Chemistry Visits: Getting Our Hands Dirty with Alpenglow Farms
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
In the coming weeks we’ll be telling the story of each craft cultivator we work with to produce our full-spectrum vapes, tinctures and crystallines. Chemistry’s mission is to Stay True to the Plant™. We achieve this by preserving the nuance of each strain, from flavor to effect via our super fancy extraction and refinement techniques. But the story really begins with our farms and their amazing sun grown cannabis.
Alpenglow Farms began simply. 25 years ago Craig Johnson fell in love with the beautiful and multifaceted land of California’s Southern Humboldt County. It was the location he would chose years later to begin cultivating his farm and growing a family.
Farming has always been a big part of Craig’s life. As a child, his household grew its own food in the backyard to help sustain the family of ten. A newly immigrated family from Finland, the Johnsons worked hard to plant roots in the United States.
Craig spent a lot of his youth in the backyard learning vital, firsthand knowledge from his grandfather about how to grow hearty foods such as tomatoes, potatoes and rhubarb—all crops that helped feed their large family. Such an upbringing instilled in Craig a finely honed intuition on how best to care for plants as well as a deep knowledge of agriculture best practices. Both continue to flourish within him today.
Now, Craig and his wife Melanie are owners of Alpenglow Farms, an 80-acre parcel in the warm and dry "banana belt" of its region in Southern Humboldt—where the conditions for sun-grown cannabis are ideal.
Craig's favorite part about cannabis cultivation is not the planting or the harvesting, as one might expect. What he enjoys most is witnessing each plant’s growth as he nurtures its environment. He puts an incredible amount of energy—both physical and analytical—into the soil and surrounding ecosystem. The simple joy of watching his efforts affect each plant’s well-being lights him up.
The soil in which the plants are sown is a huge contributor to the their prosperity. Using soil that is abundant in biodiversity benefits both the ecosystem and the quality of the plant. In contrast to growing cannabis in an isolated setting using store-bought soil, Alpenglow practices polyculture and builds its own soils rich in biodiversity.
Unlike monoculture, where the land is dedicated solely to one type of crop and soil is left bare during off seasons, polyculture involves a rich variety of crops growing on the same land and soil that is continuously used, even during the winter. This method of farming increases biodiversity and generates healthier plants with better immune systems.
An example of polyculture at Alpenglow is Craig's practice of planting potatoes around the base of the cannabis plants. The potatoes keep the roots cooler, offer green mulch, help conserve water and loosen the earth—creating a better living environment for all.
Although the maintenance of the soil is a time-consuming process, creating a polyculture and biodiversity is integral to growing happy, high-quality plants. An intriguing way to look at how biodiversity affects the nutrition of the plants is through examining the micro level of the farm through a macro lens. Embedded within the soil of Alpenglow lies a fungal network that facilitates communication between the plants and their environment. Craig refers to this network as an internet for plants.
Pay attention because this might blow your mind. Plants are intelligent beings. When a plant is in need of nutrition, the leaves communicate with the roots via sugar saps and resins, informing the roots which microbes (like fungi and bacteria) are necessary for its growth. The roots can then communicate with the microbes through a complex chemical correspondence that is still not even close to being fully understood by scientists. These microbes then break down nutrients in the soil, allowing the plant to use the newly formed organic matter.
The microbes and plants are communicating in order to form a mutually beneficial relationship!
The plants on Alpenglow are not the only living organisms concerned with direct, mutually beneficial communication. Craig and Melanie are heavily involved in building communities where communication and the sharing of knowledge are a huge help in spreading awareness of regenerative farming. One such community is called the Humboldt High Five. Two years ago Craig got four of his fellow farmers together (one of them being Moon Made Farms) in order to work more efficiently together on regenerative techniques.
Alpenglow also has an instagram account (@Alpenglowfarms707) where Craig regularly posts about the farm and its practices. Followers of the account get regular updates on the progress of each strain, the environmental conditions on the farm and a behind-the-scenes peek into all things cannabis cultivation. It's a great way for everyone—including, and perhaps especially people not directly involved in farming—to be intimately involved with a community concerned about quality cannabis and the regenerative practices used to grow it.
Alpenglow Farms is an ultimate provider. The water can be drunk straight from the ground, the location grants sunlight that remains strong until October and the land on which the cannabis grows provides a living for Craig and Melanie's family. Perhaps it's partially because the land has always given so much to Craig and his family that he feels the drive to be an Earth-conscious farmer.
Alpenglow goes to impressive lengths to ensure the farm is as regenerative as possible. By enacting DEM Pure certified farming practices, they go above and beyond organic. Such regenerative processes are not only great for the environment, but also elevate the quality and terpene profiles of the cannabis—making the plant amazing for extraction.
An added benefit we can get behind and yet another reason Chemistry only partners with craft cultivators like Alpenglow Farms.
The DEM Pure Certificate ensures a farm uses "solely regenerative and biologically intelligent practices" in order to maintain a more steward-like relationship with its land. To be certified, the farm must not only apply biologically intelligent practices, but also give back to its community. DEM encourages knowledge sharing and collaboration with other farms to better the methods of the collective whole while working together to build a more viable future.
Alpenglow Farms is not just building an incredible regenerative farm, but a community—whether of fellow farmers or Instagram followers—concerned with the well-being of our planet. They also grow some stellar, terp-rich weed that we're super stoked to release as full-spectrum vape carts and crystalline in the coming weeks. Eek, we can barely wait!
Stay true to the planet… Stay True to the Plant™. ✌️