Episode 106

Nikki & Swami Farm the Living Soil

Apr 27, 2020 | Length: 38m 56s

Swami Select founders Nikki Lastreto and Swami Chaitania met in San Francisco during the Summer of Love, coupled in 1980, and started their Mendocino County farm in 2003TK. The couple share their transition from globe-trotting seekers to practitioners of regenerative farming.

Swami Select

“Why cannabis growers are looking to regenerative farming?”

“Corona Love,” Sheltering with Swami

Alex Halperin on The Dworkin Report

“Summertime,” Big Brother & the Holding Company

Alex Halperin’s Cannabis Dictionary

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This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Podcast transcript

Alex Halperin (00:09):
Welcome to WeedWeek. I’m Alex Halperin.

Donnell Alexander (00:11):
And I’m Donnell Alexander.

Alex Halperin (00:13):
This is the WeedWeek Podcast. You can subscribe to our newsletters, WeedWeek, WeedWeek Canada and WeedWeek California. All at www.weedweek.net. And you can find us on Twitter and Instagram @weedweeknews, subscribe and review or like us on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast platform.

Donnell Alexander (00:31):
This week we’re joined by Nikki Lastreto and Swami Chaitania of Swami Select. That’s a flower brand located in Mendocino County. They’re going to give us an introduction to regenerative farming, a trending upgrade on organic farming and share just a few details of two truly remarkable lives.

Alex Halperin (00:49):
It was a pretty fun conversation, I thought.

Donnell Alexander (00:53):
Oh, it was spanning the globe. I’ll tell you that much.

Alex Halperin (00:55):
Oh my God, I want to go. They invited us to come visit them. I really want to go visit them and hear a bit about more about their lives.

Donnell Alexander (01:04):
Yeah, but I want to ask you something before we get into our news item. You know, it’s such a painstaking process of regenerative farming. Do you feel like in the environment that we’re in, and I’m not just talking about COVID, I’m talking about the entire legal cannabis world, do you feel like people are actually going to stop enough to make regenerative farming more than just like a quirky thing that some people do in Mendo?

Alex Halperin (01:26):
As with so much else. I think if consumers demand it, it will happen.

Donnell Alexander (01:32):
It needs a publicity campaign. I think it could be trendy. That thing you talk about cannabis consumers caring more about the behind the scenes stuff with their product. I think it was really tailor made for regenerative farming.

Alex Halperin (01:44):
I mean look at how many people buy organic food, you know, same sort of thing.

Donnell Alexander (01:48):
And we should make the point that while we talk about organic farming a bit here, it’s not by any means a comprehensive conversation. It’s a jumping off point and maybe on our show notes we’ll put some more stuff in there. But first, before we get into that, let’s talk about The Cannabis Distribution Association, which has begun sharing information on California companies that aren’t paying their bills.

Alex Halperin (02:09):
This is pretty funny, I thought. This group is basically compiling a list of companies that aren’t paying their bills so that distributors can figure out who they want to work with. You know, it’s almost like deputizing a posse.

Donnell Alexander (02:26):
What’s fascinating to me about this Cannabis Distribution Association is that it’s only 30 businesses, 20 of them, which are 20 of which are distributors according to marijuana business daily. But there are a thousand licensed distributors in California. This alliance, are they like the cannabis equivalent of people protesting on the corner? Is this about something?

Alex Halperin (02:49):
No, I think it’s totally about something. You know, they’re sick of stores not paying their bills and you know, at a time when money is tight for everybody that really matters. So, if you’re a store on the wrong side of this West, I think it totally makes sense to spread the word about who’s not paying their bills.

Donnell Alexander (03:12):
I think the line from Todd Kleperis who works at Hardcar, he said it’s kind of like an emergency network to help all the really good distributors stay aware and stay relevant. Sounds fair.

Alex Halperin (03:23):
Total. It seems fair to me.

Donnell Alexander (03:25):
Do you see this sort of thing reaching beyond the distribution level?

