Cannabis farming can lead the way in Environmental Stewardship and Best Management Practices

The time to think about cannabis as any other agricultural product in the market is here.

Educated consumers are increasingly seeking out products that are cultivated or raised with practices that protect the environment and promote stewardship of natural resources. Medical cannabis is no different.

Premium-grade, outdoor organic cannabis grown under the sun in Northern California has much less of a carbon footprint than cannabis grown indoors in artificial environments.

Massive energy use for indoor cultivation is just one of several environmental drawbacks. But plants grown indoors are often susceptible to a variety of pests and pathogens, requiring the use of nutrients and pesticides.

Environmental groups are increasingly endorsing regulation as a way to address many of the environmental concerns that have plagued the industry.

New state regulations will task the Department of Agriculture with overseeing pesticide use, application and storage as well as erosion control. The state Water Board is going to supervise water use, its source and what rights farmers may have to it.

Cannabis farmers will now have to operate like any other farmers who are regularly inspected and regulated. For many this will be a big change, but it’s all part of running a legitimate business.

However, at Cal Growers, best management practices have always been a policy the organization and its members have promoted and used.

The organization also welcomes Eco-labeling, organic certifications and appellations of origin for small farm and sunshine-grown medicinal cannabis as a way to offset many of the concerns the general public has towards the industry.

Here in Nevada County, environmental groups have recognized the need to bring the industry out of the shadows as a step toward protecting our precious watersheds.

“Instead of disappearing, the [outdoor] ban is likely to drive cannabis cultivation further underground, depriving responsible farmers the opportunity to grow within a framework of rational land use rules and regulations,” said Caleb Dardick, SYRCL’s Executive Director.

SYRCL recognized the need to work with cannabis farmers and began organizing annual educational workshops to show how responsible agricultural practices can protect the environment.

SYRCL’s “Growing Green for the Yuba” day-long informational workshop with local and regional experts highlights practices for cannabis cultivation that will safeguard the Yuba watershed.

Derdick said that after learning from what was happening environmentally in the Emerald Triangle, one of the largest cannabis-producing regions in the state, the organization decided to take action locally.

“Our responsibility is to protect the [Yuba] river,” he said. “We couldn’t stand by and do nothing. And we are so glad that so many people in the industry share our concerns and support agricultural practices that protect our precious river.”

The workshops typically feature a panel of experts from diverse backgrounds.

“It’s amazing,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the statewide California Growers Association, who has been featured as a guest speaker at SYRCL’s educational workshops. “It’s a great opportunity to work hand-in-hand with an organization that has been focused on maintaining one of the treasures that everyone in this community loves.”

Cal Growers believes Nevada County is uniquely positioned to offer quality over quantity in the cannabis industry, providing patients with cleaner and healthier medicine.

Many growers here already use many of the organic and permaculture cultivation principles on their farms. But new state regulations could help cement many of these practices as the standard for cannabis cultivation.

As consumers and patients educate themselves on the source of their medicine, small farm cultivators believe that people will be demanding that the cannabis they consume has been grown with as little ecological impact as possible using best management practices that protect from poisoning watersheds, degrading the land and diverting streams and creeks.