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Among the standards that include agriculture and personnel management, growers and breeders of hemp and hemp in southern Oregon East Fork Varieties It prioritizes environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), says co-owner and CEO Mason Walker.

“We are a human-centric organization — very small — 25 employees, independently owned,” Walker says of the management portion, or “G” in the popular acronym ESG. “We’ve always really appreciated having what we think is a fairly empowering governance structure — a high starting wage, a living wage, health benefits, fairly independent positions where people can really organize and empower their day, a lot of community engagements, like we would….

When it comes to sustainable growth and conservation in East Fork, Walker shares that it extends from the outdoors on his 33-acre farm, where hemp and hemp plants grow to maturity, to the company’s indoor nursery, drying, processing and storage areas, and her tent breeding area.

“We’ve invested very heavily in spray foam insulation in these large metal sheds that we have, and we have very efficient heating and cooling elements and small splits in those climate-controlled spaces,” Walker says of the drying, processing, and storage space. Reducing our energy use, it also makes for tighter climate control, so it improves the quality of our flowers as well. So, it enhances quality at the same time with lower energy use.”

Read below some of the methods the East Fork team uses to amend and amend soil, provide energy, avoid nutrient runoff that may harm nearby salmon, and more.

Editor’s Note: Mason Walker will speak at the Cannabis Conference at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday, August 23rd on the “Innovative and Renewable Growth Technologies” panel alongside Aster Farms CEO Julia Jacobson. in the session, Farmers will discuss the alternative farming methods they use to differentiate their operations competitively and help conserve the planet. Visit www.CannabisConference.com for more information and to register.

Patrick Williams: From a high level, what are some of the renewable growth techniques you use at East Fork Cultivars?

Mason Walker: One of the things I find really helpful is the framing of the word “renewed” – what that word really means explicitly. I find that really useful for our internal discussions but also when I’m having this kind of conversation for a story or something. Therefore, at East Fork, we define regenerative practices in two ways. The first is simply reducing the use of resources, thus reducing our use of water, pesticides, fertilizers and energy – limiting use at the top. Then the second which is actually more synonymous with renewal is the creation of value beyond our domestic use.

The promise, or vision, of renewable agriculture is that you are using fewer resources and actually producing new ones that can benefit yourself in future seasons, benefit natural habitats or other organisms, or benefit communities — benefit your local community or the global community. I feel like the word “renewed” gets thrown around a lot, and I think it’s not often used to describe what it actually means. So, I thought this was just a good place to start.

So, at East Fork, we’re spending, as I say, more time focusing on the first category than just reducing resources. It’s less exciting than creating new things. …but I think the first step in ag regeneration is to reduce resources. It’s the lowest hanging fruit, if you will.

To this end, you can look at the different categories. Easy to use water. We use cover crops, and live mulch is another big thing we’re developing – which only limits our water use by reducing evaporation. We only used drip irrigation. We plant about 10 acres of sun-grown lawn each year, an entire season, one growing season. It’s still the size of a human — it’s a family-sized farm. We mostly use drip irrigation, and then to help reduce water use we use a lot of live mulch, which means we have other plants that live under the cannabis plants that protect against erosion but also reduce water use….

Another category on resource use would be fertilizers. We still bring in some off-site modifications every season. This is mostly due to the mineral imbalance in our farm. Therefore, we cannot have a closed-loop culture because we lack sufficient calcium for this. We do trucks with a good amount of dry mods every spring, and we pop them out with our tractors. But for fertilizer – the other building blocks of our plants – we produce a fair amount of this food on site, using mostly natural Korean farming practices. So, KNF, Korean Natural Agriculture, is an integrated philosophy of regenerative agriculture. And we do not practice every bit of it, but a lot of the fertilizer and pest control parts that we implement on a large scale on our farm. So, one of those uses other plants native to our farm, whether it’s wood waste, woody biomass, blackberries we pull, or hemp stalks and stalks and stuff from years past. We ferment those that use the original microorganisms and make yeast that we apply at different times throughout the season as fertilizer…, and we also make versions of those insecticides that we can apply through foliar sprays or also drip. …

Energy use: We don’t use a lot of energy. We use electric vehicles – golf carts – which are our utility vehicles around our farm and LED lights for all of our indoor nursery spaces – very basic things there. We don’t have any on-site electricity generation yet, but we’ll likely get something out at some point. But… we’ve invested a lot in insulation in our climate-controlled spaces as the better benefit of having a large pool of solar energy, for example. So we’re hoping to have that solar array at some point, but we’ve been focusing on efficiency first.

