OREGON SUNGROWERS GUILD SETS THE BAR
STORY BY ROB PENDELL
The Oregon Sungrowers Guild, one of Oregon’s oldest and largest cannabis advocacy groups, has been at the forefront of Oregon’s cannabis industry since the beginning. Made up largely of cannabis farmers and medical marijuana patients from Southern Oregon, the center of Oregon’s cannabis production, The Guild boasts over 1000 years of cumulative cannabis cultivation and cultural experience. In 2014, when Oregon legalized adult use recreational cannabis, the farmers and patients of the famous region banded together in an effort to help create a cannabis industry that would be the model for other states and, eventually, the nation.
One of the biggest problems the Guild recognized was the lack of any standard by which a consumer could be assured of the quality of the products they were buying. Unfortunately, the long history of cannabis cultivation in Southern Oregon extends far back into the bootleg era where growers were hiding from authorities and doing whatever it took to get their harvests in. This created some terrible cultivation practices. Many of these include the use of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers which contaminated streams and water tables, dangerous working conditions, and just plain irresponsible practices in much of the industry.
When legalization happened we began to see many of these practices extending to now much larger and professional level farming operations. It became obvious that some standard for responsible cultivation and environmental stewardship needed to be created. The Oregon Department of Agriculture set a very broad set of safety and compliance standards which are largely loosely enforced, if at all. This creates a situation where irresponsible growers, using dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other practices which have a negative effect on neighbors, the water system, and the environment can deliver product to the consumer. The consumer may never know that, unwittingly, they are supporting these activities by purchasing these products.
In response to these concerns the Guild set out to create a farm certification program that would identify farms who were paying special attention to clean, sustainable, and organic farming practices, in an effort to help consumers make wiser choices in their cannabis purchases. Guild members met with representatives of the largest existing farm certification programs including; USDA Organic, Certified Kind, Clean Green and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Using those programs as a guide, The Guild developed and launched the Oregon SunGrown Farm Certification. It is currently the only
farm certification devoted strictly to cannabis cultivation. The program utilizes third party inspectors to inspect farms to ensure they are using responsible farming practices that focus on energy conservation, natural pest management, living soil, organic fertilizers, responsible water practices, soil reclamation, and healthy safe work conditions. Once a farm passes the rigorous inspection, their application is reviewed by a certification committee and approved or denied. Once approved, the farm is then authorized to utilize the Certified Oregon SunGrown label on their products.
Customers, when looking to make a cannabis purchase, can be assured that products bearing the Oregon SunGrown label are the highest quality, and produced in compliance with the highest standards for cleanliness, and environmental sustainability.
OSGG board member and member of the Certification Committee, Rob Pendell believes that sun grown cannabis is superior in many ways. Studies have shown that cannabis grown under natural sunlight consistently produced higher THC, cannabinoid, and terpene profiles when compared to identical cannabis strains grown under artificial light. The energy consumption for sun grown cannabis is also much lower. Indoor cannabis can cost up to 4KW/hr of electricity per gram. Not to mention facility costs, environmental controls like air conditioners, fans etc, as well as noise concerns, none of which are problems with sun grown products.
Pendell believes that by creating a well defined brand that is known to represent quality, sustainability, and a conscious awareness of our impact on the land, the Oregon Sungrown brand can become a successful niche in the raging sea that is the current cannabis market. Much like the micro-brew and micro wine industries, the small artisan cannabis farmer will be able to find a place. Southern Oregon is beautiful and attracts many visitors every year for the outdoor activities, wineries, breweries and much more. Pendell looks forward to adding “herberies” to that list. Beautiful locations where people from all over the world can come and enjoy some of the finest cannabis in the world. Oregon Sungrown products will certainly be a huge part of that new “canna-tourism”.
“It would be a shame if all these small family farms got rolled over by large corporate interests.” stated Pendell. “The Oregon Sungrown certification and branding provide a possible avenue for these small family farms to continue to make a living producing some of the finest cannabis products in the world.