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  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we come back to our series the Green Rush.

  • Now that adult marijuana use is legal in California, the state government is starting to write

  • new rules to treat marijuana growers someone like winemakers and allow areas to be considered

  • an official growing region.

  • The hope is that, by doing so, it could provide a lifeline for small farmers.

  • Business and economics correspondent Paul Solman has the story.

  • It's part of his reporting, Making Sense.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: In Mendocino county, California, Swami Chaitanya announces his presence...

  • (RINGING BELL)

  • PAUL SOLMAN: ... to Ganesh, Hindu God of, among other things, good luck, who presides

  • over the crop Swami grows to produce Swami Select, his patented marijuana brand.

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA, Swami Select: All the potency is in the female plants.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: So why do you have the males here?

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: Well, because we don't know which is which yet.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, is that right?

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: Yes.

  • At a certain point, each plant will declare, what's your gender declaration, right?

  • So, they -- and they change from time to time.

  • They do.

  • I'm not kidding you.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: So cannabis is gender-fluid?

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: Absolutely.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: California's marijuana market has itself been pretty fluid of late.

  • Swami's been growing for years at his remote ranch.

  • But he went legit, and legalization brought costly regulations and taxes, which his black

  • market colleagues aren't saddled with.

  • And new industrial-scale rivals have economies of scale that lower their costs.

  • So how can a small legal grower like Swami possibly compete?

  • Branding.

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: The place you want to be is on the high end, not just quality, but

  • something about your style, something about your story.

  • And you make it a small batch, and you make that your advantage.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Niche branding, as with wines and their appellations.

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: So the idea is that the soil that a crop or a product grows in creates

  • something in that product which is unique, and if you grow it anywhere else, it's not

  • going to be the same.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: French wines are classified by location, grape variety and winemaking practices.

  • Champagne can only come from Champagne.

  • Swami claims to produce the champagne of pot.

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: If you take a bottle of sparkling wine from Spain or anywhere else, and compare

  • it to a Veuve Clicquot or a Dom Perignon, it's going to be different.

  • The wine, the product is an expression of the soil it comes out of and the culture and

  • skill of the people who make the product.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: At Alpenglow Farms in Humboldt County, the cannabis flourishes near waterfalls

  • and flowers.

  • CRAIG JOHNSON, Co-Owner, Alpenglow Farms: This is our signature strain.

  • We have bred these over the past 15 years for our site and our location and our climate.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: This specific environment is what French winemakers, and now California

  • pot growers, call their terroir.

  • Craig Johnson is shooting for a southern Humboldt appellation.

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: Industrial America is not producing what we produce.

  • You're not seeing rows of greenhouses here.

  • We have regenerative growing practices, which are above and beyond sustainable and organic

  • as you might know it.

  • So this is the Internet of the Earth right here, these long fungal strands.

  • We have living soils.

  • You peel back that cover crop and there's worms and biology.

  • The checks and balances of nature, we try to keep in tune with.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: And thus the entire culture of cultivation is what makes his premium products

  • a hit, even his vaping oil.

  • And what is that?

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: So this is extract from our flower, Blood Orange Kush, that was grown

  • here on our big flat.

  • This is extracted by a company called Chemistry.

  • You can think of it as a grape grower-winemaker relationship.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: I see.

  • And they're the winemaker, Chemistry?

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: They're the winemaker.

  • We're the grape grower.

  • This is single-source, single-batch.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: So, it's like a vintage?

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: Yes, so this would be summer 2018, Southern Humboldt County, Alpenglow

  • Farms.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Of course, the business model wholly hinges on consumers caring where their

  • cannabis comes from, and willing to pay up for it.

  • Craig and wife Melanie are betting they will.

  • MELANIE JOHNSON, Co-Owner, Alpenglow Farms: There is a strong resurgence for family, family-owned,

  • family farms.

  • People want that experience of knowing where their food comes from, where their medicine

  • comes from.

  • And I feel that, as a small farmer, we will always have that niche.

  • We may not have a million people, but we will have enough people.

