My name is Igor Rakuz and I’m A regenerative soil cannabis Farmer. ￼About 15 years ago I started a small medical grow for a friend who had ALS￼. I witnessed the many benefits of cannabis leading to a life of horticulture. Over the years I have been exposed to different techniques in growing and composting and what is now called Korean Natural Farming or KNF. I had the opportunity to experiment with different techniques at a nursery I started in Maine, and volunteered at local health clinics teaching people about growing cannabis and it’s many benefits. I opened a few grow stores but never felt good about growing plants with chemical nutrients and grow lights that are both expensive and ecologically damaging, and so I closed them down. eeing the connection between growing food and medicine and our own personal sovereignty I opened a small cafe GRO CAFE where we used locally produced foods, and grew our own organic mushrooms, and micro greens.
As cannabis became “more legal” I knew it was time for us to get out of the secret cover of clandestine grow operation, and move into the open sun. Many people started to grow their own cannabis and ￼Scott’s miracle grow started buying up all the suppliers used by the grow stores, including the largest nutrient companies, lighting, and fan companies as well as the largest supplies distributer in the US. I knew it was my time to get out of the indoor cannabis game.
One of my￼ grow stores was formally a nursery with large green houses that gave me a place to experiment with organic techniques using tomatoes peppers and flowers as my test subjects. I would grow my organic produce along with plants grown with the chemical fertilizers we were selling in the grow store. It didn’t take long to realize that I could grow better tasting produce that cost less and a had higher nutritional density than those produced with chemical grow solutions.
Unfortunately Maine is not a good location to grow cannabis outside. It’s cold and wet, it has short summers, high humidity and can see heavy rains throughout the summer months. Cannabis is a resilient plant and can grow anywhere￼c but does so ￼￼￼best in climates where there is little rain similar to conditions ideal for growing grapes.
I arrived in Oregon in the winner of 2017 to visit friends and ski the mountains of the Pacific Northwest￼￼￼, that’s when I discovered Sauvies Island, Portland Oregon. Sauvie Island is the largest waterway island in the United States. Iit sees a total summer rain fall of about 3 inches and has a nice consistent breeze 6 mph blowing north and south. Sauvies island is in the columbia river and is made of volcanic rock it has geological make up very high in basalt, a highly diamagnetic ￼￼￼rock.
Choosing a location to grow cannabis is more than just finding suitable environmental￼ conditions it means navigating strict rules from both the county and state. It means dealing with the federal government not having access to loans, bank account and insurance, it means paying heavy taxes and having to watch out for rippers. So in many ways this location seemed ideal but there really isn’t such a thing as a perfect plot of land or at least I haven’t found one.
I set out to grow cannabis as nature intended, that meant no high powered grow lights, and no chemical fertilizers. I experimented with KNF, jadam, and soil food web methods by dr Elaine ingham and found a community in farmers using regenerative soil practices across a wide spectrum of agriculture￼￼. The system we practice increases soil bio diversity, improves soil structure, protects watersheds and enhances our local ecosystem. Living soil is rich in microbial life that feeds plants and capture atmospheric carbon in soil and plant biomass, if adopted this method could reveres global carbon trends. We draw from decades of applied and scientific research in aggro ecology and holistic land management by leading scientists such as Dr. Elaine Ingham, Masanobu Fukuoka and the global communities of natural and organic farmers.￼￼￼
Getting to work:
I first started prepping the field in the summer of 2018. When I arrived the field was in rough shape mostly filled with weeds and very dense clay soil. When we used a compaction meter which is essentially a steel rod with a gauge displaying pounds per square inch it gave a readIng of 200 psi at 1/2” depth. This meant we had about a 1/2” of top soil not nearly enough to grow our beloved plant. In my experience I found cannabis roots have a hard time growing through soil that is past 165-175￼psi. This dirt was more like cement then soil. Dr. Elaine Ingham defines dirt as highly compacted land lacking in microbiology and nutrients￼. This field was comprised of dirt.
