Cooperative business models provide the opportunity for small businesses and organizations to join forces, share expenses, and resources, amplify their voice, and build community. These business models are community-owned private enterprises that unite members, buyers, and consumers to address the challenges of volatile and unstable markets, excessive costs, overproduction, and other economic and regulatory hurdles. All of which the cannabis industry has fallen victim to.
Cooperative businesses stabilize communities by pulling together resources and local expertise creating income and jobs. They can also accumulate assets and, hopefully, economic independence. Cooperative models have a lower failure rate than conventional business models. About 10% of cooperatives fail after the first year, while 60-80% of traditional businesses fail after the first year. After five years, 90% of cooperatives are still operating, while only 3-5% of traditional businesses have kept their doors open.
Enter Farm Cut – a resourceful group of Sun+Earth Certified legacy, family farmers who care about the earth, sustainable practices, and quality cannabis. Just like all Sun+Earth Certified flower, Farm Cut is grown using regenerative organic practices. These farmers also include a diverse farmscape full of fruits, veggies, children, and animals.
Heather Dunbar of Sun+Earth Certified sat down with this innovative group of farmers to learn about the origins of the collective and what makes this brand unique amongst the many others on the shelves of California Dispensaries.
Heather Dunbar: What / Who is Farm Cut, and what is your origin story; how did it come to be, and how did the existing members come together?
Farm Cut: Farm Cut was founded in 2019 and is made up of five Sun+Earth Certified farms across three counties in Northern California. Briceland Forest Farm and Whitethorn Valley Farm hail from Humboldt County; HappyDay Farm and Emerald Spirit Botanicals reside in Mendocino County; and Down OM Farms is settled in Nevada County. Together they represent some of the oldest heritage-growing regions of California.
Farm Cut was formed as a collaborative effort between these farms to bring an organic, high-quality sungrown flower product to market. It was clear to us that in a turbulent and competitive market, small farmers needed to band together to survive the waves of the capitalist takeover of a plant and industry that we hold so dear. This mutual feeling drove Farm Cut to form and bring our flower directly to the people in a way we believe in and feel good about!
HB: What are your goals with Farm Cut?
FC: Farm Cut was built with a few clear goals; sustainable packaging, careful preservation, and sungrown flower from diversified organic farms. The packaging is recyclable or biodegradable. Mason jars are the hallmark of a carefully cured sungrown headstash. We wanted to keep that element alive in the new cannabis landscape. The versatility of these jars means customers receive a package that is useful when they’re done enjoying the Farm Cut flower. We have seen customers reuse their jars for canning, succulent gardens, candles, and cups. If customers don’t have a direct use for them, they can be easily recycled like any glass container.
The mason jar is also critical to our flower preservation goal. The flower is vacuum sealed in the mason jar on farm. “I like to say, ‘every jar contains a little breath of the fresh air from the farm it was grown on,'” Joseph Haggard of Emerald Spirit Botanicals adds. “This also allows the flower to be preserved with an optimal cure and moisture content.” The flower is sealed throughout the supply chain, meaning no extra hands touching the flower and no air oxidizing the buds, ensuring they aren’t damaged in distribution and remain in their prime for the customer to enjoy.
All the farms in Farm Cut are Sun+Earth Certified, meaning they also produce food and other medicinal herbs, fairly compensate their workers, and actively participate in community service. From fundraisers to farmers’ markets, and fire management to farm tours and classes, these five farms offer much more than just cannabis for their local communities.
The presentation of lightly trimmed prime buds in a mason jar is how farmers share their hard work with each other in NorCal. Farmers know that their flowers are preserved best in this fashion—a protective cloak of sugar leaf encapsulating the goodness within. Farm Cut’s goal is to allow this tradition to continue and thrive in the California marketplace.
HD: What are the advantages and disadvantages of working together as a cooperative?
FC: Working together can bring both benefits and challenges. A major perk is the collaborative efforts we all share to make it happen. We can share costs, sales efforts, and networking opportunities with each other. Together we can act as a sounding board for new ideas and consider multiple perspectives on challenging topics.
One of the main challenges we face is coordinating resources and materials to be in the right place at the right time. A classic question in our group chat is, “who has our banner for the booth?” Sharing resources means being able to get the right materials to the right people for each event. It’s wonderful to share the workload, but if the materials end up stuck on one farm, then others may be left without them for an upcoming event. We’ve learned our lessons, and we’re ironing out the kinks. With each challenge comes a great opportunity to grow more effectively and closer together.
