Farm High-light: Strong Agronomy
When it comes to cannabis, sustainability has become a major topic of discussion, as our love for the plant is directly connected to our love for the planet. From seedling to final packaging, farms are taking bold steps to improve and enhance their cannabis production in order to reduce their environmental footprint, increase biodiversity, and provide exceptional products grown the way Mother Nature intended. One such farm is run by our pals at Strong Agronomy in Watsonville, CA, an ecologically-minded operation that harnesses the power of regenerative agriculture to grow exceptional weed on the Pacific coast.
As part of our ongoing "Farm High-lights" series, we caught up with Strong Agronomy's Shy Ann Kenwood to talk more about regenerative agriculture and the importance of growing grass organically and sustainably. Originally just a blueberry farm, Strong Ag eventually moved into the weed space in 2016 as a way to provide healing cannabis to WAMM (Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana), a Santa Cruz-based organization working to make medicinal cannabis affordable and accessible to everyone. Since then, Strong Agronomy has grown into a bountiful operation that raises the bar for producing healthy plants that help humans and heal our home planet. And we're stoked to have them part of the Old Pal family!
Can you tell us about how your farm approaches regenerative farming?
Everything boils down to the cost of goods. In order to keep our costs down, we use regenerative agriculture and science to choose what we actually need and not play a guessing game. And we can do everything more efficiently because we care about the cost of goods.
And there's this whole other crazy side of regenerative agriculture when it comes to cannabis because of terpenes. One of the greatest things we're doing is letting the plant tell us what it needs and you're able to develop additional terpenes on the cannabis. And the terpenes are a natural response for the plant to keep bugs away, like a natural insecticide because bugs are grossed out by this excess of terpenes. Basically, by not giving it pesticides, we're able to force the plant to produce its own pesticides - and we cannabis consumers value those terpenes so much because they're such an important part of the flavor profile. If you allow it to, the plant does a much better job at taking care of itself. Mother Nature is pretty rad!
What other regenerative practices have you implemented on the farm?
We don't use pesticides, but we do use bugs. We're also no-till when it comes to our topsoil. But it all comes down to creating the perfect environment for everything, and that microbiology will only live if the soil is covered. The biggest thing with regenerative farming is you never have empty soil, and that's why we have cover crops. When you take plants out, it releases CO2 into the air - and when you put plants in, it pulls the carbon back down and into the soil.
What type of machinery do you use for your growing process?
Not an insane amount of machinery. We do have a tractor that we use to help plant seedlings and auto flowers. We'll also use it to mulch cover crops as a sort of soil turnover system. We also use a water circulation system that feeds the entire farm - a lot of it is semi-hydroponic. But we really do very little machine work because with cover crops you don't have to do as much work. A lot of what we do is hand done, because human hands are a lot nicer to plants.
Can you explain the auto flower process?
An auto flower is essentially a seed start that we do. The biggest thing with auto flower is that it doesn't need a structured time for it to flower. It can be done pretty much any part of the year and it'll flower on it's own no matter what. It's a lot less work and it doesn't require all the perfection of other cannabis plants that need the right season.
What are the similarities between growing blueberries and cannabis?
Plants essentially need a lot of the same things. Blueberries are a little easier because they're not hermaphroditic like cannabis. It's pretty insane to look at some of the farms neighboring us with the same genetics of fruit as us, yet we're producing 20-30% more than them because of the microbiology of our soil.
You do everything in-house. Can you tell us a bit more about the ups and downs of running a closed loop operation?
For us, we've been really fortunate to have great owners that have pushed education at every aspect. Instead of just throwing money at every situation, this group will stop, analyze, plan, and go again. The close loop system has only been a benefit for us, as it's allowed us to maintain consistency. We also package on site and we have humans that make sure people are getting the best possible product - especially because a lot of our customers have ailments and we want this to be the perfect medicine for every customer.
- - - - -
OLD PAL FARM HIGH-LITES SERIES
The Old Pal Farm High-lite series was created as a way to celebrate our radical community of growing partners. When you buy Old Pal products, you are also supporting local, trusted farmers that work hard to provide the highest-quality product for you and your pals to enjoy. We hope these nuggets of inspiration provide more insight, greater transparency, and a deeper appreciation for the cosmic cannabis you love so much.