ability to focus on quality. They have only quantity to offer so they “pile it high and sell it cheap.”
The 53,000 Craft cannabis farms in the state of California stand in stark, meaningful response to the industrial corporate paradigm. We are the reinvigoration the rural American landscape. Our farms exist in the ruins of industrial timber practices and the early decline of the agrindustrial complex. We make a journey back to our shared Agrarian roots, leveraging cannabis as a fulcrum crop to bring us back to the land and keep us here.
ef·fer·ves·cence — noun 1. bubbles in a liquid; fizz. “the effervescence of sparkling wine” 2. vivacity and enthusiasm “he was filled with such effervescence”
Cannabis culture has grown deep and strong, a proper ferment kept locked away under the pressure of a Prohibition System. Like any proper Culture, we have developed over time; I’ve come to believe that the systemic pressure we’ve been kept under has served as a glass bottle, containing our reality until it became so effervescent that it began to bubble over.
Effervescence is an appropriate metaphor; the good things we think of in fermented beverages are much comparable to the light, loving nature of Cannabis Culture. Fermented beverages have the power to alter the consciousness; as such they are in a similar class to the magical plant we are honored to tend.
Substances that alter the consciousness provided the tools that helped to make us human. They continue to provide us with the ability to assess and understand our reality and to address problems through different lenses of perspective. Fermented beverages have the power to alter the consciousness; as such they are in a similar class to the plant of which we are the keepers.
Like fermented beverages, cannabis culture has been kept under pressure, dividing, multiplying, becoming more self-aware as the hyphal tendrils of our network have extended into every village, town, berg, city and countryside in this great nation. We are Cannabis Culture, and We Are Everywhere.
Photo from HappyDays Farm.