Alex Halperin (03:29):
I don’t see why not. Maybe in the industry there are a fair number of bad actors and I think that in a lot of respects they’ve maybe been able to sell below the radar of a lot of people for various reasons. And in the end wiring you to do with the industry is quasi legal status. So, if the industry wants to police itself, that seems pretty legitimate to me.

Donnell Alexander (03:57):
Well I find it interesting because I saw the quote where they’re looking for the top five most obvious really bad players and circulating the word about them. And I see the utility in that. But I also think reputation can make you irrelevant. I mean don’t you see the possibility for abusing this?

Alex Halperin (04:16):
I mean, maybe there’s a possibility for abusing it, but I don’t think it’s being done, it doesn’t sound like it’s being done in bad faith.

Donnell Alexander (04:25):
And the fact is, I mean, I have to be honest with myself. It happens anyway. You know, people, blacklist people, and that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about blacklisting debtors, right? It happens anyway and businesses built on it. This is what cannabis looks like today, and I guess it’s part of the professionalization of the industry. Anyway, we’ve got these guests who go back to a different time and I guess it’s interesting that they’re working in this time.

Alex Halperin (04:47):
All right, here are Nikki and Swami.

Music (04:50):
You’re gonna rise, rise up singing. You’re gonna spread your wings. And take, take to the sky Lord, the sky. But until that morning.

Donnell Alexander (05:20):
So Swami and Nikki, welcome to WeedWeek.

Nikki Lastreto (05:23):
Thank you.

Swami Chaitania (05:23):
Thanks for inviting us.

Nikki Lastreto (05:26):

Donnell Alexander (05:27):
I have one big question. We’re going to talk a lot about regenerative farming in this conversation, but I can’t help but wonder if from the things I’ve read how you got there. And I know that you came to Mendo in 2000 is that right?

Nikki Lastreto (05:40):
I moved up to Mendo in 2000 and Swami came a little bit later. We got our ranch in 2003.

Donnell Alexander (05:46):
But Swami, your first grow was in 1978. That’s right, isn’t it?

Swami Chaitania (05:51):
Well that was in San Francisco up on Telegraph Hill. Definitely. Actually it wasn’t even in mine, I was in my neighbor’s side yard.

Donnell Alexander (06:00):
What were you all doing all those years in between? I know that you were bouncing between San Francisco and India and Asia. Were you growing? What was your life like?

Nikki Lastreto (06:09):
No, actually my life was about dealing marijuana in San Francisco and we spent a lot of time in the city and in India.

Swami Chaitania (06:20):
Dealing was a very minor part of our life in the cities really. Mostly we just bought our own flour by selling it to our friends. Nikki was actually working at various newspapers and various other things during that time. What do you want to say, Nikki?

Nikki Lastreto (06:37):
I was a journalist, but I was definitely selling weed.

Swami Chaitania (06:40):
Well, that’s true. That’s true.

Alex Halperin (06:44):
What papers were you working for?

Nikki Lastreto (06:46):
I worked at the San Francisco Chronicle for most of the 1980s and then I also worked at KRON-TV, which is an NBC station.

Swami Chaitania (06:54):
Oh yeah. Well we lived in San Francisco, right in the middle of North beach.

Nikki Lastreto (07:02):
Well Swami was a hippie artist.

Swami Chaitania (07:03):
Yeah. I was doing photography and painting a lot of watercolors and oils at that point, the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, when we were doing that. And, I was also doing a housing remodeling and so on. I would have photo shows and painting shows and Nikki organized them for me.

Nikki Lastreto (07:23):
And we both in the ‘70s did go to India and overland. We both did the overland journey from America all the way across Asia to India.

Alex Halperin (07:36):
How do you get overland from America to Asia?

Swami Chaitania (07:39):
Well, from England, from London, basically.

Nikki Lastreto (07:41):
Not for me, I think. There was some water involved, but I took a Greyhound bus across America. I took a Russian boat across to England. And then from there it was all overland on buses and trains and chucks.

Swami Chaitania (07:56):
But I thought you were in the Black Sea on a Russian ship there? No?

Nikki Lastreto (07:59):
No. I was on the Atlantic.

