(Originally Posted on Kindland)
Flow Kana prides itself on being the first sustainable, sun-grown cannabis brand that embraces the values of the small farmer ecosystem. Its farmers grow the freshest buds in California’s Emerald Triangle and focus on local, small-batch boutique strains.
If you peruse Flow Kana’s roster of local farmers, the people who are putting the real care into making very real weed, you might find that plenty of women are in charge of grows. KINDLAND caught up with a few Flow Kana women farmers and delved into their experiences and perspectives within the wide world of weed.
Tina Gordon of Moon Made Farms
This has been a monoculture geared toward men from cultivation to consumer appeal. But times are changing. There’s definitely a gender division around roles, responsibilities, and community involvement. There’s a lack of visibility and social structure for women farmers because there are so few, which can be a bit lonely.
I spent years observing the community, trying to find other women farmers and am beginning to meet a few. I have always gravitated toward male-dominated structures; so this isn’t my first rodeo. Years ago, when I was dedicated to playing drums, there were so few women drummers and now the numbers are vast in comparison. There seem to be a lot of women involved with every part of the emerging industry other than cultivation. I would love to see that equalize a bit. One of the pros is finding the men who do accept and support me as an equal. I’ve formed many collaborations with men over the years that have been productive and fulfilling.
Physical challenges are real. On a practical level, everything is made to fit giants…work clothes, tools, heavy equipment, trucks. So being a small human poses challenges physically and psychologically. There’s a lot of driving on torn-up roads, heavy lifting, something’s always breaking which means something always needs to get fixed. The work is varied and requires skill sets often passed down along patriarchal lines. There’s sometimes the assumption that women don’t have these skill sets or can’t learn them, which isn’t true.
It’s helpful to have experience with hand tools, power tools, basic mechanical and maintenance skills, practical math and science skills along with domestic skills, cooking, organization, communication, accounting. It’s a comprehensive and all-encompassing lifestyle. The answer is to be small but mighty, work in numbers, and rely upon brain over brawn, utilize innovation and improvisation, ignore the consumer seduction of everything new, and focus on the plants and the land.
“I get great satisfaction from encouraging young women who are interested in farming to dig in and get dirty. It’s about jumping in the game instead of standing on the sidelines.”
On unique farming:
Two women lived on and cultivated this land before me, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to carry on their legacy and improve upon what they started. I wanted to bring more women into the land and into the area and have collaborated with many in my collective. For three years there were exclusively women farming Moon Made. And they all kicked ass. I get great satisfaction from encouraging young women who are interested in farming to dig in and get dirty. It’s about jumping in the game instead of standing on the sidelines.
Moon Made Farms provides me with an ongoing education. About a year into living in Southern Humboldt, I was turned onto a book called The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. It changed my life. It’s all about no-till natural farming techniques and the importance of observing nature and the natural cycles. I started visualizing the farming process from seed to flower, understanding the importance of living soil and biodiversity. Observing nature has proven to be instrumental in the farming process and why I love growing full-season plants from seed.
I remember one night, waking up to a huge full moon that was so bright, and wondering how the light was affecting these photosensitive plants. I looked up “farming by the moon,” which led me to “lunar farming” where I learned techniques that I’ve been using ever since. I became interested in how the night cycle affects plants. The night cycle’s extremely important, both vegetative and root growth happens at night while photosynthesis is not happening.
Finding balance in the natural cycles in symbiosis with the full season cycle, I also became interested in balanced varietals. I get positive effects from using CBD’s for sleep, aches and pains, and anxiety relief, so I primarily cultivate high CBD and balanced CBD:THC plants. I feel like CBD is something beneficial to share with the world; it’s the great balancer. Every year, I try to innovate in some way—whether it’s improving a compost tea set up, building a hugelkultur, designing a toolshed that’s a teahouse, building a vintage trailer park. I’m excited about all of these projects during these changing times, and I’m looking forward to a near future when I can host visitors at Moon Made Farms.
Johanna Mortz of PolyKulture Cannyard
I would say the challenges of being a woman in the cannabis farming space are one, being in the cannabis industry itself, and two, a lot of the same challenges most working women face—trying to balance your own farm and business while still trying to manage a family and a personal life. As a woman trying to emerge in the legal cannabis farming space, my life has felt like an emotional roller coaster over the past years. Regulations and property requirements are always changing and uncertain. One day you think you have a shot at this whole thing; the next day, either the county changed its mind about regulations or for one reason or another your property doesn’t qualify for the waterboard order.
