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Growing green: Workshop touts sustainable pot

Liz Kellar
Staff writer

Dozens of workshop attendees listened attentively as speakers on best management practices discussed nutrient use, soil management, water catchment and natural pest control at a day-long workshop Saturday.

In what felt like an only-in-Nevada-County moment, the moderator was dreadlocked, one of the invited speakers wore a button-down shirt but no shoes, and the crop being discussed was cannabis.

The informational workshop, “Growing Green for the Yuba,” was sponsored on by the South Yuba River Citizens League and seemed particularly pertinent in light of growing concerns over the drought faced by California this year.

“SYRCL is not taking a position, pro or con, on cultivation; we’re not endorsing or opposing it. We’re simply saying that if you are going to grow, adopt best practices and do it in a way that doesn’t harm our waterways,” said Holly Mitten, SYRCL vice president and chair of the Marijuana is a Watershed Issue Committee, in a press release.

“…We’re simply saying that if you are going to grow, adopt best practices and do it in a way that doesn’t harm our waterways.”Holly MittenSYRCL vice president

The workshop featured local and regional experts on practices for cultivation that will safeguard the Yuba watershed; the presenters addressed a variety of topics and participated in panel discussions focused on “Local Growers Issues” and “Local Grow Shop Issues,” including local and statewide regulations and products that are available locally.

Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the Emerald Growers Association, detailed his background as a third-generation cannabis farmer, and the progression he has seen statewide from small, decentralized, low-impact grows to traditional big-agriculture set-ups that involve substantial grading and large greenhouses.

Destructive growing practices are what grab the headlines, he said — and are the practices that define cannabis farmers in the justice system and the legislature.

That’s why it’s important for responsible growers to “celebrate the fact that we are doing what’s right,” he said. “Let’s be bold and courageous.”

Allen said the single best practice he advocates is water storage.

“The cannabis community should aspire to one simple goal — using no dry-season diverted water,” he said. “We absolutely can do this.”

The second most important goal, Allen said, is banning synthetic toxins from cultivation practices.

Allen and the others on the growers issues panel also discussed the future of cannabis farming, with a look at branding regions — similar to the Napa Valley wine industry — should recreational marijuana be legalized.

Moderator Amigo Bob Cantisano compared it to the end of alcohol prohibition, commenting, “We’re repeating history as we speak,” and predicting the bubble is about to burst on the end of a “golden era” as decriminalization will likely mean a drastic drop in prices.

Allen described an effort by the Emerald Growers Association to blend tiered licensing that would incentivize small craft farmers, branding with appellations, and a cooperative approach similar to the Blue Diamond almond growers.

“Culturally, we are one community,” he told the audience. “We are an agricultural giant.”

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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