Swami Chaitania (08:02):
The Atlantic Ocean. Yeah. So, she went by ship from Canada to England. At that point, my first time to India I was working on a film called Sanyasi that a friend of mine has now just reissued. And we were visiting various places in Israel, Iran and Nepal and India filming at that time. And then Nikki went separately individually.

Nikki Lastreto (08:28):
Well, a little bit of dark history, well not dark, but deep history. Swami and I met in 1969 when I was only 14, and he was an older, cool hippy guy in San Francisco. And then we got together as a couple in about 1980. And at that point we had both already done our individual journeys, overland, India, and in the ‘80s we got together and that’s when I did the whole newspaper thing and he was an artist in the city and then we dropped out again and we dropped out together. And then ‘89 and then ‘92 we seriously dropped out and just went back and lived in India for the rest of the ‘90s, mostly. Although I came back to California for a bit.

Donnell Alexander (09:13):
How does weed fit into this? Were you growing? Were you selling? What was the culture like for you as you’re making your way to the Mendo part of your lives?

Nikki Lastreto (09:21):
For me it was about selling it. And in San Francisco, I knew some people up in Mendocino and actually we were getting a lot of weed at that point of course, from the South of the border, Thailand, all of those places for a while. So, we were always very involved in the weed culture but in the other end of it. So it wasn’t until 1997 when I had met Tim Blake, who’s now been the founder of the Emerald Cup and more, and Tim and I became fast friends and I ended up here working with Tim on his cannabis farms, starting in about 1998 and that’s when I first got in my hands into the soil and started actually primarily in the harvesting and trimming end of it. But I started really learning about cannabis from the other end instead of just sales in the city.

Swami Chaitania (10:08):
Those days. We called it a ganja bootcamp when you would be up here, and you’d carry bags of soil on your back under the bushes into the mountains.

Nikki Lastreto (10:16):
Oh yeah. We were hiding from helicopters, the whole thing. Yeah.

Swami Chaitania (10:18):
Yeah. But see, of course cannabis is what we call it nowadays, but in those days we had so many words for it, the pot, marijuana, tea, whatever. And that was really an essential part an essential ingredient of the hippie culture and all the music that came out of San Francisco. A lot of talk about the LSD and so on. But LSD trips were kind of like once a week or once a month. Cannabis, you distribute it every day, all day You did cannabis as much as you could. And in those days, in the very late ‘60s, early ‘70s, I had a live show called ESP Extra Sensory Projections with a couple of other guys. We had a lot of slides and projectors and so on. But we also we were what was known as a holding company because there were these dealers who didn’t want to stash their kilos in their apartments. So we would stash their kilos in our place and we could take them in and out easily because we had all these projectors. And so, we’d take out the projectors and put the kilos in the projector boxes. What we charged for doing that, storing all their kilos, was we could roll as many joints as we could a day. So, we’d roll up about 20 joints every morning. And then as we used to say, just trip around the city, pick up people hitchhiking and go to the park, go to the beach, smoke joints and so on in a coffee shop. It was a very nonchalant time, but I was with a group of artists and everywhere we went, we did drawing, we did pen and ink drawing, we did painting and photographs, and actually I’m working on those photographs right now. Pot pictures I took 50 years ago.

Alex Halperin (12:04):
I really liked that phrase. A nonchalant time.

Donnell Alexander (12:08):
Yeah. I know Alex has a question about regenerative farming specifically that he wants to ask. But I have to linker a little more in this yesteryear stuff. You said you were a holding company. Is that where the holding company in Big Brother and the holding company comes from?

Swami Chaitania (12:27):
I’m pretty sure, absolutely. But see, the other thing, I just came across a picture of our kitchen table with a huge bag of maybe like 3,000 or 4,000 hits of acid on the table and we were bagging them up in the hundreds again for these other people. And I remember, there was all this dust on the table and our cat Noah address and liked up some of this dust and he tripped for a couple of days. He seemed to come out of it very much. He kind of knew a lot more after that. He was kind of an elder.

Donnell Alexander (13:04):
How do you know? How do you know what the cat knew?