Building Yasha farms from the underground up:
The first step was to get soil tests done, it was no surprise that the composition of our soil was mostly clay, and a biological analysis found some bacteria, no fungus, and no nematodes. This was dirt!
It was a lot of work but within one year our compression meter was now able to probe through 15” inches of living soil like butah ked.
To get here was no easy task the first step was to expose the ground to oxygen, we did this manually using a 40 lbs. broad fork, this legendary and classic farm tool is used to aerate soil, it essentially a giant pitchfork that has two handles to maneuver and lift it by. we used it to flip 2’x1.5’ heavy lumps of clay. gloves didn’t prevent everyone at the farm from having black, blue and calloused hands.￼
We then spread 250 yards of woody compost to increase￼ the organic composition of the soil and to provided food for the microbes that where soon to come.
-IMO indigenous micro organisms
Sauvies island is located in the columbia river and hosts a wide diversity of microbial life.
Making an IMO indigenous microbe ￼Compost: I went for a walk in some forest on sauvies and found turkey tail mushroom growing on a fallen tree and dug directly below it past the leaf litter about 1” into the soil and found long white strains of fungal hyphy￼. This is where I placed my IMO trap. My trap consisted of untreated wood wine box with many 1/4” holes drilled on all sides. I filled the box with hard cooked rice, covered it with paper towel and buried it under leaves in the hole I dug. I secured the rice filled box with mesh to keep animals out. Returning 5 days later i found the bottom of the box was very warm.The rice had turned into a large white mat.
This was later mixed with equal parts brown sugar (Imo2) by weight and then mixed with 250lbs of barely husk. We left the piles until the centers reached 138° and made sure all of the compost reached the center and had sufficient time to cook (imo3). We then mixed our field soil equal parts by volume with the IMO compost we had created. The final product is called imo4. This was later applied to the field.
Bringing saprophytic fungus to our soil. I purchased about 25 mushroom spawn bags I used to inoculate large cardboard moving boxes I filled with wood chips treated with humic powder and kelp meal. Within 7 days the white mycelium ￼￼filled the box’s and evening started to eat the cardboard. It was time to bring the mushrooms to the field. This was done by drilling 3” holes every 3 sq’ we then placed large hand fulls into the woody compost clay soil mix for the winter and hopefully forever.
Soil food web a general overview:
Living regenerative soil is a mindful approach to cannabis horticulture.
Its amazing to think that huge and beautiful forest systems surrounding Portland all thrive without any outside inputs and this life is only made possible through the active participation and communication between trillions of microbiological inhabitants. We now understand that plants communicate with the microbes in the plants rhizosphere (root zone beneath the ground) by releasing exudates, chemical messengers (carbon and glucose) threw their roots and into the surrounding soil. These exudates attract specific microbes such as fungus that then upcycle nutrients from clay and rock to the plant. There is an abundance of plant nutrients in clay and other compounds naturally found in the ground that microbes draw from, so much so that some estimate that there is enough phosphorus to grow crops for over 300 years without humans needing to add any more. the only reason why fertilizers are used is because the modern farmer has been taught to feed plants costly fertilizer rather than foster the naturally occurring relationship between the plants roots and life in the ground. Feeding plants fertilizers hurts this fragile system of give and take between plant and microbes because many of these chemicals kill beneficial
Fungus and bacteria and because plants that receive high inputs of chemical nutrients stop producing root exudates. Once exudate production stops so does the life in the soil that fosters healthy plant production, a cyclical degeneration occurs, the more fertilizer is used the more the plant will require. Microbes are also what foster healthy soil structure as they form the aggregates that bounds soil. Loss of microbiology causes soil structures to falter lowering the capacity for the ground to retain water and so fertilizer ends up in drinking water, rivers, and eventually washes into oceans creating what are called dead zones, oxygen depleted and so life depleted areas that span hundreds of miles.
