Three hours away from Boulder, around 100 miles as a crow flies to the center of Colorado, is Buena Vista. Pronounced Be-you (Think Farris Buhler) – na Vista by locals, the mountain valley town hosted the Sweet Roots Music Festival on June 6. The festival acted as a fundraiser for supporting women in agriculture worldwide through a program called the Dreamers Project. Just a few singer-songwriter folky bluegrass bands played the one-day concert. Several young families and a few yogis scattered around the community soccer field and laid out blankets, played games, ate picnics, enjoyed local brewers – the crowd was kind enough to step out to the parking lot to enjoy their cannabis – and enjoyed the partly sunny, springtime view of Mt. Princeton, a 14 thousand-foot peak that dominates the breathtaking view of the town. Sweet Roots, which was sponsored by local organizations 1% For Women and The Farmers Femme, featured sets from Paper Bird, Mandolin Orange, Gypsy Moon and more. Also showcased were participating partners of 1% For Women including glass blowers, massage therapists, the local medical cannabis dispensary, food trucks and more.
1% For Women is an organization that donates 1% of all proceeds from participating companies to loans for the advancement of women in agriculture through a program called The Dreamers Project. The festival raised funds to supply women around the world in impoverished communities with the resources to become self-sustaining by growing their own food. Partnering with The Farmers Femme, another partnership advancing women in agriculture, and other local farmers that were selling grass-fed beef and lamb, seeds and ranch-ware on the festival grounds, Sweet Roots was attended by many young farmers and those close to the Colorado agricultural community.
As cannabis legislation advances to include the plant in the Department of Agriculture, I was interested to find out how the local farmers felt about that inclusion. One young female farmer I spoke with was particularly interested in the idea. We chatted about the farming process, the amount labor and resources it takes to sustain a working farm, and how this community needs to be represented in decent public policy. Kate was representing The National Young Farmers Coalition and petitioning festival attendees to write their congressperson in support of the Young Farmer Success Act that would forgive student loans for active farmers. Overwhelmingly, the message was clear: With rising populations worldwide, climate change, and the technology necessary to feed billions of people, we need to incentivize young thinkers in college to enter a growing industry.
Where cannabis and agriculture meet is on two ends. On one there is the indoor warehouse, medical and retail cannabis grows, tied to dispensaries and recreational marijuana centers statewide. Just because it is indoors, Kate and I agreed, doesn’t mean it’s not farming. Cultivating Hand Raise Cannabis™ at Green Dream, in particular, employs the exact same skills as a farmer would in, say, a tomato farm, apple orchard, or grape vineyard. Farmers of cannabis indoors must have sound knowledge of fertilizers, grow techniques, light cycles, pest control and other information that takes years to accumulate. In addition to that, Hand Raised Cannabis™ farmers must take extra care to treat each plant individually, recognize subtleties between strains and flowering times, and employ outstanding multitasking skills to schedule the next transplant, water, harvest and restock. It really is a farm indoors; it’s just out of public sight. City of Boulder regulations prohibit the cultivation of cannabis outdoors.
On the other hand of the cannabis-agriculture spectrum is industrial hemp. Grown outdoors in the Colorado soil and under the sun, hemp has been demonstrated as a no-high medicine, biofuel, fiber, food and more. Since being legalized in Colorado, it is starting to take a foothold. Fields are rapidly growing in size, some even requiring central-pivot irrigation to water acres of 10-foot tall lush green stalks. This of course takes a lot of labor and innovation. The challenge then, is to attract young minds to enter the industry with the incentive that these jobs are really farming careers and that they can start a family and sustain a healthy standard of living while working in the cannabis industry. That’s where the Young Farmers Coalition letters to Congress are targeted. The burden of student loan interest discourages many brilliant minds from entering the fledgling industry of cannabis, let alone farming commercially in general. Thus as a team, young farmers and cannabis industry associates are poised to work together to pressure Congress to forgive talented young graduates of their crippling loans as they actively seek a future in agriculture. By the end of the century there will be 11 billion people worldwide that need healthy medicine, nutritious food and sustainable industrial textiles. We need all the farmers we can get.
You can learn more about how to sustain The Dreamers Project and help supply underprivileged communities around the world with food security at TheDreamersProject.global.