I’ve spent a lot of time at Polykulture Cannyard this year, and have been so blessed to get to know duo Johanna and Micah on a personal level. I really enjoyed getting to sit down and dive deep into where they’ve come from and their farming practices.
So to start – how did you two get started in cannabis growing?
Johanna: My cousin was moving up to Butte County to start cultivating cannabis, and I was doing hair and working in a dispensary at the time. I’ve always really believed in cannabis as a medicine and I jumped at the opportunity to be involved. I invested with him. He moved up to Butte County and he partnered up with Micah. I came up at the end of the year to help with harvest time, and we just hit it off, and I decided I wanted to stay.
Micah: I grew up in New Hampshire and I started farming vegetables and corn and lettuce and all kinds of different home goods. I took an interest as a young kid and we expanded our farm to have a farm stand out in front of my house. That’s when I first realized that you could grow money out of the ground. I took a long time off from farming, went to high school and college, and got disenfranchised with the mainstream corporate world and where my college education was going to take me, so I moved home and spent some time working for my dad. I saved some money, and decided I was going to move out to California and go hang out with some of my friends who’d left school and had come out here. That landed me on a cannabis farm at some point. They needed a builder and somebody who was young and active and wanted to put in long days and many hours, so I did that for … I’d say hobby gardening is more accurate, but in comparison to what is now referred to as cannabis farming, yeah, I came from a farming background. I grew up playing in the dirt a lot and figuring out how to make plants come to life. In New England, there’s a lot more water in the air and there’s a lot more water in the ground. Growing stuff be green is not all that difficult.
What was it like transitioning from being a vegetable gardener to growing cannabis?
Micah: I think having a farming background and growing up playing in the dirt and trying to sell my crops to the neighborhood, it gave me an appreciation for the land and the biology. As an adult, I saw the rise of cannabis culture and the industry that was starting to develop itself around the plant. I’d gone to business school and spent some time trying to understand how some other industries worked. It made sense to me that I had some skills in that area and that if I applied myself, I could probably figure out a way to make that work for me because it never really seemed all that difficult to make plants grow.
That being said, I have spent a significant amount of time getting to the current level of success with the cannabis plant. There was a lot of trial and error. I did what Edison said to do and figured out more than a thousand wrong ways to grow a cannabis plant, and now I have a very particular way that I like to grow them. We really embrace the biology that’s in the ground and the natural systems that are already in place. We stay way from chemical fertilization and killing agents that get used in mainstream agriculture these days.
Tell me more about that – your way of growing.
Micah: I think that cannabis farming and all the people who have developed in this small farming system have relearned a way to grow plants that is actually healthy for the people and healthy for the soil and healthy for the product that comes out. I think that if we can embrace this culture that’s here and this new way of organic farming that’s going on in the cannabis industry, there’s an opportunity to make some wide-sweeping changes to agriculture in general and to bring a lot of health back to our communities. I think that in general, people could be living longer and be having a little bit happier lives if the cannabis community got to have more of a say in how farming is done.
We don’t use any pesticides, fungicides. We use a few different biological defense systems where you find some type of biology that will actually work symbiotically with a plant to defend it from pathogens, different pests, and whatnot. By not having to spray, we end up being able to produce a higher quality of flower that doesn’t have the damage that lots of crops get in different parts of agriculture.
Johanna: I didn’t come from a farming background, so it has just been a welcomed new experience to be able to get involved in this kind of farming and to learn all that I know through cannabis and farming it. The idea of being able to raise a family on a farm as opposed to in the city is something that has really brought me closer to cannabis in general and the lifestyle that it provides.
It seems like the cannabis farming industry is flooded with all these bottled nutrients, fertilizers, and other chemicals promising to create the best cannabis your money can buy. But you don’t use any of that, and still create a (in my opinion) more-than stellar product.
Johanna: The simplest way that I could describe it that was described to me is the Redwood Forest. Nobody is out there feeding the plants or giving them anything, but they’re the biggest, healthiest plants on our planet. The forest is doing that. The compost that it produces is doing that. What we’re trying to do is mimic nature and let the plant feed itself. I think as humans, we’ve decided that we know best and we can tell a plant what it needs, and I think that’s a mistake. I think the plant knows what it needs, so feeding the soil and letting the plant ask what it needs through the soil and letting the bugs feed the plant is by far the best thing and the healthiest thing you could do for the consumer.
I love that. The Redwood Forest is a great example of just how incredible mother nature is on her own. It seems like you have a lot of pride in your farm and the way you work. For my final question, I just want to know what it’s like to be out in the open, as a cannabis farmer, and standing by your farm and your work.
Micah: Every once in a while, I have a little bit too much pride in my work. We’ve had to divvy up responsibilities. I don’t get to go to government meetings as much anymore because sometimes I get emotional and have to let go of my opinion when it’s not necessarily the right time. I’m going to try and pour my passion into the ground and into the plants, and she’s going to try and deal with the political relationship more. This plant, anybody who has stuck with it for the last 5 or 10 years has really gone through all kinds of trials and tribulations and the people who stuck with it before that went through some even worse times. It has really been a labor of love to this point. It has been extremely rewarding, but it has been extremely taxing. I think now, those are going to be more financially accounted for figures, but I think that if the people who have gotten this industry to the point that it’s at now can stay a part of it. There’s a real opportunity to embrace an industry that unlike a lot of others has a strong spiritual connection and a lot of pride wrapped up in it.
Johanna: I think cannabis farmers are very prideful people because of what they’ve had to go through in order to do what they love. It hasn’t been easy. I think that there’s a misconception out there that growing weed is easy or growing cannabis is just as easy, fun thing, or at least coming from LA, that was a misconception that I had moving up here. I’m extremely prideful in our work because I now know how much it takes to produce it. I think letting people know everything about it and being more transparent is really important and really helps carry that pride. I think that … I don’t know. Yeah, we’re definitely proud of what we do. I think as regulations move forward, being able to say, “I’m a cannabis farmer,” and not be scared about the repercussions of that, you’re going to see even more people being proud of what they do and being vocal about it as opposed to, “Well, I’m a farmer,” “Oh, what do you farm?” “Oh, vegetables and flowers and medical cannabis.” It’s like, “Well, I’m a cannabis farmer and I’m proud to be that.”