Swami Chaitania (13:08):
How do you know? You ask Noah. You just know, I mean there was a way that he acted that there was definitely a different aspect about him at that point.

Alex Halperin (13:20):
It sounds like you’ve been farming in Mendo for almost 20 years. Is that right?

Swami Chaitania (13:28):
That’s correct. Actually, we really did our very first crop stand on at Tim Blake’s place and I put in one plant and we had to take it out because we had to move. But that was probably 1999 and then we got our place up here. We actually took possession in 2003, but our first real crop was the next year, 2004. And this was all of a friend of mine I have known for 34 years, he gave me all these starts, all these females, about 25 females at that point. And that was our very first crop.

Nikki Lastreto (14:04):
The other thing is we’ve always grown in full sun out here because starting at that point, it was just getting semi sort of, if you stretch the rules legal and we decided to do that. So, whereas with Tim Blake, we’d been growing under trees and very discreetly up here. We really just took it right out in the middle of the meadow and wow. What a difference to watch those plants grow so big and healthy under the sun. I mean, regenerative farming wasn’t exactly a concept at that point yet, but we were learning constantly new things every year about how to get there.

Swami Chaitania (14:39):
Yeah. Well, you know, since we were doing this interview, I did research a little bit about the origins of regenerative farming if you want to get into that. But it was unfamiliar to cannabis growers at that time.

Alex Halperin (14:50):
What is regenerative farming?

Swami Chaitania (14:52):
So, what is regenerative farming? Well, regenerative farming actually is not new, but the original form of it, I think we should really call it generative farming because in the old days, 200 years ago, there were no synthetic or chemical fertilizers and the way people farm was using the manure from their animals on the land. And what we’re calling regenerative farming is a need to get back to that kind of farming. Because what’s happened over the last 150 years is what we call agrochemical farming or big business farming. And so they use nutrients that are chemical nutrients that are derived from petroleum and various other products. And so, they are very strong nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which you always see as the typical fertilizer ingredients. That kind of chemical farming, what it has done is it has thrown nature out of balance. And that’s what we’re trying to restore When we say regenerative farming and the history of it, originally, as I said, that’s the one everybody knew how to do. But there’s a great German philosopher and educator called Rudolf Steiner, sort of originated the concept biodynamic farming. And this is in the mid-twenties, 1920s. And it was in response to people who were saying, well, we need to actually get and respect the spirituality in the soil and a Greek religion and the Roman religions and all actual native religions talk about the goddesses of the earth, the goddesses of fertility and the sacredness of the soil. And that the soil is related to the goddess it brings for us in birth plants. And so, the Romans had the god of cereal or goddess of cereal and flora, the goddess of flowers. And so, the sacred nature of the soil was an essential thing. And they all had rituals based on the phases of the moon and the equinoxes and that’s when they would have celebrations and tribal dances, honoring the spiritual nature of the soil and integrating their crops with that kind of timescale. And now that we’ve gotten to industrial farming, all of that kind of spiritual goddess related thing is sort of disappeared. And that’s one of the things regenerative farming is also bringing back, that the nature that the soil itself is alive. The soil is a precious, precious thing which bears fruit like the female goddess. It’s the source of the common wheel, as we say, of the beneficence of nature and all of our food. And when we lose track of that, that’s when we treat the soil as just an object that has to be manipulated. So that’s the kind of early basis of it, and the regenerative farming. Then, if you want me to get into more specific details of the how of it, we can talk about the science as well. If you want to say something, Nikki.

Nikki Lastreto (17:58):
I thought you might want to take a breath. I could just see his face turning red from not breathing, but I actually want to just mention that the years that we lived in India also, we lived many much of that time up in the Himalayas and in the Himalayas we weren’t actually growing the ganja, but we were living all around it and it was living around us because it just grows like a wheat up there that they use it for the seeds for protein. They obviously make it into hashish, which they call it there to smoke it. And there obviously, they are growing it regeneratively and they don’t have any fertilizers released.

