Tag: Farming

How to Save Water in a State of Drought

Earlier this year, California farmers rejoiced when heavy March rains finally broke the state’s five-year drought. Despite its arid climate, the Golden State grows the bulk of the country’s produce—including more than 90% of the country’s broccoli, almonds, and artichokes—and the rainfall refreshed its fields and orchards. But the rain vanished nearly as quickly as it arrived.

Then the state caught fire.

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Following a long, dry summer, a cluster of wildfires broke out north of San Francisco, eventually becoming some of the most destructive in California history. Two months later, Southern California burst into flames, sending plumes of smoke all the way to Seattle.

It’s an ominous backdrop as state regulators prepare to begin licensing what by many estimates is the state’s largest cash crop: cannabis. Beginning January 1, 2018, when the state’s legal market comes online, cultivators will face a strict set of water regulations imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Those who haven’t thought through their water use could be left out to dry.

The new requirements will dictate how farmers obtain, use, and dispose of water for cannabis cultivation and are intended to protect “springs, wetlands, and aquatic habitats from the negative impacts of cannabis cultivation,” according to the state’s Cannabis Cultivation Policy. It’s an effort to prevent the worst environmental tolls of California’s unregulated era: diverted waterways, illegal grows on public lands, and toxic chemical runoff.

For cannabis cultivators in California who have already been prioritizing sustainability, the new requirements shouldn’t be much of a problem, said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association. “We do have a core commitment of ensuring that cannabis is the most sustainable crop grown in California,” he said.

Those who haven’t thought through their water use, however, could be left out to dry.

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Whether you’re a sustainability superstar or a slouch, the rules are just weeks away. Ahead of the shift, here are five new, old, and sometimes unusual ways California cannabis cultivators are making a smaller splash.

Capture the Rain

Water that falls on a property owner’s roof—or any other structure on their land—doesn’t fall under state jurisdiction, so it can be captured and stored for later use. And although rain may be a rarity in Southern California, it can be a key—and free—resource for growers farther north. In fact, relying completely on rainwater may be the easiest way to meet California’s strict new requirements, said Allen of the California Growers Association.

While the water is free, however, capturing rainwater comes with a big price tag. Water catchment systems can cost up to $300,000 in some applications—but luckily require minimal maintenance.

Drip irrigation can water plants precisely and automatically, helping avoid error and cut down on costs in addition to saving water.(sbayram/iStock)

Drip Watering

Maybe you’ve heard of flood irrigation, in which water flows unabated over an entire crop. Drip irrigation is the opposite. Typically, it uses an automated system that, through a web of timers and automatic valves, delivers each individual cannabis plant the precise amount of water it needs.

Drip irrigation also offers benefits besides water conservation. Systems can be programmed to a cultivator’s specific needs, minimizing the need for human monitoring and watering. They also cut down on the potential for human error such as overwatering—or simply forgetting to water.

Costs vary considerably depending on type and scale of grow, and can range from the extremely basic—available on Amazon for about $40—to the highly complex and customized versions that cost well into the thousands for hydroponic grows.

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Aquaponics

You may be familiar with hydroponics, which involves growing plants without soil. A lesser-known water-conservation technique, called aquaponics, relies on fish—specifically fish poop. Part fish tank, part cannabis grow, aquaponics employs a symbiotic system. While designs vary widely, the function is the same: The grower feeds the fish, the fish produce waste that acts as nutrient-rich fertilizer for the plants, and the plants act as a filter to clean the water before it’s circulated back to the fish tank.

The arrangement eliminates the need for soil for your plants (as well as a filter for your fish tank) and uses a lot less water than many other types of grow operations. The method has been widely discussed in online forums and tutorials and has been put to use in other sustainable-agriculture operations, but it’s still quite rare in cannabis. Allen said he’s not aware of any indoor grow operations actually using this method, but said it may be something a creative entrepreneur should explore.

