Jonathan Wentzel, 39, is the owner of Beija Flor Farms, a Mendocino-based cannabis farm. With a spiritual and environmentalist bent, Wentzel believes that cannabis not only helps to awaken consciousness in the human mind, but that farming cannabis consciously and sustainably can have a similar effect on the physical and spiritual health of the planet. In Northern California—where Wentzel was born and raised—the frequent forest fires press the urgency of these issues. When I asked him if he thinks humans are capable of turning things around at this point he said, “I’d like to think that we could be.”
How did you get started farming cannabis?
Growing up in the Napa Valley, I was surrounded by agriculture. I come from a farming background. My family started growing small scale, a few acres of grapes, when I was in about the 3rd grade. We had chickens and grew some of our own food, too. I’ve always had an innate interest in the physiology of plants, what their functions are on a cellular level.
I just gravitated toward cannabis. Initially it was just the love of the plant and being around it. I started farming cannabis when I was in 7th grade. I didn’t smoke it, I just really liked the plant. I experienced a kind of mystical intimacy with it. It wasn’t really the smoking so much as the direct experience of being with this plant, the intimacy of sitting with a living thing and the vibrancy it gives off drew me into it. At that time in Northern California there was a mysticism associated with the plant, and there was a culture that went around it. I gravitated toward that culture, and found that it was conducive to spiritual seeking and the exploration of experience.
In what ways does your spiritual connection to cannabis—the “mystical intimacy” you described—affect the way you operate as a farmer in the now-legal California market?
We’re in a time period that’s an early stage of what I call “corporate cannabis.” We’re seeing the same sort of basic economic analysis that we see with other commodities. We’re all looking for the investor aspect, and some of these bigger companies are looming in the background.
Cannabis itself is fairly sensitive thing and it deserves a platform of respect, in my opinion. Cannabis has the potential to be an adjunct tool of working with consciousness. I’m using that term loosely, but [I mean] a coming together to deal with large scale ecological collapse. To deal with things that other generations maybe have not had to deal with. It seems that the generations above us have had a different experience, with resources and other things. In my position as a farmer, there’s an observation of natural systems and sensitivity to the earth. Within that context, it’s very hard to see catastrophic ecosystem collapse that we’re on the threshold of potentially experiencing.
I’m interested in farming cannabis naturally and sustainably. But, moreover, I’m interested to see the potential of sequestering carbon to grow it in a way that is conducive to spiritual growth and higher consciousness in a culture—so that it’s not just sort of a random variable that goes into large scale production that a whole lot of people put on their Wall Street portfolio. In my opinion that’s kinda the lowest potential of cultivation for cannabis, and not a complete respect toward the consciousness, culture, and natural evolution of the plant.
What kind of action are you taking on your farm to combat climate change and help heal the environment?
I’m developing plans for our farm and ranch in relation to carbon sequestration. It’s bringing the carbon molecule back into the substrate of the soil to enhance the microbiological life, and help foster we call a “living food web,” the indigenous food web of the soil, so to speak.
How would you describe the personality of the cannabis plant? If you were to anthropomorphize it.
It’s a really…Wow. Fascinating. It’s a really—wow. That’s a hard one to delve into.
The direct experience of something—the human experience—is an abstraction. It’s an intellectual abstraction and a beautiful personification of what that thing is. However, it’s to be treaded upon lightly, as it is only a human personification.
So, the direct experience is what we’re after. I think of the common phrase, “let the mystery be.”
However, we’re doing our work with this plant. It’s gonna be very individual for different people, but nonetheless it’s all truth. Truth is relative, in a way.
I heard you make blends that support spiritual journeying. What kind of thought and consideration goes into the blends you make?
With the cannabis I farm, one of the things I do is work to boost the terpene profile of any given cultivar. I’ll take a lower yield with a higher terpene content any day. In farming, I’m looking for the most complex cannabinoid profile that I can pull out of any sample or substrate or soil structure. That relates particularly to the entourage effect of the terpenes. They’ll have different balancing effects for people, and I think that’s really beneficial.
The other thing I’m big on is incorporating CBN into the mixture of your cannabis profile. For certain people, they’re over stimulated. They have a complex degree of psychological things they’re working out, or stresses. Maybe they don’t want to get completely blitzed. I find in a modern-day culture, not everyone needs a stimulant. We’re surrounded by stimulants: caffeine, florescent lights, the power structure grid. Some of these “degraded” cannabinoid blends are beneficial to people’s stress management. CBN is one compound I find to be really more conducive to relaxation. As with meditation practice or mindfulness practice, the first goal is to just be gentle with yourself. First, you get rid of the stress. Then you can go other places with it. But trying to go to level ten psychedelic voyaging when you’ve got six bills to pay and appointments to get to and the stresses of modern day life is not realistic for everyone.
Georgia Perry is a freelance writer currently based in Denver, Colorado. She has been published in The Atlantic, CityLab, Vice, and other magazines. Follow her on Twitter @georguhperry.