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Cannabis Farm Tour in Carpinteria - 2019

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

June 29, 2019

Living in Carpinteria for the last few years we have been witness to an evolution in farming that has been met with great consternation from some and embraced with welcome arms by others. This sleepy beach town had become known for its beautiful beaches, surf, avocado farms and numerous greenhouses throughout the valley, filled with Orchids, flowers and other assorted indoor grown vegetables. Today Mary and I were able to get a firsthand look inside what has become Carp’s newest growth crop that is once again bringing the greenhouses to life.

Times change and with the influx of substantially lower priced flowers from Canada and South America, the flower farmers of Carpinteria were running out of options for what they could grow and remain financially sustainable. Many of the greenhouses shuttered or were left to weather away in rust from the moist coastal air.

In 2016 with the passage of prop 64 legalizing recreational marijuana in California, a new option became evident for these local growers and their existing greenhouses were a perfect match. Fast forward to today there are 23 licensed Cannabis grow operations in Carpinteria with over 600 employees. Santa Barbara county has over 35% of the Cannabis cultivation licenses in the state yet only 1.8% of the land in the state (Humboldt County has 22% of the state licenses). The County also has the largest legal grow on earth under construction to house 147 acres of hoop greenhouses.

Today’s tour at Ever-Bloom in Carpinteria provided an opportunity to see how a former flower grower has been able to transition to a new crop and continue to provide jobs for the community. Faced with few options this former Gerber flower farmer and a long-term Carp resident joined with new partners to form a Cannabis grow.

Since we have been on tours of other greenhouse flower growers in the area it was easy to envision the somewhat seamless transition from flowers to Cannabis. It is simply adapting to growing a different crop with a few changes to the process. Impressive to see the process from starting new plants from the clippings of mature parents to those ready for harvest plants loaded with crystallized buds. This operation currently grows about 6 different strains, all cloned from maturing plants through a continuous cycle preserving the consistent qualities for strains such as Sunset Sherbet, Strawberry Banana, Forbidden Fruit, Gorilla and PR-OG (Private Reserve-Ocean Grown).

The major changes made to the facilities were to ensure that the environment was clean and no residual chemicals were present that could spoil the crop during testing. The state requires all plants to be tested to high level standards and contain very low levels of pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, etc… They scrubbed the green houses, removed some of the soil beneath the elevated growing beds, flushed all irrigation and fertilization systems to ensure compliance. They added black-out drapes in order to protect the surrounding area from light pollution due to the artificial light and also control the amount of day light during the budding process. During bud they like 12 hours of light and 12 of dark. They also installed odor controlling mechanisms to minimize the “skunk” smell emanating from the budding plants called terpenes. Some very high-tech solutions are being installed that do not mask but eliminate these odors. Environmental features include Co2 capture and re-circulation to the plants, and re-cycling and filtering the irrigation water overflow.

Similar to the flower grows there were rows and rows of plants in differing stages of growth throughout this massive greenhouse. We were able to see the different strains and touch and smell the product before harvest. They estimated each plant had a value of around $250 to the grower from start to finish. You do the math, with thousands of plants being grown and harvest occurring weekly there are some serious dollars to be made. The grower told us that you only make money in the flower business on Valentine’s/Mother’s Day, in Cannabis farming he stated, every day is Valentine’s/Mother’s day. Keep in mind though the cost to produce the final product along with the taxes and fees are significant expenses. We were told that the taxes and fees imposed by federal/state/local governments are significantly more than the operational costs to produce the final product.

The tour was great and should help with eliminating some of the angst out there around this new business model. The owners and the association have been very open and present to ensure that they are very good neighbors and do the right things to ensure a long lasting relationship is formed. Like I said before the former flower grower at this location and his family are long term Carp residents and have many investments in the community. They want to ensure that the industry does the right things, continue providing employment for their neighbors and are good stewards of the environment that makes Carpinteria a great place to live.

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