See that? It’s water, and you can put it to good use. (Akchamczuk/iStock)

Put Condensation to Use

Most indoor growers rely on temperature-controlled rooms to help keep plants in optimum conditions at each stage of cultivation. In order to make this work, they rely heavily on climate-control HVAC operations, which often produce condensation or excess water. While that water typically is discharged as waste, some cultivators have begun installing systems that capture the condensation and cycle it back into use.

At Southern California-based THC Design, for example, growers captures water from the HVAC system and dehumidifiers at the facility. The reclaimed water is part of a full-loop system that allows them to capture and filter the water, the company said, adding that more than two-thirds of its water is now reclaimed.

In addition to environmental benefits, recirculating the water can provide insight into crucial aspects of the plants’ health, such as pH levels, THC Design co-founder Ryan Jennemann said in an email. “Are we watering enough? Do we need to change nutrients?” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s like a trip to the doctor.”

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Coco Coir

Made from the hairy, husky outside shell of a coconut, coco coir is a material commonly used for hydroponic growing because of its water retention properties. A renewable type of mulch, coco can be used on its own or mixed with soil. It’s highly effective at holding onto moisture and air, and because it’s slow to break down, it can be reused through multiple grows. The medium can also help support and maintain root structure in hydroponically grown plants, and some even say it can increase product yields.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

15% of Every Cannabis Harvest Never Makes It to Market. Here’s Where It Goes.

There’s an interesting story hidden in the data that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) publishes every month.

The LCB compiles statistics on the weight of cannabis harvested, and the weight of cannabis sold.

Here’s the funny thing: The two numbers almost never match up.

There’s almost always more harvest weight than retail weight sold. Like, a lot more. Over the past 20 months, Washington farmers have brought in a total of 286,962 pounds of harvested cannabis. During that same time period, retailers sold 239,712 pounds.

That makes a difference of 47,250 pounds—23 tons of cannabis harvested but not sold.

Obviously, cannabis doesn’t go straight from the field to the store. It takes weeks to cure it, process it, package, and distribute it.

But still: The gap is there every month.

Where does the missing cannabis go?

I set out to answer that question.

There are larger processors coming into the state who might purchase the entire harvest from multiple farms.

Crystal Oliver

First, it’s important to understand how the LCB records the cannabis weight that appears on its website. When a plant is freshly harvested, it has a “wet weight” that’s 80 to 90 percent more than its “dry weight,” which is its mass after curing.

“There is a pretty significant loss during the process,” explained Will Denman, president of the Washington state producer Solstice Grown. “From wet to dry, it is about 10-1 on weight, in addition to shrinkage you see throughout the post-harvest supply chain.”

But that’s not the source of the gap, because for its harvest weight figures the LCB records only the dry weight of the cannabis plant. That is, its mass after curing.

It turns out that a number of different factors contribute to the gap. Testing, market timing, and the law of supply and demand are three of the major ones.

Testing

Cannabis crops must go through quality assurance testing to make sure that there are no ‘bad’ things in the flower that could harm the consumer. According to the WLCB website, the following are tests that are done to ensure that only quality, untainted cannabis reaches the consumer:

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“The general body of required quality assurance tests for marijuana flowers and infused products may include moisture content, potency analysis, foreign matter inspection, microbiological screening, pesticide and other chemical residue and metals screening, and residual solvents levels.”

Washington LCB spokesperson Mikhail Carpenter said that some of the cannabis a grower harvests could fail QA testing. That batch or crop would then be destroyed.

Monthly Allocation of the Crop

Crystal Oliver is a cannabis farmer and co-founder of Washington’s Finest Cannabis. She and her husband and business partner, Kevin Oliver, have a specific way of doing things when it comes to selling their harvest. They want to make sure they have enough cannabis to sell to their retail partners throughout the year.

“What we have done for the past two years– we harvest in the fall, and we sort of budget our flower to get us through the year,” Crystal Oliver told Leafly. “So we are generating income throughout the course of the year. Generally speaking, you want to do that because the price you would get if you tried to unload your entire harvest in October is not as good if you sell your product throughout the year.”

