This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
What a week! We were off farm for four vending opportunities, three cannabis related and our regular Laytonville Farmers market on Mondays. Though there is much spring work to do, I’m glad to get out and meet new folks and see old friends. The changes in the cannabis market have created a lot of pressure and stress within the community, and it was good to get together and remember the joy of gathering and friendship.
On Saturday we held the first in a series of Mendocino Producers Guild markets, with food and drink vendors, craftspeople and makers and farms selling cannabis and non cannabis goods. It was a perfect spring day, the ground soft and squishy from recent rains and the sun warm and pleasant.
Fostering community spaces takes work, from leadership and participants. I want to take a moment to appreciate the significant efforts of the good folks at Mendocino Cannabis Distribution and the Mendocino Producers Guild. Traci Pellar and Meagan Hedley have provided exemplary leadership within MPG, helping to coordinate and provide support to farmers in the complicated process of getting products market-ready in compliant packaging and everyone organized for the big day.
The team at Mendo Distro did a great job dealing with the bureaucratic headaches in the regulatory process, getting the site ready, and navigating the extra moisture from the recent rains by spreading wood chips where needed and helping accommodate the vendors and attendees. Big thanks to Nick Smilgys, Tom Perry, Angela Avila and the whole squad at Mendo Distro for all your hard work!
Being able to partner with a local company to help with cannabis processing has been crucial for our farm, and we are grateful to be able to work together in community to see cannabis go from farm through processing, packaging and distribution by people we know and love.
Farms don’t have the ability to sell direct to consumers because of bad regulations, although Assembly Bill 2691 proposes to allow for some direct-market opportunities. Our North Coast representative Jim Wood has authored the bill, and we appreciate his support. We are grateful to Genine Coleman and Origins Council for all of the hard work on cannabis policy at the state level, and Michael Katz and the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance here on the local level.
While we hope for passage of AB2691, in the meantime much appreciation to Brandy Moulton and the folks at Sovereign for bringing the necessary retail license component to make the market happen. Farms conduct the interactions, displaying the herb and talking with customers about it, and then the final transaction happens at the retail booth.
It feels good to have all of the things we grow and produce on the table together, cannabis, vegetables, canned goods, cut flowers, seeds and information about our farm. It feels good to see the community come out to share in the event, and we are glad for the support from folks who purchase our goods.
The cannabis farmers market model was what gave us the fortitude to enter into regulation, with the old 215 farmers markets at Area 101 in 2014 and 2015. Losing that ability with the passage of regulations was a critical blow that left us struggling within a forced wholesale paradigm. Getting back to the wholesome feeling of farmers market community gathering and festival atmosphere is a deep joy, and a bright spot of hope in a time of market collapse.
I am excited for the three markets remaining, on May 28th, June 25th and July 30th. For years there has been talk of cannatourism and the potential for cannabis to help bring dollars into our local economy. Events that encourage folks to travel here means money spent on food, lodging and the goods that local farms and businesses offer for sale. Seeds of hope are important, and I am glad for community working together to sow them. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!