Seth from the BLC with a handful of Biochar
Most of us remember when growing cannabis indoors was the name of the game. It seemed everyone had an indoor set-up. Hydro was king. Most grow-rooms resembled sterile labs with bottles of fertilizer and pesticides lining the walls. Soil was almost nonexistent. Perlite, rockwool, and, hydroton were the mediums of choice. If soil was used, it was often discarded after one use, as if it had gone bad.
Thankfully times have changed. As cannabis prohibition comes to an end, emerald triangle cannabis farmers are moving back toward their farming roots. With legalization on the horizon, and faced with what most feel is an impending battle with “big marijuana,” emerald cannabis farmers are attempting to find a niche.
Most agree that it’s not going to be possible to compete in an economy of scale with big marijuana. Therefore the name of the game becomes quality and environmentally friendly small batch product. This is how small farmers across the globe have carved out a living for themselves. Small farm movements have proven that consumers will support farmers who use environmentally friendly practices to produce high quality product.
You hear it from your buddy who just bought another parcel, it’s whispered in the grow shop, in the convoy of soil and water trucks humming on the back roads, “we have got to go big this year.” It seems someone is saying this every year in recent memory. There is always some boogieman right around the corner to bring the economy and the outlaw way of life to an abrupt and final end. New regulations, a new ballot initiative, big corporations, Mexican cartels moving in, prices dropping, other states legalizing, whatever it is, it seems there is always a compelling reason that if we don’t blow it up huge this year we are not going to get another chance.
Don’t get me wrong, there are real concerns. Statewide legalization is looking better every day. New medical marijuana policies further regulate and threaten an old way of life. Not to mention the head start that states like Colorado and cities like San Francisco seem to have on Humboldt. Prices drop and drop so farmers start shooting for quantity over quality to improve the margins.
Anna in an industrial hemp field in Canada
Abbreviated version originally published in the April Edition of the Emerald Magazine:
With all the attention on cannabis these days, some may overlook the low THC seed and fiber crop varieties commonly known as hemp. In fact, there is a lot of confusion around what hemp is, how it can be used, and what role, if any, hemp can play in our local Humboldt scene. To gain some insight and understanding I interviewed Anna Owen, sole proprietor of Redwood Hemp – a local organization which organized the “cannabis stalk” drives at events such as the 2015 Hempfest. She’s also a grassroots organizer for the national Hemp History Week and volunteers with Hempstead Project HEART (begun by John Trudell) – a group currently working with Hemp Production Services, a Canada-based hemp food distribution company.
Humboldt County has been touted as the epicenter for growing cannabis and this pile of potting soil is most likely a product of cannabis agriculture. It is a symbol of the mostly invisible cannabis industry that has taken root in this region. When seen from this angle one can induce that this soil has been discarded after the original owner was done with it. After the cannabis was harvested this soil was discarded – left for others, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, seen as garbage by the original owners and cannabis growers.
Anyone from backyard gardeners to farmers knows that soil – fertile soil at that – is a resource that should not be discarded. Soil is to be tilled, composted, amended, and re-used. Farmers don’t dig up their fields, dump it somewhere indiscriminate, and then purchase more. This would be tedious, time consuming, expensive, and irrational. But why would cannabis growers practice this vary irrational method? Could it be due to the illegal, high profit, indoor, and misinformed nature of the industry? Whatever the cause, this is the practice that is symbolized and signified by the images we see above.
When we analyze this practice from an environmentalist perspective we begin to see deeper meaning in these images. Importing soil is energy intensive – physically, economically, and environmentally. Its production and transportation depletes natural resources such as petro-fuel from trucking; and depletes pumice, loam, perlite and peat moss from mining. When soil is improperly discarded, excess fertilizer run-off can encourage invasive plant growth, pollute waterways, and add to oceanic dead zones. Critics have mentioned that most soils from illicit cannabis grows are discarded in landfills and completely wasted – not to mention this takes space in landfills that could be used for non-recyclable material.
Taking all this into account we can see a narrative emerge which shows an industry – which some argue started with environmentalism as an ideal – that’s practices are wasteful at best and environmentally devastating at worst. These images symbolize the environmentally harmful and wasteful practices of Humboldt County’s illicit cannabis industry. The following will delve deeper into this analysis with additional images and theoretical representations.