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Craft Cannabis Cultivator Addresses Best Practices: ‘In Mendocino, We are Trying to Achieve Quality Over Quantity’


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With what we know today, craft cannabis will be essential to the survival of the Mendocino cannabis brand . We will not be able to compete in the production of quantity since we lack the room. Especially since we have unforeseen competition, for instance GMO crops. GMO cannabis has arrived in the industry. They have made the cannabinoids water soluble, becoming non toxic to the plant, so every part of the plant will contain the cannabinoids, giving it 5x the potential output with the additional option of perpetual harvest with the same plant. If this new patented cannabis actually becomes mainstream it will change the way the industry is run. For small farms to compete with such technology we better produce quality.

In Mendocino we are trying to achieve quality over quantity, due to restrictions in permit size and available land. In order to achieve a high level of quality we will have to change our genetics and our style of growing. We are making a major shift from shaded fungal dominant cultivation in forest land, to full sun bacterial dominant cultivation in range and agricultural land. Fungus is essential in providing us with the terpene profile we need to achieve quality. This is coupled with the fact that we built our industry in forested land zone 8b. We transitioned into zone 9b in 2012. Our new industry will be growing in zone 10b and in full sun. In the range land and agricultural land we will have to alter our bacterial dominant soil to a fungal dominant soil and address the leaf temperature issues.

When cannabis leaf exceeds 76F it will go from photosynthesis to photorespiration and no longer produce secondary metabolites and it will begin to cannibalize itself. These secondary metabolites are what gives us our terpenes and lipids which are the key to quality. When we exceed 35% genetic potential of the plant’s photosynthesis capability, the plant will no longer be a food source for its most common pests and diseases. That saves us money in labor and inputs and gives us a cleaner, healthier, higher quality product. This cannot be achieved if the leaf tissue is over 76F. We have tools to keep our leaf temperatures down. Such as shade from trees, greenhouses, hoop houses, black shade cloth with overhead misters, white shade cloth, like we see in other parts of the state and around the world. The white shade cloth is the same that is used to grow large acreage of shade grown tobacco. Genetics play a large role in full sun quality but genetics cannot address leaf temperature issues to the extent we need. We will not be able to grow full sun cannabis and produce quality on a large enough scale for Mendocino to establish itself as a quality product. Some exceptional growers with perfect microclimates will be able to achieve this quality in full sun but this is a small percent of growers. We cannot build an industry on a small percent of growers. Leaf temperature will need to be addressed. There is a reason why the price of top quality greenhouse is double the price of top quality full sun outdoor.

As a second generation back to the lander, there are more reasons than privacy for me choosing forest land to grow on. We know the same grower using the same soil inputs and techniques can grow the same plant and get 2lbs on the coast, 4-7 lbs 15 miles from the coast and 7 to 11 lbs 30 miles inland. Each zone will have huge differences in quality. Many chose the 15 mile zone in the forest lands in order to produce the best quality. Another reasoning for me in choosing forest land is so I could have a clear path towards achieving a carbon positive business and life. I do not feel carbon neutral is enough, we need to strive towards carbon positive. Just as I do not feel sustainable farming is enough, we need to strive to be regenerative. Over the decades, I have seen many farmers purchase timber land and halt current logging practices of harvesting too early. Inturn, that has increased the duration between timber harvests. A large majority of farmers have halted all logging and have just focused on repairing the damage from the previous logging.

Large trees are efficient in their use of water consumption and carbon sequestering. Coastal redwoods get 40% of their water consumption from fog. While at the same time, larger trees reduce our fire danger. This reduction in timber harvesting, has been able to be achieved because of cannabis income. Besides the redwood trees being a carbon sink, they also offer essential benefits to the quality of the cannabis. The forest land also provides us with material to make our organic matter for our O horizon. Our current industry model is not sustainable much less regenerative. Our current model mines ancient peat bogs and ships the product across the globe with the addition of other products like coco. Our industry is making an O horizon that is substantially too large, which uses far too much water. Excessive water use also leads to an imbalance in soil Redox, which makes the plant work so much harder and in turn reduces quality. This is left over from the plant count days when we needed to produce a larger structure.

We need to change our farming practices. Forest land has the ability to supply organic matter for the O horizon, and a fungal dominant environment essential for quality cannabis. The trees reduce air temperatures from transpiration, and can supply the shade needed to keep leaf temperatures lower. We are regulating our industry to remove our most effective and efficient forested cannabis farms off of their land. In order to mitigate the loss of benefits the forest land provides, we will have to design farms that constantly import inputs and spend more money on leaf temperature control.

We cannot build an industry in our native soil. Our soil cannot support it. Digging a hole in the ground and filling it with inputs from around the world is not sustainable, much less regenerative. This goes for all zones. California has everything we need. We have the rock and sand to give us minerals, phosphorus and potassium, we have our forest and agriculture byproducts to build our O horizon. We have the ability to achieve great things but we are designing a new industry on a previous unsustainable model.

No silt leaves my forest land. I don’t remove trees to farm. In order to consolidate my cultivation I have moved to a different spot on my land which means I will be planting more trees not cutting. If I decide to shut down my farm, my forest land is left with larger trees and green zones that retain water in the soil and slowly release it into the waterways for a longer duration of time. I will not look like our tinderbox monoculture forests of today. I do not hack and squirt, I have oak, madrone, hemlock fir, Doug fir and Bay Laurel that grow up to maturity and fall down and become a valuable food source for the redwood trees. Any rock or sand left on sight becomes a valuable food source for the fungal rich forest land. The majority of the horrific degradation done to our forests were due to Humboldt county allowing higher plant counts than Mendocino, and government agencies handing out 3 acre timberland conversion permits without review. I fully support the environmental process and standards placed on me as a cannabis farmer. My issues stem from the regulators limiting access or expansion of current environmentally conscious farmers in forest land where quality can be produced with a lower carbon footprint.

-David King, a Mendocino County Cannabis Farmer



  1. Comparing the evolution of food crops re evolving to the old ways and getting backing from large corporations to the marijuana trade is out of context. The marijuana trade provides no food or fodder from any of it’s magical compounds, it most closely related to the commercial equivalency of tobacco with a taxonomy that has a multitude of sometimes non desirable effects from cigarette like effects to a drunk like stupor. While I agree with soil regenerative techniques becoming the way of both big and small agriculture, I also think there’s nothing more beautiful than a pasture in the spring littered with a speckle of sheep and cows and further more a half kilted barn next to it makes a great photo opportunity. I see the trade as some may call it with the sharp dressed men and women who speak with an educated facile tongue repugnant when the real crop car taker rolls out disheveled and awash in the the effect of marijuana. While not every grow is represented this way the 3rd phase growers will inevitably be this or worse yet a conglomerate formed by a syndicate of nefarious individuals with revenue streams to fund large farms. We see promises by the industry as to the economic benefit that was guaranteed even in stage one of this grand plan, only to see a rape and pillage effect still following in it’s convoluted wake. I stand with those that call Mendocino counties valleys our home and within them our hometowns or the place we long for after a journey away and I say nay to the silver twisted tongues and yes to have supported this economy in the dark days of our communities through old techniques not fraught with cash filled barrels that lead to cash filled box vans. We have survived and we will survive as we have for the many generations before us.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFever
Picking Brains—Baring Bones—Playing it By Ear: I'm a reporter in Mendocino County and the Founder of MendoFever.

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