PW: The only thing I’ve talked about a little bit about is cover planting. Can you talk about some of these approaches there, and why is it important to you to maintain vegetation in the ground?

MW: Yes, cover crop is necessary for agriculture, in general, for any type of sustainable agriculture, and certainly for intensive row crops. We plant a vigorous annual every year in the same place. If you do it without a lot of planning, it will be like strip mining. You are basically just absorbing all the resources from your land. It is very energy intensive, and not at all sustainable.

So, cover cultivation is an essential tool for replenishing … nutrients [for] Soil Health—So, when you grow this high-demand row crop each year, you’re doing some work in place rather than bringing a lot of resources off-site. One of the big things is nitrogen fixation. We plant in the off season. Some of our cover crop mix captures nitrogen from the air. And we’re going to store it in their plant bodies, and then we’re going to make green compost directly into the soil so that it’s actually… pulling nutrients out of the air. Also, different cover crops will break down the macronutrients into more bioavailable forms for our cash crop when we grow that, so [we are] Take advantage of the resources that already exist in the earth – minerals, in particular.

So reducing erosion is huge. [With] Bare soil, especially in the rainy season, will get tons of runoff. And runoff is really bad for a lot of reasons. You lose nutrients, so you start bringing in more off-site. Also, when you have a lot of sediment that drains into riverbeds, it’s really bad for fish and other species because it removes oxygen from the water. We are in salmon spawning grounds. It would be very irresponsible for us to allow our soil to drift in the streams – it would basically cause the salmon not to breed there – so it really matters. Therefore, the cover crop helps prevent this erosion.

PW: Do you use pretty much the same growing methods across the board for your cannabis crop versus state legal cannabis that has a higher THC content?

MW: There are two big differences. We plant about 10 acres. One acre is the crop the adults use, and then about nine acres is the hemp crop. They are all hemp plants, and we grow hardy seasonal annuals in the ground, in the local soil, so something very similar happens. The biggest difference is that in that adult acre, that acre is very valuable to us, so we grow a lot of cloned plants. Clonal plants need support because they do not have a deep rootstock that seed plants can have. Therefore, we have a kind of permanent trellis system. We have to grow in the same exact location every year on the one acre that the adults use, and additional labor and management is needed to be able to grow this crop in the exact same location each year and reduce pest problems, building nutrients. Whereas with a cannabis crop we can switch rows, we can change plant spacing more easily, and we don’t have a definition and regulatory framework that locks us in. Then the other big reason why they’re a little different is who – that [although] It’s the same farm – we’re in an old riverbed – our adult acreage in a completely different soil type. Even if you look at the GIS data from your local USDA office, you can clearly see where the ancient riverbed is, and because of that, we have different minerals in the soil. We have to tweak it a little differently and treat it a little differently.

PW: What do you hope attendees bring to their work from this session at the Cannabis Conference?

MW: I hope the session demystifies ag renewal. I guess… because it’s a new buzzword, it can be a little intimidating. I think it’s easy for people to do that [think] The people who really work in regenerative agriculture are more sacred than you, and maybe it’s like a mini club – it’s like a hardcore thing. I’m so much more into practical and pragmatic demystification of good stewardship and really getting rid of sensitive stuff, it’s not really a bad thing, but I think it could be a scary thing for people if they wanted to get more involved in regenerative farming. They’re like, ‘Ah, but me [don’t] touch the ground and [am not] Sing to the bees “…. I think my main goal is to demystify and take really clear, practical steps that people can take to use cannabis cultivation to reduce resource use and generate new value in their communities and for themselves.

Editor’s note: This interview has been modified for style, length, and clarity.


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