A Word From The Executive Director

Andrew Black


Cultivating a cannabis garden from seed to flower is a creative act that uses the power of intention to transform a landscape. Gardener or not, we all possess a similar capacity to envision a new world and take the disciplined steps towards cultivating that reality.

So far in 2020, necessary precautions in response to COVID19, plus financial distress from the sudden shut down of our economy has upended familiar life patterns for so many. In recent weeks we’ve witnessed an unprecedented and inspiring groundswell of action and resistance against systemic racial injustice in response to the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and so many other victims of anti-Black racism and police violence.

Within this turmoil, we can take a lesson from seasoned gardeners who know that some of their most important work towards transformation requires leaning against a fence post or the handle of a hoe and pausing to ponder their garden. Resting, observing, and ruminating helps us form a clearer vision of the transformation we want to see and how to reap a successful harvest with the skills and tools available to us.  

For Sun+Earth Certified, this means envisioning a world where cannabis and food are grown in a way that aligns with natural cycles to revitalize ecosystems and empower communities.

Sun+Earth was created to help family-owned, small-scale, regenerative organic cannabis farms succeed in an emerging legalized cannabis sector that seems to want to commodify the plant and ignore the negative health and ecological consequences of growing it indoors under energy intensive lighting with synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides. We also seek to make the industry fairer and more equitable.

As Amara Brown notes in a recent article for Leafly, decades of criminalizing cannabis has impacted Black and Brown communities with disproportionately higher rates of incarceration from nonviolent cannabis convictions. Yet they have been mostly left out of the emerging legal cannabis sector that heavily skews white, male, and corporate.

In 2020, as a nonprofit, our Board of Directors will be exploring ways we can include more Black, Brown, and Indigenous farmers to help us shift cannabis cultivation towards a cleaner, healthier, more ethical, and specifically anti-racist direction. As an organization, we need to do better to incorporate racial justice approaches and other practices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in how we organize and how we do our work, and we are committed to that.

As we champion regenerative organic farming, we do so as a resistance movement to industrial agricultural farming systems that are historically rooted in extractive, plantation monocropping systems that exploit people and the land. 

For anyone interested in taking a deeper intellectual dive into the roots of capital-intensive industrial agriculture, I recommend reading Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Studying agricultural history clearly shows how the wealth of western nations was built by enslaved people.

The book, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, helped me to understand how coercive racist policies were used to terrorize Black people, undermine generational wealth creation, and threaten them with forced labor well into the 20th century.

I’m currently reading Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. This book reveals the ugly truth of how and why racism metastasized in our country but also discusses the history of anti-racist ideas that serve as an antidote.    

I’m a big fan of Leah Penneman from Soul Fire Farm who is working to end racism and injustice in our food system. I highly recommend listening to the keynote address she gave about Afro-Indigenous farming wisdom at the Midwest Organic Services and Education Association conference in March.

The Sun+Earth Certified standards encourage farms to build soil fertility from natural resources found on the farmscape or within the local community. It is important to realize that the soil building techniques promoted by Sun+Earth were developed by subsistence farmers in cultures throughout the world and many of them originated in Black, Brown, and Indigenous farming communities.

The seeds that blossomed into the Sun+Earth Certified standards were sown in 2018 by David Bronner, the CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. David envisioned a standard that “would let consumers of cannabis know that the cannabis they buy is produced in the most righteous way possible, in the soil, under the sun, without chemicals, by fairly paid labor under safe working conditions.”

Our standards-building process included help from a technical advisory committee of more than 30 participants during a year-long project that culminated in a 60-day public comment period and a pilot certification program with 14 farms in California’s Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties. David Bronner explains his support for Sun+Earth Certified here.

We officially launched Sun+Earth Certified on Earth Day of 2019 and have since more than doubled the number of certified farms. Many of the farms are small in scale but big in heart and grow cannabis alongside fruits, vegetables, and other medicinal herbs.

This year, we are looking forward to certifying up to 45 farms and creating market opportunities for them. Our goal is to increase awareness about regenerative organic cannabis farming, create consumer demand for Sun+Earth Certified products, and support the farmers in our growing community.

Executive Director, Andrew Black