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Growing Clean Hemp for Sustainable Environment
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Growing Clean Hemp for Sustainable Environment

Growing Clean Hemp for a Sustainable Environment

Watering new transplants Maffey.)

Hemp is one the oldest crops that have been grown by man. It has been grown since 8,000 BCE when human agriculture began. Archeologists discovered hemp traces in Taiwan and China.

The history of hemp in the U.S. is as American as apple pie. It was first grown in America in Jamestown, Va., and was required to be grown by colonists. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp. Hemp was used by pioneers to cover wagons.

Hemp uses less water and chemical fertilizers than many other crops. It is efficient at sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere, making hemp a smaller-footprint crop than many other crops. One acre will absorb between 10 and 15 tons of carbon dioxide in a growing season. This is equivalent to the average amount of CO2 that one person contributes in a year.

Hemp, along with organically grown cotton and flax (linen), is one of the most eco-friendly fabrics. Hemp seed can be used as animal feed, and the stem fiber can be used as insulation or animal bedding.

Hemp is also good to the soil. A field that was first planted with hemp will yield more corn. After a hemp harvest, you can also plant wheat and barley. Because of the potential ecological benefits, growers are keen to obtain organic certification for hemp and cannabis production.

Going organic
Cassandra Maffey, vice president of cultivation at Hava Gardens is the largest living-soil cannabis cultivation in Colorado. Hava Gardens is still a new company. They purchased their greenhouse in 2020 and renovated it in 2021. They harvested their first crop of cannabis in 2021. Maffey has 20+ years of experience in regulation cannabis growing in the U.S.A. and Europe.

Cassandra Maffey (Vice President of Crops at Hava Gardens) said it was important not to allow pests to get a foothold on organic production.

Maffey stated that organic gardening was something she learned through trial and error. I tried synthetic. I tried both aeroponics as well as a few different styles of hydroponics. I was never as happy as I was when I tried organic.

Hava Gardens grows plants in a greenhouse. However, Maffey believes that plants should be grown in soil rich in life.

Living soil is rich with organic matter and probiotic microorganisms. Living soil is simply a copy of what is found in nature. Maffey explained that soil is not meant for use once and then thrown out.

Hava’s soil for new transplants includes peat moss, worm castings, and other organic materials to create a biodynamic environment that supports young plants.

She prefers to make the soil slowly eat what she has put in it. Hava Gardens is a great place to create an ecosystem for organisms.
Maffey uses organic kelp and alfalfa meals, and tests the soil regularly for nutrients and micronutrients. Instead of using kelp extract, she uses dried bulk materialdried Kelp. The kelp meals are minimally processed. It is a slow-release fertilizer that naturally works in soil. The soil can also ferment kelp meal. The nutrient manufacturer does the fermentation for kelp extract. Maffey explained that by purchasing kelp meal, the grower doesn’t have to ship much water.

Living Soil produces Less Waste
Maffey explained that if you use your soil only once, then you can throw it out. This would create a lot of waste that would be sent directly to a landfill.

Hava Gardens allows plants to be transplanted into live soil.

In the best case, the used soil will go to an industrial composting facility. However, it takes fossil fuels for it to get there. That could mean additional trips up to five to six times per year.

Maffey begins with a soil mixture that includes materials like peat moss or worm castings. How does the soil allow microorganisms to get in?

Organic production requires more eyes to see the plants.

There are often mycorrhizal fungal fungi in the soil mixture. Many of that soil food web is introduced passively, she explained, citing nematodes for an example. All over the globe, there are nematodes. Worm castings are our broad-spectrum inoculant. All the food that the worms eat is added to the soil.

Sometimes, a little boost in microorganisms may be necessary. Maffey stated that there are some inoculants we can use from time-to-time to ensure a diverse microsystem. Many people have spent a lot on microorganisms that may only survive for a few days.

Growing in a Greenhouse
Maffey stated that greenhouses have a lower carbon footprint than indoor plants. Growing plants in a greenhouse requires less HVAC (heating and ventilation and air conditioning) than indoors.

According to Maffey, lights create heat so you need to provide 50% to 80% more HVAC. Hava Gardens uses a water wall to cool its growing environment. We didn’t use refrigerant.

Hava Gardens: Pruning a Plant

It is not possible to grow cannabis in a greenhouse in every area. Maffey said that it can be difficult to grow great cannabis crops in a greenhouse during winter in areas like the Midwest or western Pennsylvania. You must always be ready to adjust for the weather.

It is important to choose the right location for your greenhouse.

Eyes on the Plant
Pests can’t get a foothold. This can be achieved by hiring more people.
Integrated pest management is essential if you are aspiring to become an organic grower. To find pests, you need more people and more eyes to look at the plants. Maffey suggested that there should be more pruning to allow air flow through the canopy.
Training employees is important as well. You must ensure that your employees are well-trained in an organic facility. They might then say, “You have Pythium in the third Bay.” Maffey stated that as long it hasn’t escalated, you can immediately address the problem.
A synthetic method allows a grower to let an issue go for too long before trying to fix it with heavy chemical sprays.

Sustainable-Growing Certificates
Two California farms have become the first to be OCal certified as cannabis farms. California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) is responsible for the certification. The standards for OCals closely match the USDAs National Organics Program. Its hailed as Comparable-to-Organic. Sensibolt Organics, Humboldt County, and The Highland Canopy, Sonoma Hills Farm, were awarded the certification. Sonoma Hills Farms’ pasture was also certified organic, along with their vegetable and flower crops.

Maffey enjoys organic kelp, alfalfa meal and other crushed minerals. He also tests the soil for nutrients at Hava Gardens in Colorado.

To become OCal certified, you will need to fill out an application, submit a review, inspect, and then pass a compliance review before being granted certification. OCal is a California-specific program. However, if cannabis becomes legal at a federal level, the USDA will likely offer a similar organic certification for qualifying farms across the country.

Sun+Earth certified Sonoma Hills Farm as well as Sensibolt Organics. This certification process differs from OCal. Sun+Earth is an independent certification program for small-scale organic hemp and cannabis farmers who grow their crops outdoors. Sun+Earth does more than just look at a farm’s sustainable growing practices. It also looks at how the farm treats its employees, and how involved it is in the community. You can help organize farmers markets, take part in CFA, or pick up litter along rural roads.

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