The New Era of Craft Cannabis in California is Centralized, Immersive, and Supportive of Small Farmers
Written by Melissa Hutsell
Legalization is disruptive — in order to compete in California’s cannabis market today — farmers need a disruptive business model.
Enter Flow Kana’s Flow Cannabis Institute (FCI) — the Wonka factory of weed — an 80-acre site, which hosts nearly 85,000 square feet of industrial space.
The FCI is located in Mendocino County. The property is the former home of Fetzer Winery. It was purchased by Flow Kana for $3.6 million in 2017, according to “Business Insider.”
Flow Kana is the first sun-grown, craft cannabis brand of its kind. The company partners with artisan farmers in two of California’s most prestigious microclimates which are located in Mendocino, and southern Humboldt, counties.
These regions help to make up two-thirds of the legendary “Emerald Triangle,” a triad of Northern California counties known for cannabis cultivation and culture. It is these microclimates, and the small farmers who cultivate in them, that have become synonymous with sustainable cannabis.
Flow Kana embodies this ethos, and puts it on display at its newest site, The Flow Cannabis Institute.
In accordance with the company’s pioneer spirit, the FCI is the first operation of its kind. The eventual goal is to host seminars, tours, and leisure activities. Plans also include the renovation of the property’s “infamous” Big Dog Saloon.
The company holds state and local processing and packing licenses — and is currently only open for commercial operations, and private tours.
Though the institute opened this spring, the campus (and the experiences its promises to deliver) will be unveiled to the public in stages, described Amanda Reiman, vice president of community relations at Flow Kana.
“Visitors will eventually tour the facilities where small farmers test, dry, cure, trim, process, and package [cannabis] for distribution; learn about the plant in seminars and pairing dinners; and stay at an on-site, pot-friendly bed and breakfast,” reported Business Insider.
Additionally, the company’s website confirms, there’s a pool, spa, and a number of historic buildings on site.
The company hopes to build a tourist destination; one that’s focused on education, not just consumption.
Places, like Colorado, embraced legalization with a 4/20-type mentality — which Reiman calls the “the spring break tourism model.”
It’s important to break from that model, she explained.
“I think once cannabis became legal – there was a lot of curiosity […]. First, tourism focused on consumption, taking people to dispensaries, letting them buy products,” she explained.
“In California, because we do have a history — a story behind our growing regions – we’re looking for tourism that’s a little more like wine.”
Also like wine, a tasting experience allows visitors to meet the makers. “It’s not only about consumption – it’s about connection,” Reiman added. The campus will provide that same experience.
“It’s really important that consumers want to understand and have that connection to the product – it’s something we never had under prohibition,” she noted. “Coming up to Mendocino, meeting the farmers, and understanding [growing] methods [allows consumers to] make decisions to support brands or products that are helping the earth, not hurting it.”
The institute will showcase sustainability, regenerative farming techniques, and other issues related to cannabis production.
Infusing education with the experience allows for more mindful consumption, Reiman explained: it lowers the likelihood of overconsumption, and bad experiences.
Working with small farmer is what drew Reiman to Flow Kana. As a former UC Berkeley professor, she taught students about substance abuse — even taking them on field trips to dispensaries.
“I wanted them to associate the reality of dispensaries with what they saw and felt, not what they heard from the media or friends,” she added. The visual, immersive experience is what FCI is trying to accomplish.
“There are lots of people using cannabis regularly who’ve never seen plants in the ground – only dried in baggies,” said Reiman. “To me, that completely negates the first half of the plant’s life. Without that connection – it’s harder to decipher good conscious consumerism.”
Immersion is important because people change their mind with their hearts, not their heads, said Reiman. Facts and figures won’t alter their beliefs… how they feel – seeing it just might.
While this is a chance for consumers to learn where their cannabis comes from — it’s also an opportunity for farmers.
The FCI will help small farmers compete with “Big Cannabis,” reported WIRED Magazine.
The rise of legal, recreational markets has catalyzed competition. It’s caused prices to plummet, and left small farmers to cope with bureaucracy and a drastic change in the supply chain, added WIRED.
The market will adjust — but if Flow Kana has anything to do with it — not at the cost of the small farmers of Northern California.
Like other industries — take coffee or beer, for example — craft brands will separate the Bud Lights from the Lagunitas.
This is, in part, why Flow Kana transformed the former winery into a craft cannabis super-center. The existing infrastructure — and similarity between storing and curing wine and cannabis — made the acquisition of the property a no-brainer.
In yet another similarity to wine, cannabis must be stored in light, temperature, and moisture-controlled environments, Reiman explained. The site has temperature and humidity controls; centralized processing systems; and security, she added.
The institute’s location means Flow Kana can come to farmers, “instead of them coming to us,” Reiman said.
Cannabis is sorted according to size. Larger, nicer, “triple A grade bud” is jarred, and sold as full-flower. Smaller buds are trimmed down, and used in hand-filled pre-rolls. Reiman said, the product “heads downstream to Oakland, where it’s offloaded, and sent to dispensaries, and our delivery service.” Goods continue downstream to Southern California.
To clarify, cannabis won’t be grown on site. Rather, it will be brought to the FCI. Flow Kana then processes, packages, and distributes products to their various statewide locations — effectively removing the farmer’s need to balance it all.
This way, farmers can “focus on what they do best; farm,” said Reiman.
“One thing we realized,” she said, “there are actual geographic barriers to bringing [product] to larger cities.”
For starters, most farmers live in remote areas, Reiman noted.
With current state rules and regulations (licensing, testing, labeling, distribution), small farmers can’t do it all. By centralizing this process — Flow Kana can.
Centralization is valuable because it allows these farmers to scale operations, and effectively reduce overhead costs. Without a consolidated system, cultivators are responsible for the entire supply chain, or they have to find someone to do it, which results in higher prices — for the producer and consumer.
Because of Flow Kana’s established statewide supply chain, said Reiman, “we’re able to do the work […]”, down to the shelf positioning.
This business model is the answer to big money, said Reiman. “I feel that small family [farmers], polyculture, regenerative practices, […] is the answer to big ag.”
Northern California is a shining example of that. And although attention, money and change are abound — the ecosystem of small farmers will contend by doing what they do best — setting a sustainable example.
For more information, visit FlowKana.com