HD: How do you share the responsibilities of creating your brand?
FC: We, naturally, took up different roles in the effort to push the brand forward. If there was something we were already good at as a farm, we took charge of the responsibility in the company. Between the members of our group, we can manage website design, source sustainable packaging materials, and organize sales and marketing initiatives, and together we offer a rock-star lineup of amazing sungrown cannabis!
HD: How has Farm Cut been received in the marketplace? What kind of education is required for buyers and consumers?
FC: We are seeing appreciation and demand for Farm Cut increase more and more. It took a little while for people to understand why we package and process our flower the way we do. “Minimally processed” means the flower isn’t tightly trimmed like the market standard. Instead, some of the sugar leaf is left on as a ‘skin’ to protect the flower. As customers begin to understand why the flower looks a little leafier, they seem more open to trying it. It’s one of those things where the flower speaks for itself. Once you pop open a jar, catch a whiff of the terpenes and take a squeeze of one of the buds, you understand immediately why we packaged and processed the flower the way we did. Sungrown flower can now stay fresh all year long.
We regularly have fans of our product reach out on social media wanting to learn more about us, where the herb comes from, and where they can get it. It’s truly an honor to connect with the people who are enjoying our hard work.
HD: How do you see the cooperative model impacting the future of cannabis?
FC: We believe the cooperative model is a great way for small farms to survive in this industry. By working together, we share multiple perspectives on how the market is growing and evolving. It allows us to share costs, resources, networks, and opportunities. It can be a win-win for everyone involved if done correctly.
HD: Please share the accolades Farm Cut has received and anything else you would like Skunk Magazine readers to know about.
FC: According to a review of SC Labs data, Farm Cut flowers contain 222% more terpenes than the average flower in California. Our highest-testing batch this season is from Down OM Farms’ “Apples and Bananas,” coming in at a whopping 5.4% terpenes (2.1% Myrcene, 1.1% Ocimene, & .69% B- Caryophyllene). We credit this to a number of practices applied on our farms, including sungrown, regenerative organic cultivation methods, as well as careful handling and curing in harvest and processing. Our packaging seeks to protect and preserve these incredible qualities of the plant for everyone to enjoy. In 2022, Farm Cut was awarded “Best Packaging” at Weedcon Cup.
Throughout the years, every farm involved in Farm Cut has received recognition at the Emerald Cup. Emerald Spirit Botanicals has won the “Certified Sungrown Flower” category for the last two years in a row with their THCv-rich “Pink Boost Goddess.” The “Pink Boost” was also recognized for the last three years as having the highest THCv concentration in flower form and, in 2022, received an exotic terpene recognition at the Emerald Cup with a Myrcene, Ocimene, and Terpinolene profile. Emerald Spirit Botanicals joined HappyDay Farms and Briceland Forest Farm as a recipient of the 2022 Emerald Cup “Regenerative Farm” award.
This year, look out for the terpene powerhouse “Apples and Bananas” by Down OM Farms, the classic Sativa “Durban Poison” from Whitethorn Valley Farm, the fruity and skunky hybrid “Ogre Berry” from HappyDay Farms, the relaxing Indica “Morning Cuddles” from Briceland Forest Farm, as well as two offerings from Emerald Spirit Botanicals – the CBD-rich “Harmony Rose” and the THCv-rich “Pink Boost Goddess.” Keep your ears close to the ground on Farm Cut this year, as there may be a few limited releases to hit the market in small quantities and may be gone before you know it.
If you’d like to learn more, visit www.farmcutcannabis.com. Or, you can follow their stories on Instagram – @farmcutcanna, @emeraldspiritbotanicals, @downomfarms, @whitethornvalleyfarm, @happydayfarms, and @bricelandforestfarm. To learn more about Sun+Earth Certified, please visit https://sunandearth.org/.
Feature Photo Credit: Farm Cut
Heather Dunbar is a passionate, mission-driven sustainability advocate with years of experience in the cannabis industry including cultivation, education, sales and marketing, communications, and strategy. Heather has also worked extensively in the natural products industry and organic food movement, leading product development, brand development, and community outreach for several pioneering businesses. Heather is a natural leader with a passion for improving the world through permaculture, regenerative practices, community development, and using business as a force for good. Heather is a contributing author of multiple publications including, CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis. She holds a degree in Human Development and Health Psychology and an MBA focused on sustainable business strategy and leadership. She is currently the Director of Communications and Marketing for Sun+Earth Certified and Brand Manager for Brother David’s Sacred Allies.