The Environmental Protection Agency defines confined feeding operations(CAFO) as a production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined places, and that substitutes structures and equipment (for feeding, watering, temperature control, and manure management) for land and labor.”  

When animals are raised in such environments, all kinds of problems arise: There’s a waste stream that, ideally, would be dealt with. There is also a host of diseases and pests that come from raising animals under such conditions, which prompts operators to stuff their animals with antibiotics and growth hormones.

The tragedy of industrial factory farming is not exclusive to animals. Those same problems are the problems associated too many cannabis farms. For a variety of reasons we put too many plants in too small a space forcing a monoculture style of agriculture. Then when we typically overfeed them all sorts of nutrients they can not use it all and so they generate waste streams. Like in factory farming, all sorts of pests and disease occur under those cultivation conditions. Then we later have to take corrective actions, which may include spraying pesticides and fungicides.

It’s wrong. We can apply the same principles of the free range method of farming to cannabis cultivation by spreading the plants and allowing them to have other plants with them in the garden — companion plants that can act in a mutually beneficial way with cannabis. Comfrey is one of them, for its ability to be a dynamic accumulator and a beneficial ingredient in compost piles and teas. Alfalfa also makes a great companion plant, and is useful for soils that are nitrogen deficient. Beans feed us, add nitrogen to the soil and i have observed that spider mites seem to prefer them instead of most cultivars of cannabis i have worked with.

Building the soil rather than forcing an artificial environment for the plants is another way to prevent the problems that come from not having free range cannabis.

Like in animal farming, this method is scalable up to a certain point. It can even be done indoors but is much more challenging. Under current law in California, the small cottage specialty outdoor license allows for 2500 square feet or 25 plants. That’s a doable thing for a family or individual with no employees. But by the time you get to be a 5,000 square foot garden, you may have to have a dedicated team.

In my experience one of the essential needs of cannabis for it to reach its full genetic potential, I call “Sanctuary.” A good friend calls this “the Attitude of Gratitude”

Sanctuary includes the environmental conditions the plant is in but it also includes the attitude of the cultivators. If you view your plants as a cash machine and all other factors be damned, the universe has a way of revealing the deficiencies in this approach.

Consider animals and the idea that animals are sentient beings and can think and feel. It becomes obvious why pests and diseases are so endemic in factory farming. It is my belief that the best medicine comes from cannabis plants that are loved and seen for what they actually are: not ATMs but natural chemical factories producing compounds that can benefit some of the most difficult and intractable conditions that happen to human beings. The highest expression of their genetic potential comes in a natural environment for their development that includes Sanctuary.

Ask anyone who has access to farm chicken eggs that are free range, or pigs that do not spend their entire lives in a pen that does not allow them to turn around. Consider the difference between grass fed beef and corn fed beef and all of the implications that has for your health and our environment.

To learn more about how to establish your own Sanctuary, stay tuned for more posts about this way of looking at cannabis cultivation. ~Wade