The 420 Farm Tour 2019
The 420 Farm Tour 2019 – Santa Cruz County California
A group of cannacurious and seasoned pros embarked on a first of its kind cannabis farm tour on April 20th, 2019. The tour was a journey of three fully licensed farms in the central coast of CA that truly exemplify the emerging new wave of conscious craft cannabis at its best! Guests boarded a big school bus and climbed their way up a hill and were greeted with refreshments for a primer from Chris Carr, founder of the Santa Cruz Center of Botanical Studies on the rich history of California’s central coast legendary breeders and genetics in a beautiful outdoor farmhouse estate garden. Chris reminded us that some of the cannabis strains that we have come to know have a very unique history that originated from the central coast region like the legendary sativas of the 70s like the Original Haze from Santa Cruz and the famed Big Sur Holy Weed some of the first Sinsemilla. Many don’t realize that it was the California bred cultivars that were the founding genetic building blocks of modern cannabis as seeds were brought to the Netherlands and Europe in the 1980’s from North America and popularized varieties like Hindu Kush, Afghani, and Skunk # 1.
The group then proceeded to take a walking tour of the first destination, Coastal Sun Farm. Coastal Sun is the real deal. I mean the real deal when it comes to smart and sustainable ecological systems that go beyond even what some ‘organic’ produce farms can manage to boast. Basically regenerative farming meets modern agriculture. The farm consists of a series of small and large scale greenhouses from simple hoops to massive full temperature control mixed light environments running state of the art agronomy methods and technology for climate and nutrient control with the least amount of external inputs.
Angus Mills of Strong Agronomy who runs the operation so eloquently explained how the farm uses organic bioponic growing techniques that are able to maximize resource management and resource cycling on the farm. All their cannabis plants are grown in containers using a substrate medium and water is recycled through them which captures and reduces water usage and creates a rich nutrient cycling system. This allows for localized microbes to develop in that environment and create micro and macro nutrients needed for a healthy biome of every plant. This approach also promotes waste diversion utilization between all their crops and makes it possible to remediate agricultural farm lands that have depleted soils, which definitely pushes the boundaries and goes above and beyond what is even considered organic! Their farm and facility is EnvirOganic certified by Envirocann a leading agency that works with cannabis operations and farms to ensure they are compliant with all practices in their cultivation business.
Coastal Sun not only produces some of the cleanest and meanest cannabis flower, its sister Coastal Moon grows incredibly vibrant and delicious blueberries with the same bioponic methods in many of the farms greenhouses.
Blueberries and cannabis; a love affair!
As we passed by greenhouses that alternated between cannabis starts and fruiting blueberry plants, we were so graciously allowed to pick and eat some remarkably large and healthy berries while our taste buds and minds were blown by this most unique experience.
If that wasn’t enough we concluded by reaching the largest cultivation greenhouse that all those cannabis starts we saw in those smaller hoop houses will end up in to complete the flowering process. It was truly impressive to see such a sophisticated setup with hardware and software running complete control over the climate and optimizing that with the healthiest most sustainable cultivation methods possible. With countless racks of amazing cannabis plants flowering almost as far as the eye could see our noses were also in a full symphony of olfactory experience as we smelled the scent of terpenes filling the air! It was truly an unforgettable experience that I know we will all remember and feel gratitude that we were invited as guests to tour a farm that normally wouldn’t have outside visitors.
Next stop was Lifted farms located not far from Coastal Sun where guests continued the tour by bus and listened to more cannabis wisdom from Chris Carr. Once on location the Lifted farms staff led the group through the farm and explained how they cultivate flower and then produce some of the most delicious award winning edibles and extracts. Since it was April we saw how they had been preparing their hoop greenhouses which had been planted with cover crops in between the planting season and some hoops already had little cannabis starts in rows in the ground.
The folks at Lifted really gave an informative talk of their process as the group was led to the top of the farm where they had a really nice setup of tents and booths with live music and info about their company. The owners of the brand, Dave and Angela and their team gave a presentation about their products and provided yummy samples of their award winning edible chews! They were the non-psychoactive version but tasted so good they disappeared in a flash.
The last and final stop on the tour was by no means the least. In fact Bird Valley Organics ties all the other farms together in a special way. Not only is Bird Valley a regenerative farm with veggies and cannabis cultivation it plays the role as distributor of Coastal Sun, Lifted Edibles and its own products to the retail market. This amazing trio of brands are a proof of concept of how cannabis businesses are aligning themselves and their values in this new recreational era in California.
As the group descended upon the beautiful old barnhouse and windmill of Bird Valley we were greeted by their friendly and knowledgeable staff that guided us on another journey of unique cannabis farming. We were taken to see the progress on the Hügelkultur garden that they have been developing. Hügelkultur is a very old method used for hundreds of years primarily in Germany and western Europe. It literally means ‘mound culture’ in German and is a technique that involves building mounds with layers of soil and reclaimed wood branches or wood debris, leaves and garden cuttings that are buried beneath the mound. As the wood decomposes it unlocks nutrients that feed and nourish the roots of plants. Mycelium and other micro organisms develop as well which further connects and improves the plants uptake of water and micro nutrients.
As Miles head of cultivation for Bird Valley Organics explained, they will be planting female cannabis starts into the Hügel mound among the already planted companion vegetable and native plants. Once the cannabis plants mature into trees, the tap root can reach up to 18-20 ft! The mound will also retain massive amounts of moisture and thereby drastically reduce watering needs. The Hügel technique is essentially a form of Permaculture which sees the whole ecosystem of plants and organisms in their natural environment working together rather than treating them as separate. So they strategically use plants together that complement each other’s natural defense mechanisms. Another super important aspect to this type of farming is pest control. Another team member Andres explained that he specializes in the pest control and the health of the entire farm by monitoring and introducing beneficial insects and organisms that help keep the unwanted pests in check without using any pesticides. We all gathered around the front of the Hügel garden and looked at an amazing sign graphic that was designed by Danny Fernandez that shows the soil food web of the raised Hügel bed and the principles of a regenerative farm. Bird Valley is truly the future and the now of craft cannabis!!
The real magic behind all of this is the powerhouse couple Terry and Manny Sardines who have truly started a movement and built a village and community with Bird Valley Organics. Already in the business of farming and selling Kiwi fruit and other produce for years, Manny explained how they left the east coast and their careers to start over as cannabis cultivators here in the central coast of California. After some blood, sweat, tears and savvy business moves they made it all happen.
It was the end of the tour but by no means the end of the experience as guests headed over to the barn and picked up swag bags and enjoyed terpene infused refreshments while listening to a presentation by the staff of ‘THC’, the Therapeutic Healthcare Collective. THC is a local dispensary that really has a knowledgeable staff and works with Bird Valley to get all these farms amazing products on the shelves of their dispensary.
Delicious gourmet artisan appetizers kept coming out as people mingled and chatted about the days adventures. We then all sat for a farm dinner prepared by Chef Dare Arowe with palette splitting flavor and rich textures. If it wasn’t the fresh crudo with wasabi foam, goat yogurt and chili oil it was the roasted pork belly and braised short ribs with cheesy southern grits and charred cauliflower that were crowd favorites. Backed by a dark chocolate brownie with candied cannabis leaves and infused cream for dessert there almost wasn’t a pre-roll that wouldn’t pair nicely with any of this.
The tour was a special collaboration of Penny Ellis of Open Farm tours and Community Cultural Tours who really made this whole event and tour happen with all these amazing farms! It was definitely a game changer when it comes to local cannabis tourism and a testament to how there are so many positive people and things happening in the cannabis industry right under our noses!
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Story by: Marcel Menard