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: We have a little bit of cloud cover this morning.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: In order to find their people, the Johnsons brand-boost every day, on Instagram

  • Live, for instance.

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: My goodness, I wish you guys could smell that.

  • It's amazing this morning.

  • We have people popping up live from Israel, Uruguay, New York.

  • I want them to have an image of this site, this area, and have a...

  • MELANIE JOHNSON: A connection.

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: ... a connection to the plant.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: The Johnsons are, of course, aware of the very different image of where

  • they harvest.

  • MAN: I have been shot at, beaten, kidnapped three times.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: On Humboldt County's Murder Mountain.

  • CRAIG JOHNSON: Which is right over the ridge right there.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: A Netflix documentary about the murder of a black market grower presents a

  • lawless, violent image that Humboldt farmers are intent on countering.

  • Swami, in a prior life William Winans, a '60s Wesleyan grad, filmmaker, San Francisco hippie

  • who spent 10 years in India, has his own angle.

  • Is the way you're dressed, the way you look have anything to do with furthering your branding,

  • because it gives an authenticity to Swami Select?

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: So, I was a Swami before I really started getting into growing the

  • finest cannabis, right?

  • But they go hand in hand, because there are many, many swamis in India who start the day

  • with a chillum of hashish.

  • And it's seen as a way to get more in touch with the divine energy which surrounds us

  • all over the place.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: And Swami, who's been toking for more than 50 years, thinks there's getting

  • in touch and getting in touch.

  • But don't I have to be an aficionado to be able to tell the difference?

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: That would help.

  • (LAUGHTER)

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Dylan Mattole thinks an appellation for his Mattole Valley Sungrown is key to

  • his farm's future.

  • DYLAN MATTOLE, Mattole Valley Sungrown: It's more than just an agricultural commodity to

  • us.

  • It's part of our culture.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: As to survival against industrial-scale investors, Mattole says wine is just one model.

  • DYLAN MATTOLE: We have Budweiser, and we have hundreds of small microbreweries.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Some of Mattole's neighbors have formed a cannabis farmer co-op to create some

  • economies of scale.

  • MARIAH GREGORI, Uplift Cannabis Co-Op: Hopefully that we will still have a chance that we can

  • actually compete against corporations.

  • I don't have the money to spend on marketing.

  • I mean, with all these other farms, we have a chance, so we can pool some of our resources,

  • that I might actually be able to do some branding.

  • DREW BARBER, Uplift Cannabis Co-Op: Just packaging product is very difficult, not only the cost,

  • but the regulations.

  • Working together, each of us can share a piece of that burden.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Michael Salbego reminded us that necessity is the mother of invention.

  • MICHAEL SALBEGO, Uplift Cannabis Co-Op: We grow in this sustainable fashion because we

  • couldn't afford to just go out and buy everything in bags and buckets.

  • And we had to use the manure on the land or cultivate things from our own property, because

  • that was what was affordable.

  • This is all going to turn into dirt.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Like soil made from Amazon boxes.

  • You got a bonanza of worms here.

  • MICHAEL SALBEGO: The worms process the paper into a super readily available plant nutrient.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: So small farmers are selling the step beyond sustainable or organic, regenerative

  • farming.

  • But the market has other ideas.

  • MICHAEL SALBEGO: Now, all of a sudden, what we did naturally was just farming.

  • It's -- now it's, how many likes do you have on Instagram?

  • How many pictures have you posted?

  • You have got farmers, family farms, that don't know if they're going to make it.

  • We're up against people with pockets that are so deep that they can survive at a loss

  • for the next five years to capture market share.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Swami Chaitanya's forecast?

  • SWAMI CHAITANYA: Our dedication is to making the finest cannabis that we know how to grow.

  • And how big that gets is not up to me.

  • It's up to the goddess of economics, actually.

  • (LAUGHTER)

  • PAUL SOLMAN: But if Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of wealth, has made up her mind, she isn't

  • telling anyone for sure just yet.

  • For the "PBS NewsHour," this is business and economics correspondent Paul Solman deep in

  • the woods of Northern California.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we come back to our series the Green Rush.

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    Naphtali posted on 2019/12/22
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