It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 40th anniversary of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren’s massively influential book Permaculture One (Corgi, 1978). In that relatively brief period of time, the notion has traveled from Australia’s eco-philosophy fringe to the cutting edge of worldwide land management and design theory. Those who live in the Emerald Triangle can testify to the widespread knowledge and implementation of permaculture techniques, in settings from home gardens to farms, that has become commonplace in California. In the beginning, Bill and David described their new concept as being an “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.” True to type, permaculture itself has evolved and so, therefore, has its definition, as evidenced on the website for David’s permaculture design firm, Holmgren Designs, which gives a more modern description of “consciously designed landscapes” based on mimicking nature’s own interdependent patterns, applicable to human culture as well.
It’s this last part — that permaculture not only inspires the creation of real-world sustainable farms and gardens, but is ripe with equally rich metaphors for fine living — that this writer finds particularly fascinating.
With those ideas in mind, I put some questions to Jamie Morrison, founder of Destiny Grow Systems, a Canadian company applying permaculture principles to the creation of a complete kit of high-end, integrated products, from specialized soils to a pH-balancing “water conditioner” that is engineered to the needs of the cannabis plant at different stages.
I wanted to know Jamie’s view of the connection between the living soil movement in the cannabis scene and the global permaculture movement. Just a fad, or here to stay?
Jamie Morrison: I think the living soil trend is driven by people that just simply want to know what goes into producing their own food and medicine. The industrial food supply chain is not exactly trustworthy! They are also the people that are growing their own food or at least looking into what they’re consuming in their daily lives. For how much fun my generation pokes at the millennials, I’ve noticed a great number of them adopting organic/vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, and they are very aware of what they are consuming. I think there is going to be a continuing trend of global permaculture methods: small scale home gardens right up to community efforts. If we can keep the younger generation’s hands off their phones and into the soil, the future just might be alright.
While this writer agrees with Jamie that there is more widespread awareness among millenials, I also find that they can be guilty of spreading nutritional misinformation used to bolster philosophical theories that are not scientifically sound (such as “veganism = categorically better”). So, I can’t help wondering whether cannabis smokers will really be able to tell the difference between chemically pumped-up bud, grown under lights in a warehouse, and the sun-grown, organic bud, or if it’s all just hype and “woo woo” marketing. Jamie firmly rebutts this.
JM: There is a noticeable difference between organically produced (living soil) cannabis and salt-based nutrient-feed programs. Not only are the terpine/flavonoid profiles enhanced (due to) the plants (having been) taken care of by organic growers, but [myself] and a lot of my colleagues over the years who have produced organically, can walk you through a garden and show you one particular branch out of thousands that is just a little bit more special. It’s this type of involvement that makes for an end product that you can just tell is of a higher quality. It’s not just hocus pocus, it’s backed up now with science. Plants grown in living soil have higher Brix scale readings, which correlate to overall plant health and resistances to pests and mildew infestations. (Brix scale is a hydrometer scale for measuring the amount of sugar in a solution at a given temperature which is crucial in order to max out terpenoid production.)
Jamie says that settling arguments about which is better is “now as easy as laying down a lab test result for comparison.”
This newfound access to science means that DGS can back up its claims with data. For example, for large growers DGS tests soil samples over the duration of their grow cycle, and adjusts the soil recipes for the individual genetics they are working with, “tuning the soil” to maximize the desired genetic expression.
As interdependence and symbiosis underpin permaculture philosophy, I wanted to know Jamie’s thoughts on collaboration in the cannabis scene and how it’s changed over time, especially in the era of decriminalization.
JM: Years ago, it was very difficult to learn new tricks of the trade without doing things by trial and error. No one would talk about what they were doing, because that was just how it was back then. We didn’t have labs that we could send our soil off to for analysis. We would just adjust based on results. Very time consuming. When things started to open up legally, the knowledge started flowing freely, and there was collaboration and sharing of information that I believe moved the industry forward immensely. I learned more about analyzing soil in a year from my good friend David Perron (M.A., agronomy) than I had in the previous twenty of doing things the old-school way.
Unfortunately, it’s now swinging back the other way, not because we’re worried about people finding out what we do, but because no one wants to give up a competitive advantage or be bound by a non-disclosure or non-compete contract. Welcome to the new world of cannabis cultivation!
As I’ve noticed in other articles and interviews with Jamie, and on the DGS website, he’s eager to spread the praise around and give credit to others.
JM: I owe a lot of the success of our company to all the friends and colleagues that I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve been very lucky to have had some great people involved that have gone on to become successful in other fields and some that are moving forward into the new era of this industry.
I wanted to know what other difficulties, besides new codes of secrecy, he thought some people from the “old-school” might be facing in this transitional phase.
JM: The business of cannabis has evolved dramatically in a short period of time. It’s been tough for some people to accept where it’s going, because they’ve spent decades building the foundation of what is now a massive industry and feel as though they’re being left behind. It’s harder than you would think for someone that has lived in the shadows for decades to walk into a government building and fill out an application to legally do what they have already been doing for years and, arguably, helped to create. There is a lot of room in the industry for people that want to continue—they just need to adapt and find their niche. Just like growing back in the day, there will be challenges.
Ever the optimist, Jamie concludes on a positive note that “growers in general are resourceful, are used to hard work and find ways to get it done.”
This same optimism marks his response when I ask him one of my favorite questions: Do you think that ethical cannabis cultivation has a connection to other progressive developments taking place worldwide in terms of social justice, consciousness-raising and cultural innovation?
JM: There is a connection between the ethical cannabis cultivators out there and the idealism leftover from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The folks producing this way are either from that era or the children of them and have been instilled with that freedom-fighter spirit that, hopefully, we can pass along to our children. There will always be that spirit in some circles of cannabis production. That is my tribe! I would love to think that being an ethical producer would translate into every aspect of one’s life—doing the right thing becomes contagious and just feels right. This attitude breeds consciousness as to what is going on worldwide.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT Destinygrowsystems.com.