Swami Chaitania (18:37):
Yeah. Well, what we would see when we would walk in the terraces up in the Himalayas or Kumal, they’d be growing in these gigantic plants on their compost heap outside where they threw all their vegetable scraps and so on and so forth. And keep in mind, most of those people in the mountains are Hindus and are vegetarian people, but they have a livestock, they would have water buffalo and so on. So, the manure was an integral part of the whole thing.

Alex Halperin (19:08):
In India, in the Himalayas when cannabis was growing all around, who were the people who were using it? Was it seen as a religious thing? Was it seen as an everyday thing? Was it for men, for women, for who?

Nikki Lastreto (19:23):
It was really used primarily by the men, they were the ones that would smoke. And they would gather and that would just be like a ritual. The local school teacher would invite you over and light up, that was just what they did. They the Holy men of course used it as a spiritual awakening and they literally did wake and bake with it and then meditate or whatever they were doing all day. And the women of course used it for the seeds and the cooking. And so, they would add that in with whatever they were making or something because it would really provide quite a bit of protein that they need in their diet. Considering they’re mostly vegetarian. Now these days in India, there’s a lot of young people getting high of course, they’re finally learning how to grow sinsemilla. For many years they just really don’t do much of that still because when you’re growing it for hashish it doesn’t matter whether it has the seeds or not. So they don’t really grow the best ganja for just smoking in a joint. But there’s some people starting to learn how to do that now. So the younger people in the cities are smoking it more, but it’s traditionally been just every family, the old guys in the family would sit around and be smoking pipes up there in the Himalayas.

Swami Chaitania (20:40):
Right. And then there was always used for medicine as well. And there’s some evidence, some argument, and the most ancient scriptures of India, the Vedas, the Rigveda specifically, they talk about something called Soma, and there’s all these poems and praise of Soma. And Soma seems to be a libation and they’ve debated for many years what did it comprised, but most likely it was a basis of a cannabis smoothie where they would grind up the flowers, add water and mix it, and then they would make a drink with it, which might have something else in it, it might have milk, it might have sugar or honey, something like that, rose water. But even also in some of those they might add opium, or something called ephedra to take mixtures. But basically it was a cannabis smoothie that they were drinking, and even today they still have this bhang, which they have a great celebration in the spring and the fall where whole villages will drink this liquid bhang or they’ll bake it into their pastries. So cannabis is still a major part of the culture in the mountains, especially of India.

Alex Halperin (21:52):
I want to get back to regenerative farming soon, but I just wanted to put out, I think Nikki, you were the first person to use the word or the first person in a while to use the word sinsemilla.

Donnell Alexander (22:05):
You bring it back.

Nikki Lastreto (22:07):
We take it for granted that everything is sinsemilla, people aren’t even aware of what that means anymore. And you’re right, without seeds.

Donnell Alexander (22:16):
So, I want to take it back to regenerative farming because at this point, we’ve talked about it a bunch, but I don’t actually know the difference even between organic farming and regenerative farming. Can you let us in on some core principles?

Swami Chaitania (22:29):
Well, yeah. It’s curious the comparison with organic farming and the organic cannabis movement too. But organic farming started out as a very simple thing. And one of the persons who also promoted it very much was J.I. Rodale and they had the Rodale Institute. And they are very adamant farmers. And also, for your listeners, if you want to research Rudolf Steiner, just Google Rudolf Steiner with the words biodynamic and it’ll talk a lot about what their principles are. And for the same with regenerative farming, but you can just dial up the Rodale Institute. And there’s also the Demeter Institute, which is their certification program. And there are many thousands of people doing that. The Rodale Institute was founded by J.I. Rodale. They have a magazine out. And he’s kind of the beginning of what we call organic farming in the United States and also with his son, Robert Rodale were into regenerative farming. And so the idea of organic farming, if you look up the US department of agriculture definition of organic, it basically says that the source of the material is either animal or vegetable, right? Which makes it different from mineral sources. And we use a lot of mineral sources inorganic farming also. But organic farming is less restrictive than regenerative farming. The key principle of regenerative farming is to source as much of your product, much of your fertilizing products, products you put in the soil for your plants, you source them from your own farm to the greatest extent possible. So, what are those sources? Those sources are the leaves. The sources are grass cuttings. So, you make compost with those things that are right on your farm and that then becomes part of your inputs into your soil. You know, you can take up the leaves, you take wood chips, we make wood chips all the time. Also, because we have a wood burning stove, we take the ashes on the charcoal and that goes into the mix as well. And then we use manure. Although we don’t have chickens at the moment, we have wild Turkey, so we get their manure. But also, we get local manure from various people. Chicken, manure is specifically good, but any kind of manure is good. So, you keep adding those materials to your soil and these are organic materials. And what that does is that it starts to create the worms. The worms come into the soil. But if you go down and you go into the microscopic level, you realize that we have now soil, which is alive and it’s alive on the most microscopic level with a teaspoon holding maybe 4 million bacteria, hundreds of different varieties of bacteria.