There’s a limit to how much cannabis flower a farmer can keep on hand, though. According to state regulations, an outdoor grow or a greenhouse operation can store an amount of cannabis equal to 125% the amount of the producer’s yearly harvest. An indoor grower, by contrast, can only have up to 50% of their annual harvest on hand at any one time.

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Cannabis processor licensees are allowed to have a maximum of 50% of their average usable cannabis and 50% average of their total production on their licensed premises at any time.

Cannabis retailers, meanwhile, can store even less product in house. Retailers are allowed to have a maximum of 33% of their average inventory on their licensed premises at any given time.

Working within those limitations requires producers and processors to strategize how they sell their products to retailers throughout the year. A grower can sell their harvest in a one-time sale to a single buyer after harvest, but harvest time is usually when wholesale prices are lowest, because of the glut of product hitting the market.


Methods Used from Industry Folks

Holding back a certain amount of cannabis might be a smarter move, but that’s assuming the stored cannabis remains market-fresh and the wholesale price rebounds from its harvest-season low. And there’s no guarantee that both of those things will happen.

Will Denman of Solstice Grown said many farmers hold some cannabis in reserve just in case an adverse event hits the market and drives up the wholesale price.

“We know several (farmers) who have tonnage that they are simply sitting on, waiting for the drought,” Denman said. Cannabis doesn’t have an indefinite shelf life, though. “It is nonsensical,” Denman argued, “because the cannabis is degrading and losing value. But it’s certainly [the farmer’s] prerogative.”

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As for a drought hitting the cannabis market: There’s no sign of such a thing on the horizon. Cannabis sales continue to grow in Washington. At year’s end cannabis sales topped $1 billion for the first time ever.

Crystal Oliver said that it’s rare to see a single large processor buy up all of a grower’s harvest in one purchase. But that may change. “There are larger processors coming into the state who might purchase the entire harvest from multiple farms,” she said. “But right now there are very few processors who are in a position to do that.”

“We have a relationship with a processor where we sell a portion of our product to them each month,” Oliver added. “They’re one of the top ten processors in the state, but they’re not in a position financially where they can buy our full harvest in October. So we worked it out where they buy a certain amount each month.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Cannabis Farms Brought Prosperity to Pueblo. Will Voters Kill the Boom?

In just a few short years, Pueblo County has become the cannabis growing capital of Colorado. Since 2013, Pueblo has approved nearly 200 cannabis licenses, three million acres of commercial hemp farms, and two to three million more acres of cannabis greenhouses. Most of these farms are raising sun-grown cannabis, unlike Denver, the state’s other grow center, where cannabis is strictly an indoor product. But now a group of cannabis critics wants to shut the industry down entirely in Pueblo County. And they’re taking their case to the voters in November.

An initiative on the county’s ballot, Proposition 200, aims to return Pueblo to prohibition days by banning all “retail marijuana – retail stores, manufacturing, testing facilities, growing operations.”

Adult-use cannabis is the target. A handful of Pueblo businesses wouldn’t be affected by the initiative, including industrial hemp farmers, home cannabis growers, and medical marijuana shops.

The group sponsoring the initiative, Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo (CHP), qualified the measure for the ballot with signatures from just over 5% of the town’s population. CHP chair Charlene Graham has a lifetime of law enforcement under her belt–35 years in the Pueblo Police Department, working her way up from meter maid to retire as a Deputy Chief in 2004. When Leafly reached out to Graham for comment, she declined. Shortly thereafter Graham sent a message to others backing Prop 200:

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CHP explains their stance against retail cannabis on their website: “So why are they afraid of bringing this to a vote? Because WE THE PEOPLE know how devastating pot has been and they know we’ll vote it out.”

“Here in Pueblo, we’ve had an influx of a lot of homeless people that have come into the community looking to get a job in the community or looking to smoke dope,” Pueblo Police Chief Luis Velez told the Pueblo Chieftan. “They’ve caused an enormous weight on the social fabric within the city, and so much so that I think that fabric is going to tear. There’s not enough funding to take care of all of these people.”

