It's Alive! An evening with Jeff Lowenfels

January 2018 kicked off a new year full of cannabis industry efforts to educate the public about the devil’s lettuce, upcoming products, and industry innovations, as well as simple, back-to-basics information that everyone should know, like the best way to grow cannabis. If you’re like me, and you’ve migrated to a legal state, you may be familiar with “hydro” or “indo” as slang terms for the best bud your neighborhood dealer has available, but the legal landscape has created a plethora of different methods for growing cannabis plants that are bigger, stronger, cleaner and as close to Organic as can be without a USDA certification. These techniques range from hydroponic (water-based) to soil-based, with many variations in between. Living soil is one of the most important methods for growing plants and results in truly organic plant systems that work symbiotically to produce the ideal buds and bounties of a plant. So, it should come as no surprise that Verde Natural, Colorado’s largest legal living soil cannabis grow operation, partnered with Jeff Lowenfels, the father of living soil, to bring Colorado growers a talk designed to inform and encourage more living soil grow efforts, both in cannabis and other cash crops. 

Jeff Lowenfels is a true pioneer in the living soil industry and award-winning author. He’s written a series of books called “The Teaming Series,” comprised of Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’ Guide To The Soil Food Web, Teaming With Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition and Teaming With Fungi: The Organic Grower’s Guide to Mycorrhizae, his three must-have resources for anyone curious about growing any kind of plant in living soil. Each book explores how a living web of different organisms and components can work together to increase the availability of needed plant resources for growth and development.

One of the tactics he referenced in his talk spoke to the efficacy of certain soils in Alaska, where Lowenfels is from, and how it impacted farmers’ abilities to grow world-record-setting pumpkins (and a variety of other vegetables). Lowenfels used some of that same soil when testing out methods on his cannabis plants and was able to grow cannabis plants whose fan leaves were larger than most frying pans. 

Now, Lowenfels isn’t your typical collegiate speaker. He possesses more knowledge about living soil than most, but he also knows that speaking above your audience does them no good. He introduced his lecture by saying that audience members unaccustomed to foul language and crude humor should heed his warning. Amid slides and stories peppered with jokes and asides, Verde Natural’s pilot installment of their "It’s Alive Series" was packed full of information. 

I should probably point out at this point that I’m no cannabis grower. And I’ve killed more basil plants than most people care to admit. In fact, five dead cannabis clones later and I’ve become comfortable with the fact that other people will probably grow 99% of the cannabis I enjoy in my life. And yet, the technology and techniques behind how the best buds are grown are utterly fascinating to me. This is why I ended up sitting in the back row of a growing seminar, multiple dabs and joints deep, listening to a master grower explain the miracles of feeding your soil. I’ve been a big fan of Verde Natural’s products (including Dablogic, their solventless concentrate offering) for quite some time, and I’ve always been told that the difference between their products and others was solely a result of their dedication to quality, which led to a 100% living soil grow facility. 

Ever since I first heard the term living soil, I’ve asked many growers and dispensaries about their crops and grows and how they view production. Most use artificial and synthetic variants to boost yields and potencies, sometimes even altering colors for that “purp” look that draws buyers. Lowenfels exclaims that this is among the worst ways to grow any plant. For one, if you hyperinflate certain characteristics of a plant, you’re crippling the plant’s ability to naturally develop; a plant that’s 30%+ THC physically doesn’t have the composition to produce all of its components in natural ratios. That’s not to say that a plant, grown under the right conditions couldn’t achieve high potency levels, but often growers use artificial boosts to get desirable results. 

Lowenfels believes this is unnecessary. Plants naturally work with their environments to draw out all of the nutrients and compounds needed for successful growth cycles. If your soil is rich in these offerings and composed of organic matter that continues to decompose and break down, it’ll offer many of the same benefits of synthetic blends, without the side effects of crippling the crop. He went on to say that cannabis grows using regular nutrients and boosters are forcing the plants to no longer work for their nutrients, which stunts development. Plants naturally conserve energy, and if a plant becomes accustomed to having readily available nutrients in excessively high concentrations, it will shut off its own ability to produce and seek out those same nutrients, making it 100% reliant on the grower. Essentially, it’s the same reason many of us shop at Whole Foods and aren’t foraging for food in the woods. You want your plants to work for their foods, because they improve, develop and become stronger the more they work. 

Many of these takeaways were enlightening, but if the crowd in attendance was any indicator, they weren’t surprising to most people with growing experience. In fact, many of the growers I’ve met at dispensaries and production companies also grow for personal use, and these personal grows are more often than not living soil setups. Each of those growers has mentioned the inability to keep up with commercial demands by using living soil, and Verde Natural’s series with Jeff Lowenfels seeks to disprove this myth by teaching anyone and everyone how to properly orchestrate the best possible living soil operation. 

For more information, check out this full video from Jeff’s talk at the first It's Alive talk as well as Jeff’s recap from his experience working with Verde. 

Verde Natural will be hosting their second seminar in the It’s Alive series on February 25th at Cultivated Synergy in Denver, Colorado. 

You can reserve your ticket here.

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Ben Owens

Ben Owens began his cannabis career during his undergraduate years at the University of Missouri – Columbia with the help of a few friends, a blunt wrap, and a gram of ganja. Graduating with a Masters and Bachelor’s in Strategic Communication & Journalism, Owens’ focus has been on integrating the professionalism and high standards of the advertising and journalism industries into the cannabis and counter culture realm. Owens founded CannaVenture® in March 2016 as the merger between two of his utmost passions: the outdoors and cannabis.