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Regenerative farming for cannabis cultivation

The sweet scent of Pineapple Punch — Elysian Fields’ signature strain — fills your nostrils the moment you set foot on the 50-acre off-grid cannabis farm in Mendocino County. It makes you want to take really deep breaths. The three farmers who run the place are all under 40 and at least one of them grew up in these hills learning to cultivate cannabis outdoors.

As licensed growers working with Flow Kana, a syndicate of craft cannabis cultivators, Elysian’s farmers produce about 500 pounds of commercial cannabis each year alongside cut flowers and vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and squash. Regenerative farming techniques are in use here: Cover crops protect the soil and companion planting enriches it; non-toxic pest management techniques safeguard the wellbeing of pollinators and wildlife; the abundance of open space ensures that farming has low impact on the land; and working animals like sheep and chickens control weeds, fertilize, and aerate the soil. A giant German shepherd/wolf mix helps keep the farm running smoothly, too. 

Elysian Fields and its neighboring farms have history here. In the 1970s, those following the back-to-the-land impulses of the hippie movement came to Mendocino’s hills to homestead. They found cannabis a natural cash crop because the region is well suited to growing outdoors and was, for a time, remote enough to dodge law enforcement. 

Because of its elevation and hilly terrain, agricultural mega-corporations (“Big Ag”) never made it to the region. But cannabis thrives; today, an estimated 80 percent of the cannabis consumed in the U.S., as well as a staggering amount of biodiversity within the plant’s genetics, comes from Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties — a.k.a. the Emerald Triangle. Well before adult use took effect in California, it was one of the hubs of the cannabis industry. But while the estimated 53,000 small pot farms in the region may have good product, they often lack the means to efficiently test, process, package, and label that product. They also lack a statewide distribution system. 


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