Tiered farming
Tiered farming

The larger the scale, the more difficult it is to maintain flexible policies and capacities for operation. Small, diversified farms are more productive on an acre-by-acre basis because they can engage in stacking of enterprises that yield more bounty from the same space.

At HappyDay Farm in Mendocino, we planted alfalfa in the cut banks of our terraces when we put them in several years ago. Now, this vertical space that had great potential for erosion is blanketed by a deep-rooted perennial that we harvest for animal feed and to make high-quality mulch and teas that provide fertilizer and organic matter to our soils and plants.

We have converted a negative space with potential for damage to the ecosystem into a highly productive biomass generator that sops up leftover nutrients and water to grow green manure that sequesters carbon out of the atmosphere while providing cover and habitat for organisms large and small. Alfalfa is an excellent source of nectar for the native bees, and it is a joy to pause in my work and watch their exuberance as they work the vibrant purple flowers.

Chickens love to eat alfalfa, and the stuff grows so much that we have to harvest it regularly to keep it from overtaking the rows it protects. It is an excellent example of stacking enterprises by assessing a negative space to accomplish multiple goals.

If we are able to do something that helps our farm economically while accomplishing land stewardship or community-building, then we have created a system that creates incentive for good practice. This is what cannabis has done for the communities of rural California, providing a backbone of economic stability that made possible a reinvigoration of a landscape that suffered the effects of a LEGAL, industrial paradigm.

This article is part of a larger piece Cannabis Farmers’ Good Practices Stimulate Communities, Improve Land.


  1. Alfalfa also has a plant growth hormone called tricantinol, which can be extracted via a botanical tea. Also besides the high N content in the leaves there is also fair amounts of P and K in the stems. The 2nd cutting of Alfalfa has the highest N content. But be careful, as organic alfalfa seed is getting harder and harder to get. Seedsavers!!!

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