When it comes to getting real deal quality cannabis, cleanliness of the plant should be of the utmost concern. You don’t want plants sprayed with pesticides or grown through bottom-tier methods that ultimately result in bad weed that you’d never want to smoke.
Weed is medicine, and you never want contaminated medicine; nor do you want your medicine to come at such an ecological cost that the planet is now worse off because of it. These are the exact sentiments of the Sun+Earth Certified program in Humboldt County, California.
Built on the principles of regenerative agriculture, organic cultivation, and community engagement, Sun+Earth Certified aims to highlight sun-grown cannabis farmers who prioritize soil health, work to reverse the effects of climate change, and make sure employees involved in creating that fire ganja are paid an adequate wage.
It is well-known that sunlight gives cannabis plants their most natural and robust chemical profiles of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds—because that’s how plants grow naturally. Sun-grown cannabis, when cultivated with care and expertise, can be some of the best smelling, best tasting, and best feeling cannabis on earth.
The Sun+Earth program highlights these growers and also helps promote the Emerald Triangle’s legacy in cannabis, as well as providing farmers with limited resources greater access to stores and consumers.
What is the Sun+Earth certified program and who created it?
David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s (the soap company) supported a team of advocates, experts, and Emerald Triangle sun-grown cannabis farmers to found Sun+Earth Certified, a nonprofit organization in California that launched on April 22, 2019, Earth Day.
Their goal is to create a third-party system to verify the cultivation and business standards of companies who produce organic cannabis. Specifically, it was created to highlight companies who practice regenerative farming, and who follow good business practices, treat their employees well, and give back to the community.
Why is Sun+Earth Certified important?
The notion that sun-grown cannabis is poor in quality needs to be debunked. Since the majority of weed you see on shelves is grown indoors, people assume that outdoor is trash. Wrong. The “best” type of weed is subjective, but it’s important to know all of the benefits of sun-grown cannabis.
The cannabis plant is full of a bunch of different compounds that make weed smell, taste, and feel great. Bringing these qualities out while growing is primarily about expertise, but it is undeniable that sunlight is able to bring out a fuller profile of terpenes and other compounds than artificial lighting.
Additionally, the carbon footprint created by sun-grown cannabis is much lower than that of indoor and even greenhouse cannabis farms. It takes a lot more energy and overhead to produce indoor and mixed-light cannabis versus purely sun-grown cannabis. That, combined with the benefits of regenerative farming, make companies who are Sun+Earth certified extremely appealing to Earth-conscious consumers.
Thirdly, Sun+Earth Certified also acts as a philanthropist, giving financial help to small growers. Not only was David Bronner involved in the founding of Sun+Earth, Dr. Bronner’s has supported the organization’s annual budget as well.
Sunbright Gardens, a specialty outdoor cultivator in Mendocino County, were able to receive financial aid that drastically reduced their Sun+Earth membership fees. Additionally, they were highlighted through the Weed Like Change campaign. Without the aid and promotion, Sunbright may have gone down the drain.
“We had not been able to get into stores,” said Monique Ramirez, co-founder of Sunbright Gardens. “When the Weed Like Change campaign launched, they opened so many doors that we would never have been able to open up very easily on our own, and connected us to these awesome retailers that not only care about cannabis and the sun-grown movement, but really want to support small farms and give us a fair wage.”
The Weed Like Change campaign educates the public about the environmental benefits of regenerative organic farming, and helps strengthen the market for companies that practice it.
“[Sun+Earth is] putting so much energy into trying to help us be successful, and help get the message out here about regenerative growing practices,” said Ramirez. “It’s given us hope that we might actually be able to make it. If we didn’t have this opportunity, I don’t know what we’d be doing right now.”
What are the three pillars of Sun+Earth Certified?
Sun+Earth Certified has three pillars, or core principles, that they prioritize and promote, and hope to be a measure of standards in the cannabis industry.
Earth care and cultivation
Regenerative agriculture is the primary pillar of Sun+Earth, and it’s an imperative part of participating in the program. Practices like mulching, crop rotation, cover crops, and other techniques promote soil regeneration, and they combat topsoil erosion, increase biodiversity, and build healthy ecosystems within the soil. Healthy soil helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traps CO2.
Sun+Earth’s definition of human empowerment comes down to how well you’re treating your employees and if you’re providing an adequate, livable wage to them.
Not only do your practices have to give back to the Earth, but they also have to give back to the people around you.
“Sun+Earth’s community engagement standards are three-fold: Operations must have a written description regarding community engagement; farms shall improve and engage with the local community; and certified farms must engage in a farming knowledge-sharing activity annually,” said Kris Hermes, Public Relations for Sun+Earth.
How do companies get Sun+Earth certified?
Farms and product manufacturers, who make extracts from organic alcohol or CO2, are put through a rigorous screening process to obtain certification, said Andrew Black, Sun+Earth Certified’s Executive Director.
The screening process includes an online application, farm inspection, and soil test for over 300+ pesticides. “If there are no concerns with the results of the soil analysis and no major non-compliance issues are observed at inspection, we will approve the certification and allow a farm or product manufacturer to use the Sun+Earth Certified logo and name to market their products,” said Black.
Fee-wise, the annual cost for certification is $2,200. However, with financial support of donors, which includes Dr. Bronner’s, Sun+Earth is able to subsidize the cost of certification to make the fee more bearable.
“Thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, we were able to reduce the annual certification fee to just $400 for up to 75 farms in 2022,” said Black.