Small farms need cannabis; patients need access to quality food and medicine. Building cooperative systems that focus on transporting quality farm products from rural areas into urban markets will create opportunity for partnerships with nonprofit organizations to increase access to underserved communities.
We stand at a powerful nexus, in which something new and beautiful may emerge. Or we may stand aside and allow the forces of conglomeration to sweep away a special way of life that has created a world-renowned reputation. California has great potential to craft new pathways that maintain small, diversified farms producing medicinal cannabis and other agricultural products.
This is a call to national networks of people paying attention: California has an opportunity to do something tremendous in the next few years, but it will take careful planning and support from people nationwide who care about small farms. Hemp and cannabis production can help stimulate rural economies and reduce dependence on petroleum and chemicals.
I step forward with trepidation, seeking guidance and the togetherness of community as we make the journey.
Why We Need the Co-op
Agricultural cooperatives are a bastion of support for farmers of many different sizes. They are of particular necessity to small farms, who often cannot compete in volume or standardization with today’s marketplace. Legislation in California is currently unclear on how cannabis farmers can form cooperatives after licenses become available, and several organizations are moving forward to show how co-op models can work for cannabis.
California’s cannabis farmers represent a micro-scale paradigm: commercially viable farms on less than one acre. These farms are often diversified producers, engaged in direct marketing of farm products and production of food crops for home use.
Cooperatives provide efficiencies and standardization that is not available to individual farms. Coops also provide the opportunity for farmers to band together to access larger markets and to represent shared values through best-management production and land-use standards.
There are many thousands of cannabis farms in the state of California. Helping to guide these farmers to increase their standardization and paperwork accountability so that they operate as business owners is a task that must be supported through cooperative engagement. There is a tremendous opportunity to realize rural economic gains through safe, regulated cannabis activity.
Cooperatives provide a tool for creating self-monitoring within the community. Third party certification of standards and documentation through a cooperative entity provides community-based support to track and trace programs. The goal is to minimize onerous regulations for small producers who participate in cooperative programs.
Consumer cooperatives are also imperative to getting medicine to patients at prices that they can afford. Patients’ rights advocates must be able to partner with farmers to minimize steps in the distribution chain so as to keep costs down.
Cooperative organizations will encourage best practices throughout the community by providing educational interfaces, standardization of procedures, efficiency of production and a responsible entity to guide and support small farms.
Cannabis farmers are micro-scale producers, living a way of life that was denied under Prohibition. As we move forward into regulation, it is imperative that the culture of cannabis production for which California is world-renowned not be left behind. Cooperatives are a necessary tool to maintain the heritage of qualitative production and move forward into industry best management practices.
Working together we can engage a regenerative agriculture that values ecology, community and economy. Cooperatives under Department of Agriculture are a necessary tool for the existing cannabis farms of California.
- How do farmers start a traditional agricultural cooperative?
- Page 2 of this Rural Cooperatives bimonthly publication (Sept-Oct 2014)