Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about yourself?
Monique Ramirez= Mo: My name is Monique but my friends call me Mo. I live on a mountain just outside of Covelo in Mendocino County. I live off-grid in a home my partner Gus is building. I’m currently the Vice President of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance and the founder of the Covelo Cannabis Advocacy Group. I started CCAG back in 2017 during a very interesting time. Our county was about to adopt a new cannabis ordinance and our district didn’t have a supervisor, so essentially the people had no representation. I knew our community needed to come together and form a group so we could begin advocating for our needs. And here we are now several years later and it’s pretty amazing to see how many farms are still standing and navigating all of the crazy regulations and paperwork to get legal. It’s been really important to me that our County acknowledges the importance of small family farms, because we are the backbone of our communities. Our group is pretty amazing! It’s made up of nearly 30 legal farms. We meet every Friday in our local library commons space. We discuss many cannabis topics, ranging from county to state policy issues, planning for future meetings we need to attend, writing letters to the legislators and well just being a support for each other.
It’s not easy to navigate all of the licensing requirements especially for farmers. So it’s pretty incredible to see how everyone has remained vigilant and stuck it out through all the ebbs and flows of regulation so far. It still feels like a moving target sometimes. We are a true example of what community looks like and stands for and I feel so proud to be a part of this group and a resident of Covelo. It’s the Wild West out here and so it’s important to stick together. Our mantra for our group is “It’s about the WE, not the ME.” I feel like if my community is thriving then that means the people are thriving too. We want to preserve the amazing resources we have in our valley and bring people together. We need to take this opportunity to shift the mindset of how cannabis farming should be done, and so incorporating a diversified approach that promotes healthy soils, and food production, we can create models that can work for each community. We have a lot of passion and dedication in our group and I just feel so honored to be a part of it all. It’s like a family. We help each other out and by sharing information and knowledge each farm can feel empowered to make the right choices for their businesses.
WB: Tell me about your company?
M0: We are a small family farm raising our son Kahlo and 50 chickens, 3 chocolate labs and 2 cats. Sunbright Gardens holds an outdoor cottage size license, cultivating 2500 sq ft of sungrown cannabis. One of the distributors we work with is Flow Kana, you can find our flower in dispensaries throughout California. Our garden is located in a unique microclimate often referred to as a banana belt on the edge of Mendocino County just outside of Covelo. Sitting at 1800 ft elevation, our garden is surrounded by Madrone, Manzanita, Doug Fir, Black Oak, and Pine trees. We are in the process of becoming Sun + Earth certified which is a testament to our gardening practices. We strive for closed loop systems and incorporating flowers, an assortment of vegetables, and herbs in our garden to create biodiversity and encourage the spread of pollinators. In the peak of the summer, not a day goes by where you won’t see butterflies, hummingbirds, dragonflies, and honey bees buzzing around the garden.
All of our cannabis is grown from seed using local genetics from fellow legacy cultivators we are so honored to call our friends. Each plant is grown in the ground with a mix of native soil, local compost and re-used garden soil from previous years. We plant a cover crop each winter using vetch, red clover, fava beans, and snap peas and fold it into the soil in the spring before planting our cannabis in the ground. We use a no till method and we also brew our own compost teas. Our plants are watered using a solar powered pump from our well, which produces fresh clean drinking water. We are always striving to do more each year, while raising our son Kahlo and building our home. We are off-grid using solar panels to power our needs. We’ve been in the process of building our home for the past 7 years and many of the building materials are recycled, including some of our insulation which is made from recycled denim. We use non toxic paints on our walls, we support our local farmers market and are committed to using cloth diapers for our son. We really believe this is not just about being organic in our gardening practices but a way of life. We hope our regenerative values will inspire others to help make the world a better place for generations to come just as other amazing cannabis farms have inspired us.
WB: Who is your inspiration?
Mo: I feel most inspired by creative artists and passionate activists such as Madeleine Vionnet and Julia Butterfly.
WB: Do you have a mentor(s)? Who are they?
Mo: When I think about who my mentors are, a few people come to mind. The first is a woman named Christine Cole. She’s a life coach and dear friend of mine. She’s been such an influential person in my life and helped me understand what it means to truly love myself. When I say she has a heart of gold, I mean it all the way. Without her wisdom, love, compassion and guidance, I really feel I would not be where I am today.