Donnell Alexander (25:20):
I read someplace that regenerative cannabis is seed to seed. And I don’t know what that means.

Swami Chaitania (25:25):
If you’re strictly doing regenerative farming, you’re not going to grow from clones. You’re going to grow from seeds and ideally, you’re going to grow from seeds that you developed and propagated and fertilized on your own land with your males coming. So, cannabis has a male and a female plant. The sinsemilla part is what Nikki was talking about separating the males from the females, so they don’t fertilize one another. But then you selectively fertilize from the male plants, you choose two with the female plants you choose. And so, you create your own seeds in your own and that many are microclimate and those seasons seeds are better adapted to your conditions. And then, you grow from your own seed and you select and then at the end you make seeds again from that year’s crop that you want to keep that line of things going.

Nikki Lastreto (26:19):
And we do grow only from seed here.

Swami Chaitania (26:22):
The majority of them at mass, people grow from clones or feminized seeds also.

Donnell Alexander (26:29):
What about no-till farming?

Swami Chaitania (26:30):
No-till farming. And that’s where you get into what the Rodale Institute is talking about and they’re talking about climate change and the cloud crisis and the carbon dioxide in the air. And one of the key things about totally regenerative farming is we are what they call sequestrating carbon. We’re putting carbon back in with soil. As you put wood chips and leaves and maneuver and various things back into the soil that is not carbon, that normally would be either burn or go up into the atmosphere. And they have all these trial gardens And they’ve done this research and they’re saying that if half the crop land and pastureland on the planet were trained to organic methods of producing it, that we would actually get to a zero carbon emission without shutting down even fossil fuels. So, plants take carbon dioxide out of the air and then also nitrogen falls to the air, to the ground in the rotting leaves. So we can remove the nitrogen and the carbon dioxide from the air by using biodynamic or regenerative agriculture techniques, which aren’t very different. And that then puts the carbon dioxide back into the soil, removing it from the atmosphere. And then the question is, would the yields be equal? And they also show them that the yields with total regenerative farming practices are actually superior to either chemical farming practices or organic practices that are done in the conventional tilling method. When you till the soil to get back to that specific question, you actually release carbon dioxide and nitrogen, which is stored in the soil and it loses out into the atmosphere so the plants can’t get it. When you don’t till all those bacterial lives and the fungi that are key to the story and the carbon are left in the soil and they grow, and they get bigger and bigger and better and better. So, tilling the soil is probably the worst thing you can do and no till and keeps all those biological things alive in their area of depth that they thrive.

Alex Halperin (28:39):
The regenerative techniques are not necessary and certainly haven’t been necessary. Why do we use in by cannabis growers even in the Emerald triangle? Can you talk a little bit about what it’s been like using these practices in Northern California when much of the market doesn’t?

Nikki Lastreto (29:06):
Well back in the old days, people just through miracle grow on their crops and you are growing under these trees and you didn’t have a whole lot of sun and you had to really boost it up to make that happen. And people weren’t aware. No one was aware of it then. That’s what we all did. And it started changing. When did it start changing?