Being a farmer is a little more physically demanding than some other aspects of this industry, which can be a bit challenging sometimes. Being a farmer in this industry has also been the reason I have chosen to wait to have children. It has not been safe to have children on your property up to this point for fear that you could be raided and they could be taken away.
‘Being a farmer in this industry has also been the reason I have chosen to wait to have children. It has not been safe to have children on your property for fear that you could be raided and they could be taken away.’
A typical day:
It depends on what time of year you are pulling your typical day from. In February through March, you could start your day with some coffee and then head out to open the greenhouse and check on your baby seedlings. You would then be spending a few hours in the greenhouse getting things watered and tending to whatever else needs tending to. Then you might head to the outdoor garden for some weeding of your garden beds—moving or shoveling some soil around and getting things re-mulched and ready for planting. You might then head inside for some lunch and some compliance calls to the county or other regulatory agencies to schedule a meeting or an inspection.
After lunch, it’s back outside (depending on the weather that is) for more garden work, then it’s dinner and correspondence and emails or reading up on the newest version of the county’s ordinance.
April and May bring spring and planting your ladies and veggies outside. If you plant in April, you will have to watch for frost warning still and be covering your plants with frost protection in the evenings. Then there is the monster that is trellising—which can be quite labor intensive and usually will happen multiple times throughout the outdoor season. In September, you start prepping for harvest. Late September you start waking up before the sun’s up in order to harvest—usually spend a few hours in the garden harvesting, then it’s on to the dry room to hang your day’s harvest. I have been in the dry room well past nightfall some days.
After harvest, it’s processing time.
I was working in a dispensary in L.A. one year, as well as at a hair salon, when my cousin told me at Christmas he was moving up north to grow weed. Being a patient and a long time advocate, I was thrilled to hear his news. I wasn’t able to join him at the time, but made a small investment and commitment to come up at harvest time to help. When Harvest time came around, I moved up for what was only supposed to be a month. One turned into two, which turned into me never leaving. I met my now partner, and we have been together growing cannabis moving around northern California for the past four years.
Jennifer Gray of Elysian Farms
Being a woman in the cannabis farming world has its challenges, but the pros outweigh the cons. The physical aspect of the work can be challenging at times, but I enjoy the work; so it is worth it to me. I feel that being a woman in any male-dominant industry can be tough, but also empowering. Of course, there will always be men that don’t take me seriously no matter how much experience or knowledge I have on the topic. Luckily for me, the men that I interact with regularly in this industry treat me as an equal and always make me feel heard.
‘I feel that being a woman in any male-dominant industry can be tough but also empowering.’
A typical day:
Every season has different tasks that need to be accomplished. In the spring, we are getting everything prepared; popping seeds, taking clones, transplanting into bigger pots, mixing soil, and preparing garden sites. As we transition into late spring early summer, we begin transplanting our plants into their final homes outside, putting irrigation in place, spreading mulch, and adding cages around the plants to help support them as they grow.
Throughout the summer, we thin the interior of the plants to help prevent pests and diseases from taking hold, add netting or extra caging for additional support, and spread top dresses to feed the roots. And then in the fall, we harvest.
During the vegetative portion of the plant’s life, we are also giving the plants root drenches and foliar sprays of compost teas. At every stage of the plant’s cycle, some sort of physical labor is involved, whether it is shoveling soil, transplanting, or harvesting.
I grew up out on an off-grid homestead in the hills of Mendocino County. My mom had a big veggie garden and a large orchard. My dad had a small vineyard and was a cannabis farmer; so I was surrounded by plants of all kinds growing up. I fell in love with helping things grow.
When I was a teenager, I became particularly interested in the cannabis plant. My parents were definitely resistant to letting me be involved in any way, but I was persistent. My dad finally let me grow three plants of my own. The plants were in one of his old guerrilla grow sites; so they were up in an oak tree. I had to climb the tree every time I tended to them, carrying anything up with me that I needed to care for them. And I loved it.
Toward the end of the growing season, my plants started getting attacked by rats. They would chew on the stalks of the plants, but I was able to keep them alive. But when I harvested them, I noticed that they had gotten seeded as well. There was a male plant too close. So I hand picked the seeds out. Having these things go wrong my first time was actually a blessing in disguise. It taught me that you can never count your chickens before they have hatched.
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