With so much emphasis on supporting small farms, we should explore what makes a “small farm” and why they are of so much value in the cannabis industry.
In all different fields of agriculture, there is a growing movement to preserve and support small farms. Why is this? Small farms, whether they produce cannabis, vegetables, or livestock, are often the historical backbone of rural communities. In the local food-shed small farms are even necessary to support the growing demand for local and organic products in nearby cities. Just as small-scale, grid-tied solar production provides a more stable and resilient power grid, so too do small farms supplement the food systems and agricultural industries that better our lives every day.
Size Matters When It Comes To Cannabis
The definition of a small cannabis farm will change depending on where you are in California. Often this is based on a bias from other agricultural industries that were in that area before. In this article, I will define a “small” cannabis farm as anything under the one-acre cap size in the original Prop 64 documents. In the years before recreational-use legalization, this would seem insanely large to most cannabis growers. However, if we look at vineyards, often anything under 10 acres is considered to be “small” to “very small” in scale.
For many reasons, both end-consumers and cultivators consider smaller-scale cannabis cultivation to produce a higher quality whole flower. When cannabis is grown for cured whole flower often larger-scale operations cannot employ the attention to detail or farming practices that make for a clean reliable finished product. Each plant is different even when grown from clone, and each plant will experience different pressures. Because of this, an operation of a smaller scale can be overseen by one or two master growers who know the strains and environment with which they are working.
One of the largest issues facing cannabis production at a larger scale is the inability to catch male plants or hermaphroditism in the crop, which can cause an entire crop to become seeded. A smaller operator knows when to look and how to catch plants that may exhibit these traits before it is too late. Equally as important in small craft cannabis cultivation is the ability to adjust watering, feeding, and pruning based on actual conditions in the field. The smaller the operation, the more flexible and agile the cultivation plan can be to respond in the moment to the needs of the crop or of certain plants. Lastly, it is no secret that some if not all the best strains have come from small cannabis farms and breeders who can identify which plants and phenotypes should be preserved and bred, and under what conditions they will thrive.
There would be no cannabis industry without small-scale craft cultivators, whether in California or beyond. The continued survival of genetic variation, cannabis culture, and boutique or craft cannabis flower depends on small-scale cultivation remaining viable forever. This is something worth preserving, educating consumers about, and crafting strong legislation to support.