Phantom Farms isn’t the only recreational operation that’s green certified and fully committed to sustainability, but they’re at the head of the pack in Oregon and have gained an enviable reputation for their impeccable practices, long-term vision, friendly vibe, savvy marketing, and, of course, for their “mighty tasty cannabis.”
Phantom Farms has been cultivating in Southern Oregon since 2008. Currently, they’re operating on a gorgeous 70-acre property in the sun-drenched Rogue Valley, with about two acres devoted to cannabis. They grow from clones and from seed, and their current list of strains will make your mouth water: Sunset Sherbert, Monster Cookies, Blackberry Cheese Quake, Black Cherry Soda, Wedding Cake, Peach Kush, Peach Gum, Cascade Lemonade, Super Lemon Haze– the list goes on. If all goes as planned this year, the farm will produce a dizzying 45 strains, ranging from old-school favorites like Blue Dream to newer powerhouses like Cannatonic #1 and Gelato #45.
We spoke with head cultivator Edmond Funtanellas, who considers sustainability his bottom line. “The more I learned about conventional commercial agriculture and its practices, the more I wanted to do the opposite,” he says. Like the rest of the Phantom Farms crew, Funtanellas has a deep interest in the outdoors, ranging from surfing and snowboarding to permaculture and beneficial insects. He describes himself as a “problem-solving soil/plant ninja who loves soil microbiology.”
Funtanellas’ reverence for the outdoors is manifested in Phantom’s approach to developing healthy soil. “The biggest takeaway for a sustainable and healthy future is taking care of the soil where we grow our food,” Funtanellas says. “We have recklessly destroyed soil microbiota through the use of synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, and extreme tilling. The microorganisms in the soil are responsible for human survival. Instead of berating these diverse organisms with synthetics, we should be adding organic matter. Here at the farm, all of our dirt is living soil and we build and maintain its vitality every year.”
So what are Funtanellas’ tips for building healthy soil? Don’t use salt-based fertilizers. Instead, plant cover crops, eliminate tillage, and add organic matter inputs, such as compost. When asked for recommendations for amendments and other products, Funtanellas is a purist. “My advice for everyone is to keep it simple. We really like using fish hydrolysate, cold-pressed Ascophyllum nodosum, Roots Organics Big Worm, Roots vermicompost, and Roots bat guano.”
When asked what aspect of his work he takes the most pride in, Funtanellas is thoughtful, but finally says “There are a plethora of ways to get stoked but for me it’s the high fives and positive vibrations. I really enjoy the feedback from the dispensaries and customers. It feels really good to know you’re positively affecting peoples’ lives.”
Funtanellas is also proud of the farm’s water system. He considers their drip irrigation the most efficient and effective delivery system, but he is also enthusiastic about the farm’s flood irrigation, which uses water from Ginger Springs at the base of Mt. McLoughlin. After letting the plants dry out for four days, the crew initiates a 24-hour flooding period using water that’s built up in a canal system. “The water is naturally filtered by volcanic rock,” Funtanellas explains, “and thus absorbs high-quality minerals. Every two weeks we flood our crops with this magical water. It’s one of the best days to be in the garden.”
Phantom Farms’ head cultivator is quick to point out that he’s just one cog in a 20-person crew. “The synergy of our team is really amazing,” he says. “Everyone involved is so good at what they do, and everyone brings something different to the table.” Phantom CEO Sky Pinnick echoes this statement, adding that the crew is a “tight-knit group of friends and family.” Like Funtanellas, they share an obsession with Oregon’s wild land. “With the beauty of the great outdoors always on our minds,” Pinnick says, “it’s no stretch to understand why sustainability and organic growing practices are part of our DNA and company ethos.”
The farm’s dedication to sustainability extends to permaculture. Although this is only their third year growing on this particular parcel of land, the crew has a list of permaculture ideas they want to implement. For starters, they’re growing beneficial plants to improve the farm’s biodiversity and fertility. White yarrow, nettle, dandelion, chamomile, burdock, comfrey, and horsetail will be harvested for compost teas and juiced for foliar sprays.
Funtanellas thinks that pest control will be a growing challenge for organic cultivators. “As gardens grow and get crammed with plants, the pressure from pests will increase tremendously.” The key, Funtanellas stresses, is thinking ahead and preparing for likely problems. “I’m a big advocate of beneficial predators,” he says. “For example, we’ve had thrips in the past. Now we use a thrip predator mite called cucumeris, which feasts on immature thrips. We also use a predatory bug called Orius that has a needle-like feeding tube that sucks the life out of adult thrips.”
Problem solved, though Funtanellas cautions that it’s essential to be one step ahead of the pests. “A lot of growers will wait until they’ve got a bad infestation, go out and buy a bunch of beneficial insects, and then say ‘this shit doesn’t work!’” In contrast, the Phantom Farms approach is to have the predators ready and waiting—to nip the problem in the bud, so to speak.
These days the crew is working long hours: top-dressing worm castings, brewing compost teas, checking plant health, trouble- shooting problems, keeping an eye on their populations of beneficial predators, and anticipating the coming summer, when the well- tended plants will bush out, the buds will be sky high, and the fields will be perfumed with the finest terpenes.
This is what agriculture should look like.