HappyDay Farms is located on a sunny slope in Northern Mendocino County. Mindful that they are stewards of the land, Amber and Casey O’Neill only farm two of the 20 acres that has been in the family for generations. The O’Neills hope to be an example of twenty-first century farmers—which looks similar to a nineteenth century farmer. The couple lives off grid, use rainwater for irrigation, save their seeds and plant their crops outside in compost-enriched soil.
“America is a country founded on small farms, you had your cash crop and your personal crops. We believe the farm should be able to produce as much as it can for itself. Monocrop cannabis is just as dangerous as monocrop wheat or soy.”
At the farm food and medicine is grown together. Vegetables and other perennials that attract beneficial insects surround tall cannabis plants. Interplanting also prevents the cannabis from being densely planted together, which brings light and air to the plants while minimizing mold, pests and root rot. “…some of the biggest and most beautiful food comes out of our cannabis beds,” says Casey.
The couple had been growing cannabis for personal use for years; they were inspired by their life as rural farmers to expand their cannabis crop and advocacy. Casey explains, “America is a country founded on small farms, you had your cash crop and your personal crops. We believe the farm should be able to produce as much as it can for itself. Monocrop cannabis is just as dangerous as monocrop wheat or soy.”
The couple co-founded the Emerald Grown Cooperative, which pools marketing resources and advocate ways for the government to regulate and support a stable thriving, rural farming system. With the cooperative, small farmers have a stronger collective voice and can come out of the shadows to explain to local policy makers what it is to be a holistic cannabis farmer not a large monocrop grower. Casey says “I like to spend more time on farming than politics, but if you’re not at the table with local policy makers than you’re on the table.”
Amber and Casey sell their surplus crops through farmers markets, CSA boxes or California dispensaries. The O’Neill’s dream of a future where “we could go to a farmers’ market and interact with patients…in a perfect world we could do a cannabis CSA.”