Swami Chaitania (29:25):
Well, I don’t know exactly in the cannabis world, but the Rodale Institute had this thing called Community Supported Agriculture CSA and some of the local farmers up here started to get involved in CSA. But CSA, you have to use regenerative methods to be part of that. So actually there’s a group called The Dragonfly Earth Medicine and it’s Josh and Kelly and I always forget their last names unfortunately, and they’ve created this thing called the DEM Pure Regenerative Certification and we’re having this zoom meeting tonight to actually come up with what is the definition of regenerative farming for cannabis growers. Now you asked about the majority of cannabis people now are trying to get, they got dollar signs in their eyes and they’re growing indoors or they’re growing in greenhouses and they’re using clones or they’re using feminized seeds and they’re using all these fertilizers that come from industrial products and they are delivered more or less as salt. So, they’re easily absorbed, and they have a huge carbon footprint of just the lighting and the water purification and the air conditioning. And you know, all of these methods are kind of contrary to the most basic principles of agriculture. Now they feel that they’re feeding the masses. But I feel, and people have argued against this, but I feel that it’s inferior cannabis. It’s actually such a different product. It’s not really cannabis. If you get cannabis that’s grown with total regenerative methods in the full sun for the long season with no light deprivation and pure in the ground, then you’re getting something that’s not only an expression of the place where it grows, but it is better. It’s better for your health, it’s better for your stone, it’s better for your high and it’s way, way, way better for the planet. And there is a small movement of regenerative farmers for cannabis who are actively meeting and actively spreading that message. And it’s one of the most important things that we feel that we’re doing to change the world of agriculture, to get to something that’s not destroying the earth, destroying the fertility of the earth, but restoring the fertility of the earth. That’s the whole point. And reducing the carbon emissions.

Nikki Lastreto (31:40):
The average customer out there wants to know exactly what they’re going to get and it’s going to be the same the next time, exactly the same. And that’s what encourages people to grow with clones instead of seeds, to grow indoors and all these things to have really controlled growing sort of atmospheres. It’s the connoisseur that really appreciates the regenerative grown cannabis that’s always going to be unique, each time it’s going to be different and a little special. That’s for real the connoisseur taste.

Alex Halperin (32:06):
In California. I know there’s been talk about this, but is there any certification system right now so that customers can know if they’re buying regeneratively grown cannabis?

Swami Chaitania (32:18):
There are several certification systems. One is actually called Biodynamic, it’s from the Rodale. The other it’s called the Demeter Certification, the goddess of fertility, I believe in Rome.

Alex Halperin (32:31):
And is it hard to get that certification?

Swami Chaitania (32:35):
There’s one certification for cannabis, which is from the Rudolf Steiner Biodynamics School, and that’s called the Demeter certification. And there are people who actually go around and visit your farm and certify it. And it’s not just about how you grow your cannabis, it’s about your whole operation and how it’s harmonic with the environment. Similarly, we have this DEM Pure Certification, which is a regenerative agriculture certification, created by the DEM Pure Dragonfly Earth Medicine, Josh and Kelly, and we just had several meetings and we have an annual meeting. There’s also Living Soil People. And then there’s one from David Brown just called Earth and Wind, I believe or something like that,

Nikki Lastreto (33:23):
There are several certifications and the California State Government’s also coming up with an organic certification that’s available too.

Swami Chaitania (33:31):
And the other one is Clean Green Certification, which is a regular organic certification similar to the US Department of Agriculture. And we’re also certified with that. That’s your standard organic certification. But it also looks at how your operation is with your growing and if it’s sanitary and so on. So there are these several certifications, particularly DEM Pure and Clean Green. And then also now in California, all cannabis for sale has to be tested. So you know that it’s pesticide free as well.

Donnell Alexander (34:01):
What’s next for Swami Select? What do you have going?

Nikki Lastreto (34:04):
Well, actually being an essential business has been a big deal that we’ve been deemed. We have gone from outlaws to essential in just such a short time. Right now, we’re still getting used to that idea. And where Swami Select is, we do a lot more than just sell beautiful flowers. We also love doing education and really sharing insights to people and helping people that are just getting involved in cannabis the first time, as well as people that have been in it forever. But it’s all about the education to change the stigma. We’re very involved both journalistically. We write a lot and politically in our local politics in any way we can to just break down that stigma that people have still in this world about cannabis.