Opposing the bill is Growing Pueblo’s Future, an industry-led group made up of 183 cannabis licensees. They began working to stop Prop 200 in early June. “We’re a volunteer group with upwards of 125 people,” said Jim Parco, the group’s leader. Parco is the founder of Mesa Organics, a retail cannabis store on Highway 50 near the Pueblo Airport. “It’s not like we have ten people running this; it’s a grass roots efforts and a passionate group of people. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts. We focus on the facts on how cannabis improves our community.”

A military veteran and an economics professor at Colorado College, Parco is the pop of a quintessential mom and pop shop. Mesa Organics opened in February of this year and is located on his family farm. “This spot has been in our family for 100 years,” he told Leafly. “When my wife and I left the military and moved back to Pueblo, we decided we wanted to help the economy because it was legal.” Proposition 200 is concerning, he said, “because we would have to close our doors and let all our people go.”

Killing the New Economic Engine

Retail demand in Pueblo County: A long line of buyers trails from a store selling cannabis in Pueblo West, Colo, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/John Wark)Retail demand in Pueblo County: A long line of buyers trails from a store selling cannabis in Pueblo West, Colo, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP/John Wark)

Pueblo struggled economically for decades before the coming of cannabis legalization. This was once known as a thriving steel town, but the closure of the last foundry in the 1970s devastated the region.

When Colorado’s Initiative 64 passed in 2012, it allowed counties and municipalities to opt into the cannabis growing and retail industry. Since then, 22 out of the state’s 64 counties have proceeded with adult use legalization of some sort. In Pueblo, 65 percent of voters embraced Initiative 64. That led the city council to opt into the legalized industry.

And that industry has boomed here. Many attribute the “green rush” to the yearly 250-plus days of sunshine the county receives, as well as a low cost of living, which is ten percent cheaper than the U.S. average. 41% of the county’s new commercial building permits are directly associated with the cannabis industry. Cannabis has created 1,300 jobs that didn’t previously exist here. The industry is bringing in approximately $3.5 million dollars in annual retail tax revenue.

In the past two years, that tax revenue has gone to high-profile programs around the county. The Colorado State Fair has received $800,000. More than $3 million went to complete the County High School construction project, and $900,000 was allocated to fund CSU-Pueblo’s cannabis studies programs. General fund expenditures of marijuana taxes also sent an additional $350,000 annually to Pueblo for things like road maintenance, middle school drug prevention and more.

“If 200 were to pass, marijuana would still be here. But they’d get rid of the jobs, tax revenue and in my opinion, open up the black market again.”

Jim Parco, Growing Pueblo’s Future

If all of this goes away, what happens to Pueblo?

“It’s nerve-racking to think we may lose our first position” said Jim Parco. “We were the first to open stores, open cultivation and licensing. Pueblo would be losing out on all these economic benefits. Marijuana is not going away. It’s still going to be in the community. Why would you want to get rid of the highly regulated ordinances?”

“It worries me less on a personal level and more on a community level.” Parco is a science-minded dispensary owner in a lab coat who operates under meticulous MED regulations. It is a role he keeps entirely separate from his job as an economics professor. “It boils down to who’s able to represent the facts to the community best. We are sticking to the facts. The fact is that we created so many jobs, there’s revenue coming into the community and businesses that rely on the backs of this industry.”

“We are a more social economic community, were working class. We’re always looking for ways to improve our community. If 200 were to pass, marijuana would still be here. But they’d get rid of the jobs, tax revenue and in my opinion, open up the black market again.”

The concern people have is getting it into the hands of kids. None of us want that. We’re all against it getting into the hands of children or anyone under 21. That’s why retail is so crucial.”

The passing of Prop 200 would have a profound impact on the town, but would affect the national legalization movement? “If Prop 200 passes in Colorado, this could be an opt-out strategy that starts happening everywhere else,” warned Parco. “If it fails here, it’ll be pretty clear evidence that the community understands how positive cannabis is.”

Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr Creative Commons


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.