Intentional Medicine | high times

Entering the gardens of Sun Roots Farm in Covelo in Mendocino County is like entering a botanical fever dream. Giant purple cannabis plants rule instead of humans, and weedy flowers the size of buildings sway under the weight of their own tails. Beneath its sticky canopy, medicinal and edible companion plants writhe, bloom, and commune with the soil alive with insects and mycelium.

This sunny Eden is a place where cannabis is encouraged to express its wildest potential. According to Forrest Gauder and Patricia Vargas, the husband-and-wife team of regenerative farmers who founded Sun Roots in 2015, the less human intervention in this potential, the better.

The plant has its own potential that is not influenced by humans, Vargas said. When it is exposed to a multitude of beneficial components, such as high-quality soil, energy from the sun and moon, clean water, clean air, and the intention we put into caring for it, everything works in sync. .

Sun Roots is a regenerative farm, meaning its practices focus on healing and regenerating life on earth by improving soil health, strengthening native biodiversity, carbon sequestration (capturing and carbon dioxide storage to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), water conservation. , and enriching the health of the global Covelo community.

High Times Magazine, April 2024

Unlike the extractive farming practices often used by cannabis farms, in which pesticides kill everything near the plants, poisoning the environment and sometimes even the consumer, regenerative agriculture uses a closed-loop farming system that produces no waste and nourishes the environment while doing so.

While Vargas grew up in urban Connecticut and Gauder in the hills above Covelo, California, a shared belief in the power of plants eventually brought them to each other.

The Vargass ancestors were tobacco farmers from Puerto Rico, with their mother often in the garden growing up. He attended Keene State College in New Hampshire, which he describes as super hippy dippy. After 10 years working on farms in the area, he traveled to California through WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to grow vegetables year-round.

Gauder is a second-generation cannabis farmer who grew up in the self-sufficient culture of the traditional market.

My dad taught us how to grow our own food in an off-the-grid, cottage-style apple orchard, she said. I have always been attracted to the cannabis plant. I love learning about the plant and building on the wisdom you gain from it each year. Just as it grows, so do I.

Shortly after Vargas moved to Covelo to work on a mutual friends’ weed farm, she and Gauder met one summer night under a full pink moon.

I decided to go to a drum circle and Forrest ended up being there, he said. We were immediately drawn to each other like magnets. We just knew.

At that time, Covelo was a different place. Like all corners of the Emerald Triangle, the endless pitfalls of legalization drastically altered the existence of cannabis farmers.

Solar roots
Magu fruit

When I came here, there were so many people from all over the world, Vargas said. There was such a robust culture and energy of excitement and abundance. The wildlife was so healthy and the scenery was so beautiful.

When state voters approved a legal adult cannabis market in 2016, things began to change.

Prices are just starting to come down, Vargas said. Now your profits were not that high because you are giving all your money to people or taxes. Everyone getting a cut. Things went from being amazing, feeling like we were on top of the world, to feeling like we had a ball and chain attached to us.

The green rush and its subsequent fall also negatively affected Covelo’s environment. Because of its rural and isolated location, people began to implement extremely destructive farming tactics to turn a profit as quickly and recklessly as possible. They burned the valley, leveling large tracts of forest for makeshift mega-growths, diverting river water, covering mountaintops with plastic tarps, and leaving trash when they were done.

We were all like, this is the dark side of this whole culture, Vargas said. That’s why many of us became legal lobbying for environmental rights because we saw it happening in our own community.

Solar roots
The quality of the soil at Sun Roots Farm has a huge impact on the quality of the flower.

Unaltered soil

The reason why Covelo is a hotbed of cannabis activity is because of its ideal soil. Covelo is located in the Round Valley, which is exactly what it sounds like: a large round valley with a flat bottom and rolling hills extending from its perimeter. It used to be a swampy floodplain for Round Valley Creek that ran through it until settlers built an outlet that drained the valley in the 1920s.

The mountains drained into the valley, creating these deposited silt beds that are especially rich in the area below our farm, Gauder said. There are three or four feet of chocolate-colored soil. It’s really beautiful, full of worms and insects and life and nutrients. Just think of all the things that have been deposited there over the years.