Swami Chaitania (34:46):
Yeah, well we’re involved, we would have this Sheltering with Swami in YouTube on video. Previously we had Smoking with Swami, but now since we’re all sheltering…

Nikki Lastreto (34:57):
We can’t have the guests here anymore. So, it’s just us.

Swami Chaitania (35:00):
And also, they’ve been sort of discouraging the smoky stuff. So, we have a thing we call Sheltering with Swami on YouTube and we try and put up something once a week at least, and we kind of reminisce about cannabis issues and talk about things like that. I’m also involved in a group called Origins Council. I’m one of the founding members of the board there. And we’re proposing an appellation, status for cannabis based on the legacy growers of California, about eight different areas, which are legacy growing areas. And we’re working with the state of California to create rules and regulations for the use of Appalachians just like for wine. Nikki talked about connoisseur use of cannabis and we want a way to guarantee that if it says it’s grown in the Emerald Triangles, has grown in Mendocino, it’s grown up on Bell Springs Road, that the certificate guarantees to the consumer that yes, this is indeed the real stuff, the best flower in the world from up in Bell Springs. And that will be an appellation system which will protect the consumer.

Nikki Lastreto (36:04):
And actually, what Swami Select is really up to right now is its springtime. It’s a glorious spring here and no virus is going to stop farming from happening. So we’ve got the little baby seeds are sprouting in the garden and we’re preparing the new garden for the season and you know, we’re off to a new year of making wonderful flowers for people to enjoy.

Donnell Alexander (36:23):
Well, thanks a lot for joining us. That was pretty cool, very round the world trip.

Alex Halperin (36:27):
It’s just really interesting. Thank you so much for joining us.

Swami Chaitania (36:30):
Thank you for inviting us onto the show. We really appreciate sharing this information with everybody and keep up the good work you guys.

Nikki Lastreto (36:36):

Donnell Alexander (36:37):
All right, we’ll talk soon. That’s our show for the week. If you’d like to give us feedback, go with hello@weedweek.net, we’ll respond, but before we move on to the end of the show, I want to deal with Alex’s weekly social media nugget.

Alex Halperin (36:52):
All right, so this tweet comes from Grant Stern, that’s @GrantStern and he works with Scott Dworkin, who’s a democratic activist and podcast host. And I was on his podcast, the Dworkin report this week. We’ll include the link in our show notes. But anyway, the quote from Grant Stern is: “Did you know that cannabis is considered an essential industry in most states during the #CoronavirusPandemic? I didn’t. Either learn that and a lot more from interviewing the founder @weedweeknews #Happy420.”

Donnell Alexander (37:27):
Can I tell you why I find this amazing? And it’s not just because you were really good on the episode. I found the truth in the replies, because these are not like our hardcore weed aficionados and industry people. These are just Democrats around the country responding. And I just felt like there was so much interest, and I don’t mean this insultingly, but they don’t know that much. And it made me think we are so essential. I didn’t intend to use essential that way, but that’s what we are because there’s a hunger for news about what we’re going through. I want a pat on the back for reaching those people.

Alex Halperin (38:03):
Oh, well thanks so much. Hope we do. For more weed news, you can subscribe to our newsletters: WeedWeek, WeedWeek California and WeedWeek Canada. They’re all free at www.weedweek.net. Make sure you enter our contest to win an autographed copy of my book, The Cannabis Dictionary. It’s one of Forbes most recommended books about weed. We’re going to be holding a weekly drawing for a signed copy and you can enter by signing up for one of our newsletters at www.weedweek.net. And if you’re this deep into this episode, you should subscribe and review or like us on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or wherever it is you happen to be hearing us. I’m Alex Halperin.

Donnell Alexander (38:41):
I’m Donnell Alexander.

Alex Halperin (38:43):
Our show is produced by Donnell Alexander and engineered by Larry Buhl. Alicia Byer wrote our theme music. We’ll see you again here next week.

Donnell Alexander (38:50):

Alex Halperin (38:50):