I have been eagerly waiting to share the stories behind those who put their entire lives into growing the plant we all enjoy. Because of challenges related to legalization, in the two years since we released our first Single Origin Reserve it has been difficult to put a face to the farmers who dedicate their days and lives to growing cannabis. Many of these men and women have literally risked their careers and freedom for decades, and most are likely to face hard times ahead. Still, a relatively small group of devoted farmers with sharp foresight are looking ahead as they carefully tend to the state’s growing need for quality California-crafted cannabis.
As soon as we found our first farmer who was ready to share his story, I cleared my schedule, and set out with Bloom Farms’ Procurement Manager, Matthew Wich, to Potter Valley to meet the grower of a new favorite, Lemon OG.
With a well-worn backwards hat and a glowing grin, Ben welcomed us with open arms and cheerfully invited us into his home. If it were listed on Airbnb, his property would be described as something like: “Secluded and spacious cannabis farm overgrown with rustic allure.” While the amenities may be limited, the love he’s put in is not. The care Ben has tended this farm with for over 13 years can be felt from the moment you step onto his land.
During the off season, the overgrowth may give the impression that the surrounding forest is taking back the land, and that’s because it is—for a reason.
“People are out there using Roundup. Do you really mind that a cute little butterfly lands on your shoulder while you’re having a tea?”
Overgrowth like this is part of Ben’s system for cultivating high-quality sun-grown cannabis in California without using pest control methods that could be harmful to the plant, the environment or the consumer. While it may be more labor-intensive to cut the grass back down and pull the weeds, Ben feels that letting nature take over is vital to maintaining biodiversity at Le Forêt. As Ben said, “If you have a low biodiversity index, then you’re starting from square one.”
Besides the butterflies, Ben’s farm is teeming with birds, frogs, spiders and a host of mountain-dwelling natives, all of which help maintain a balanced environment for cannabis cultivation. Critters like these can help maintain healthy populations of fellow wildlife and are especially beneficial to the soil, which they enrich with nutrients like nitrogen when they eventually decompose. So don’t mind the bugs. In Ben’s words, “People are out there using Roundup. Do you really mind that a cute little butterfly lands on your shoulder while you’re having a tea?”
Ben’s care for the environment doesn’t stop at his farm’s borders. He’s also considerate of what happens beyond his corner of the world—how his farming techniques may affect the neighboring land and what the downstream effects of his agriculture management may be. His professional interest in horticulture and land management has evolved into an instinct for creating habitats for wildlife while growing finest-quality cannabis.
Like his farm, Ben is fascinating and shared a bit more about himself and what has kept him moving through the years.
Matthew Wich: How would you describe yourself using only three words?
Ben Monmonier: Jah Ras Tafari
MW: [Laughs] Perfect.
ALL: [More laughs]
MW: How has your experience with cannabis affected your life?
BM: It’s a motivator. It has motivated me in all aspects of my life to pursue my passions and try to build them into your lifestyle.
MW: That’s sort of the diametric opposite of what most people would presume cannabis does.
BM: As you can see, that’s not the case as you have to be motivated around here!
Le Forêt Farms (farm of the forest) is a garden set amongst the majestic beauty of a healthy and diverse ecological setting situated at 2500’ feet in the interior mountains of Mendocino County.