Our farm is one of the best corners of the valley. Some parts are too rocky or sandy or dense with clay. But where we are, it’s a perfect top layer of dirt for growing weeds and food, and under that, it turns into rocks and sand, so it drains really well.

Sun Roots Farm is the definition of true living soil, a hallmark of regenerative agriculture, which has become a popular marketing term for the industry’s greenwash brands. Although we often see the term applied to indoor crops that put a couple of earthworms in pots and then dump the soil after harvest, true living soil is cared for and nurtured like a living organism.

Whatever you dump every year, that’s not living soil, Vargas said. Living soil is alive. Keep working with him. Don’t just throw it away. You feed it with compost, biomass and mulch, and the plants you grow. If you pour it in, how are you honoring the life of your soil?

As you add more decaying matter each year, you build it with the goal of disturbing the soil as little as possible, Gauder added. The less you disturb it, the more mycelial networks there are, the richer the soil and the bigger the ecosystem.

This idea that plants, the soil and the ecosystem they create thrive in the absence of human intervention is integral to the Sun Roots Farm philosophy. Their hands-off approach to farming is born from a deep trust in nature and its ability to do what it does better than us.

The thing about plants is that without them we die. But without humans, plants thrive. Humans often interpret cultivation as manipulating the plant to make it do what we want. Sun Roots does the opposite.

It’s about allowing things to be more natural and not interfering too much, Vargas said. I think with cannabis, a lot of us think we’re in the habit of going out and buying land or buying these products for that, to manage it and control it. What we have learned in our internships is that nature is the ultimate teacher. Nature knows what it’s doing. Leave her alone and let her do her thing.

Alpacas help fertilize the plants in a closed cycle system.

Alpaca helpers

One of the most beneficial components of Sun Rootss closed regenerative system is their herd of alpacas. Not only do they help control various plant populations on the property, helping to suppress fires, but their manure is an incredible fertilizer for cannabis.

Part of regenerative agriculture is stacking functions, so when we invest in something, we need to make sure it has many uses, Gauder said. They were using their manure as our main fertilizer for all crops. They have super hygienic piles of manure so it’s easy to pick up, which means we don’t have to run tractors or burn fossil fuels. They also reduce the brush to a certain height, creating a perfect distance for fire suppression.

Instead of uprooting plants by their root systems like many other livestock, alpacas maintain the seed cycles of native plants on the farm through rotational grazing, composting them in their stomachs and redistributing the seeds in the soil through manure.

We also use their shavings as mulch on the ground, which creates a good layer of fiber and a moisture barrier to break down nutrients, Vargas said. The mycelium loves it. Then we were able to draw species such as edible mushrooms that feed us and the bees and can also be put in fertilizer teas. The cycle continues in a circular motion where everything is in constant use and nothing is ever lost.

Velvet Purps.

A focus on flowers

The Sun Roots flower is a culmination of intention, high-vibrational cultivation practices, and of course, a little magic. Famed for her brilliant dark purple piñados and complex, fruity terpene profiles, her flower has an energetically dense high that transcends just being stoned.

They specialize in a Velvet lineage, which started out as the sister plants (or different phenotypes) of Jah Goo, a cross of Purple Jasmine and Afghan Goo which is a single acclimation cultivar made at Covelo. Over the years they have particularly highlighted two plants with which they have continued to create seeds.

First up is the crystal-laden Velvet Purps, with its magenta trichomes, neon leaves, and a boost that leaves you happy, floating, and at ease. The second is their Magus Fruit, a personal favorite of mine for its effervescent, creative energy, originally named Silver Goo for the silvery dress of the buds cascading down the giant plants. These strains, as well as a number of crosses such as Velvet La Flor, Magus Velvatron and Velvet Citrine, are available at retailers such as Redwood Roots and Solful.

This is intentional medicine for spiritual health, Vargas said. It’s not just recreational. I’m here to get stoned, yes, but many of us are using this for our mental health. So we make sure we put positivity into it. We need more positivity in this world. We need more love in this world. For us, growing a plant that we can share with the world is an honor. Our big hope is that people feel the medicine behind it. That they will take that seed that has been given to them, and continue and share it with others.

This article was originally published in the April 2024 issue of High Times magazine.

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