Recently, Flow Kana spoke to Jonathan Wentzel, Head Farmer at Beija Flor farm in Mendocino. Wentzel co-founded the farm with his wife, a partner with a corporate business background who focuses on the farm’s compliance. We wanted to find out about Jonathan’s background, the challenges and spirituality of farming and what inspires the craft that goes into his sun grown cannabis.
FK: What inspires your method at Beija Flor?
BF: It’s nature. Cannabis should be carefully cultivated. We should do it in that manner. It’s a sacred plant. You should be sensitive with the strains that you grow and you should have that attitude as a farmer. I like to grow in small batches on the sides of hills and test local and regional soil science with strains from around the world. How the plant expresses itself is linked to how we put it together.
FK: How would you describe Beija Flor’s mission?
BF: The mission is bringing together breeding programs, land preservation and stewardship so that both being on the land and the cannabis we produce is the finest experience possible.
FK: How did you start?
BF: I’m 37 now. I started 25 years ago. I started farming cannabis as a young teenager in Napa and Sonoma growing in trees on sides of hills. My folks got a place in Mendocino. My family were vintners operating on a small level. We were in 4H. My mom was a big gardener. My dad worked as an Agriculture Insurance Commissioner at the federal level. Both my parents were from southern Humboldt and wanted to move back. They came to Mendocino and put their money into land. I have been working the land since I was in my 20s.
FK: What other experience did you have?
BF: I worked in botany and studied under different herbalists. I learned to build green, living roofs and walls with a friend. I also did large scale management of ranches and seeding native plants in Marin and Carmel Valley. I did habitat restoration with funded grants, helping protect habitat in creeks and rivers. We worked to get the fish healthy, getting the streams cooler, colder, and deeper.
FK: What are some of the ideas that inspire in you as a farmer?
BF: One of the cool things I see coming together is the concept of conservation and sustainability. Those are really broad terms and are probably used too much. One really interesting thing is carbon sequestration through cannabis cultivation. It is a very prolific plant. I think it has the capacity to store a great amount of carbon in the soil. I’m excited about the number of farms that are farming sustainably.
Another idea is the innovation versus exploitation concept. If you find a good thing why not do it? If you over innovate, you’re losing focus on your productiveness. Knowing when to quit is essential. A lot of what you see in organic farming is people going too far. I appreciate the philosophical contributions of Rudolf Steiner. How do you know “optimal stopping”? Let the system that you created perpetuate itself. If you add more input, you flood the system.
FK: What are the biggest challenges you’re facing?
BF: Our extreme weather patterns. For example, the pressure dropping across the continental United States versus the possibilities of a bug infestation all at once. It’s about resiliency. We are seeing extreme heat and winds that come through. Having a biologically diverse soil structure for adaptability is important. Really, it’s all about adaptability because there’s an inability to predict.
FK: Do you enjoy the challenges of unpredictability?
BF: I actually really do. I enjoy it in a weird way. My responsibility is to create a healthy ecosystem. As long as I’m doing that I’m doing the right thing. It’s really important to keep a beginner’s mindset. Our life is very brief. And it goes quickly. Learning is a practice. Farming and learning is a devotional practice. It’s how you sanctify and make spiritual what you do in the day. We are making medicine. The receptiveness that can be cultivated goes beyond your programming. The more you think you know. As soon as you get human …
FK: Arrogance? Confidence?
BF: Yeah! As soon as you think you’re the master, you learn otherwise.
FK: Tell me about the strains you choose to cultivate.
BF: That’s a long conversation I have with the seeds, land and terroir.
FK: What is the conversation telling you now?
BF: It’s telling me to reintroduce original native strains. On the one hand your breeding projects are based on what grows well. You’ll have market-selected variables that you’d like to bring out, like OG Kush. They’re fun, cool, they impress your friends and the marketplace loves it. And, another step is, what is your latitude and longitude on the globe? What is my microclimate? Can I combine Afghani that grows at 3,500 feet if I grow at 2,100 feet? I want to see if this can grow. I’d like to see things taken to another level with cultural terroir.
If I’m making cultural terroir, I’m going to get local worm castings, local seed, and I’ll mix that into the compost. That’s a sustainable model because I’m using everything within a 50 to 60 mile radius.
Check out these Beija Flor strains, presented by Flow Kana
Pineapple is a indica-leaning cross of Pakistani x Superbud. A previous Emerald Cup winner, this mellow flower has aromas of sweet pineapple with pine trees and a taste of tropical fruits and pinene. Best experienced wandering through a forest, taking in the smells and sights of the surrounding pine trees, as you inhale the smooth smoke, Pineapple will give a relaxed and happy feeling.
Underscout is an indica-leaning cross of Underdog OG and Girl Scout Cookies. With a piney aroma with a hint of fuel, this mellow flower is high in Beta-Carophylle, which provides anti-oxidance and anti-inflammatory properties. This flower comes on slowly, then offers long-lasting relaxation and calm.