MY FRIEND ONCE SAID “cannabis makes me want to be a better person”; this rings true to my soul. What happens when a subculture returns to the mainstream? What is the difference in cultural attitudes between an authorized and a criminalized culture/industry? What happens when the stigma of being a cannabis culture participant goes away? Being able to publicly BE a cannabis farmer is a powerful thing. Yet is a saddening thing, for so many do not have this freedom, and so many have lost their freedom. There remain many miles on the road to cannabis normalization.
Grapes and their subsequent manufactured products bring significant revenue to Northern California, and that income is considered by society as to have come from an honorable source. Cannabis farmers are stepping forward into a new era that reinserts cannabis and hemp into American Agriculture. The transition is slow, swinging like a pendulum. They say that believers of a paradigm don’t change their minds; those folks die, and a younger generation grows up under the new paradigm.
The traditional benefits of cannabis and hemp (plus a host of new uses) are beginning to create a tidal wave that is undeniable. Despite pushback from Jeff Sessions, the overall change is underway. Cannabis is emerging from Prohibition on a world level, and this process has been slowly building for decades; we’re approaching the part of the graph where the tipping point occurs. There are many painful parts of this transition and cannabis communities are struggling with the shifting regulatory landscape, along with the changing economic conditions.
I consider it my duty to speak my worldview as a farmer and citizen. I strive for an agriculture that honors the place in which it is conducted, by people who share the honor of the process. An agriculture that creates bounty for all, harvesting solar dollars while building soil and supporting healthy communities.
I’ve been thinking about infrastructure; costs, uses, practices and how these facets interrelate. The years on our farm have created a repository of knowledge and infrastructure that provide the parameters of the organism we call our farm. A graph, with knowledge on one axis, and infrastructure on the other, the data points trending on a path towards more effective farming. The more we know about the essence of the land we farm; the more skills we gather; the more our infrastructure choices are appropriately scaled and multi-use; then the more efficient and effective our operation is, in ways that benefit our proclivities as farmers.
It should feel good to farm; the work is hard on the body, but the connection to life and cycles flows through the process. I try to pay attention to how I feel when I’m doing a given task; if it doesn’t feel good, why not? This feeling can be physical or psychic; if the heart or the gut doesn’t like it, that’s as important as if the back or the knees don’t.
There are lots of times that I don’t feel good about something; bags of soil bought for seedlings, batches of meat birds that I wished had gotten better pasture, cover crop that I didn’t plant. Some of these things are ongoing; it is my job as a farmer and a human to strive to do better. Each year is another opportunity to bring new knowledge and skills to the cycle as our lives and our farm evolve.
Humans are learning to operate on more efficient planes of existence than have ever been possible; the danger is in what can also be lost to these ruthless efficiencies. We must include in our valuation process the questions of human and environmental quality of life. Where is the line between technology and disconnect? How do we incorporate tradition and innovation to build a better world than the one we find today?
We each carry a contribution to the overall Human Project that is dialectically related to innate nature and circumstance. It is up to each human to make the best of circumstances, but it is also bound upon those who are more fortunate to work to redress the ills suffered by those who are not. Individual actions are compounded by systemic injustices, and we are in the depths of the industrial nightmare. We have a journey of generations ahead of us, towards the light of an actualized society of humans capable of existing within an abundant and thriving ecology.
Agriculture is the basic building block of human population; this foundation adds a defining characteristic to every other aspect of life. How, and what, we eat governs how, and what, is produced, with a healthy dose of lobbying and government control. The closer you can be to the source of your food, and the more you can know about how it was produced, the more likely you are to be able to make choices that are good for the land. One of the problems with this reality is that it tends to go hand-in-hand with privilege.
It is important that we strive for better food choices for all. That we work to create programs that put high quality, organic foods into School Lunch Programs. That we craft systems that reward small farmers for producing quality products and for making efforts to get them to underserved populations. The choices made by citizens effect and define society as a whole. Each day provides opportunities to choose. Some have a greater number of choices with larger potential effects; it is up to all of us to strive to make the best choices we can.
Casey O’Neill co-operates Happy Day Farms, a micro-diversified farm in northern Mendocino County, California. His family raises two acres of Clean Green Certified vegetables, poultry and medical cannabis in a small-farm setting while working towards sustainability. He is a stoked about sharing food, medicine and cultivation techniques with others. He is passionate about representing small farmers as vice-chair of development for California Growers Association. He works to support Mendocino County policy-makers in crafting sensible regulations. You can find his radio show on podcast at HappyDay Farms Farm and Reefer Report on iTunes or soundcloud. HappyDay Farms website: http://www.happydayfarmscsa.com