For over 9+ years I’ve had the amazing opportunity to study under a silversmith who’s been making jewelry since the 1970’s. His name is Bill Cull and he as a little studio tucked away in the woods. There I’ve been apprenticing under his guide, learning how to set stones in silver and bring my visions to life. It’s always so interesting to see how many of the principles in jewelry making also apply to my everyday life and gardening. Like how to stay vigilant throughout a project, and to not give up when things get hard. That mistakes are beautiful because there’s always something to be learned and that if we set our mind to something, we can create anything. He’s always believed in me. Even when I want to create things that might be beyond my skill level, he’s always encouraged me to keep at it and discover what I can learn along the way. I’ve always appreciated this in him. Plus he has the best stories to tell from the 70’s.
The last is my dear friend Matt Drewno. Since 2010, he’s been studying the principles of bio-intensive gardening under John Jeavons who wrote, “How to Grow the Most Amount of Vegetables In the Least Amount of Space”. Matt is always sharing his knowledge with me. He’s an out of the box thinker and has the best sense of humor. He currently works at the Stanford Inn on the Mendocino Coast and I’m always amazed at how beautiful his garden looks every time I visit. He started the Victory Gardens for Peace Seed Bank for the Coastal Climate to preserve seed stock and shares it with his community. He’s such a brilliant mind and passionate vegetable gardener. He really inspires me to do what we can to incorporate bio-intensive gardening principles into cannabis gardening and I feel that our cannabis community as a whole has so much to learn from this way of gardening. It’s pretty exciting actually.
WB: Why cannabis? Indoor or outdoor grown? By whom?
Mo: Outdoor, and organically sun-grown! I love so much of the flower produced right here in Covelo: Ventoso Farms, Sundial Acres, Sun Roots Farm, First Cut Farms, Radicle Herbs, Mendocino Natural Farms, Wildland Cannabis, Dos Rios Farms, Flying Emu Ranch, Starflower Farm, Martyjuana Farms, Velveteen Dreams, Fairbanks Farms and Tuff & Tendergrass — in particular, I’d say I love Goo Platinum Cookies that comes from heirloom genetics shared with the community by the the Gauder family. It feels like such a gift to be able to live in Mendocino County with such clean air, soil and perfect weather conditions to produce this plant in full sunshine outdoors. We only grow from seed, outdoors in the full sunshine and light of the moon. It’s what is natural for the plants and the most sustainable without the need for lights or plastic tarps. We wouldn’t want to grow it any other way. Cannabis is one of the most magical plants to work with. It teaches you so much every growing season and is truly a giving plant. It’s always so amazing to see how a small seed can sprout and turn into a plant larger than myself in only a matter of months. Producing amazing aromas, and the most beautiful flowers full of color and frosty delights for all the senses. It feels like such a gift to be able to live in Mendocino County with such clean air, soil and perfect weather conditions to produce this plant in full sunshine outdoors. We grow cannabis because it gives us freedom. Cannabis gives us freedom to create a life for ourselves without having to work for someone else’s dreams. The most precious gift of all is the ability to watch our son Kahlo grow up because we both get to be at home and not at an office. My partner Gus and I start the seeds together in late winter and work alongside each other to grow them up and get them ready for transplanting in the late spring.
WB: When did you discover the plant?
Mo: I discovered the plant when I was pretty young actually. My parents grew them among our tomato plants when I was a kid. I distinctly remember the smell and later in my life when I became re-acquainted with the plant, I realized, wow my parents were growing weed back in the day! And that’s why that smell is so familiar.
WB: What is your six month and twelve month plans for your company?
Mo: Our six month plan is to get all of our product processed and into the legal market and to continue to build relationships with our consumers. We plan to continue building on our soil, compost pile and keep improving our gardening methods. We hope to have our Sun+Earth certification finalized in the coming weeks and want to continue to spread the word on regenerative farming practices and independent sustainability. Our 12 month plan includes producing fresh cut flowers for our local farmers market next summer. We also intend on growing a crop of alfalfa to use for mulching and maybe get a few alpacas for the farm!
WB: Do you cook? What is your favorite thing to prepare? Do you have a favorite restaurant? Style?
Mo: I’m not the best cook but I can make pretty good lasagna. My favorite restaurant was Shed located in Healdsburg just outside of San Francisco. They made amazing dishes prepared with all organic ingredients but they closed last winter and it’s been hard to find a replacement favorite but I’m on the hunt. I really enjoy places that use only organic ingredients sourced from local farms and are on point with aesthetics and all the little details.
WB: What is your passion?
Mo: I have a lot of passions actually. I’m very passionate about bringing community together and so it’s been really great to have the Covelo Cannabis Advocacy Group as a platform to do that. I’m also passionate about art, music and color! I love making playlists and playing them for friends at house parties, sewing and making jewelry in my spare time. And on a deeper note, I have a passion for truth, justice and democracy for all.