The living soil system is maintained by nurturing a symbiotic relationship between plants and microbes. This is not an easy task, goes far beyond organic requirements and is well worth the effort. Growing in living soil is not only economical and ecological, doing so allows the plant to potentiate its natural genetic expression through a matrix of terpenes and cannabinoids, a difference you can smell, taste, and feel.
how’s it work. We use a microscope to asses our soil a method developed by dr elain ingham over several decades. By quantifying soil biomass and populations of various micro organisms we can identify which groups are lacking and then develop strategies for re-introducing a fully functioning Soil Food Web as is found in forest or grass lands.
Fungus’s to bacteria ratio:
Different eco systems and plants have different ratios of fungus to bacteria f:b living in the soil. There are more bacteria then fungi in early successions of a healthy eco systems, weeds have more bacteria then fungus grasses have a ratios of 1:1 (f:b) orchards see a ratio of 10:1 and healthy old growth forest can have as much as 100:1 fungus to bacteria. F:B ratios correlate to plant succession as well as to what form of nitrogen is produced. When there is extreme bacterial biomass and little fungi the majority of nitrogen will be converted to nitrate instead of remaining as ammonium. This caters to early succession plans such as weeds and may lead to the occurrence of pest and diseases in later secession plants and trees. Cannabis will do well in a 1:1 to 5:1 ratio, achieving this was our goal!
African night crawler shit to the rescue. Our soil tests showed a higher bacteria to fungus ratio, we needed fungus and we needed it bad! I tested over 50 types of compost looking for as high a fungus to bacteria ratio I could find and it was not an easy task. Finding compost with a 1:1 ratio of Saprophytic￼ fungus seemed to be impossible. ￼ luckily￼ a friend found a batch of African night crawler compost that was High in what we wanted to see: lots of fungus, protozoa, ameba, ￼and Nematodes and didn’t have Actinobacteria an indicator of anerobic conditions, or Oomycetes a fungus like microbe associated with plant pathogens such as downy mildew, pythium￼, blights etc. it was time to start making extract.
We weighed 14 pounds of compost in nylon strainer bags￼ and placed them into 50gallon drums filled with water. needing￼ the bags by hand for 10 minutes causing the water to turn black with a thick coffee like foam head. We repeated this for all 1000lbs of worm compost. Luckily we now have a Vortx compost brewer that we built in house so no more prune fingers from hand needing extract ￼:). ￼We sprayed the compost extract/tea on our cover crop and straw we spread over the ground in the fall. Another innovation the soil injector, in order to increase our top soil depth this season we incorporated the use of soil injector calibrated to not kill the microbes ￼we worked so hard to obtain. We inject compost extract or tea directly into the soil at about an 8 to 15 inch depth.
Our cover crop:
In our first year we used seven different types of seed divided equally between grass and legumes: Tritakale, vetch, Crimson, winter peas, barley,￼￼ Winter wheat and ￼￼we used some clay busting radish (year one only).
Once we were done in the fall we were looking at beds that had mycelium hand buried in them, inoculated cover crop, imo4, and straw turned black with compost tea. The following spring 2019, The soil compaction meter was able to reach a depth of 15 inches before hitting a PSI of 200. As if that wasn’t great enough our biology improved we had over a 1:1 fungus to bacteria ratio and our new soil structure test moved us from clay loam into silty loam￼￼￼. We now had soil and so there was no need to till in the spring before we planted our cannabis.
Spring 2019, A visit from the master:
Dr Elain Ingham is a true insperstion and Stuart of the earth. She pioneered the soil food web movement , and helped change the Political course and general acceptance of GMOs, she works on global food security issues and heads soil biology research at Stanford University￼￼. I met Elaine at a conference on regenerative soil ￼and we started corresponding I saw her as a mentor and role model. I told Elaine of all the work that we’ve done on the field and my hopes of a cannabis industry mindful in regenerative soil techniques. ￼￼￼ when she asked how I learned to do what I’ve done I replied watching by your old YouTube videos. I sent her photos of microscope slides and one day Dr Ingham ￼said ￼she would visit our farm. I was blown away. Elaine and I talked about compost, new methods of collecting indigenous microbes specific to the conditions of the Pacific Northwest, ￼sprayers, injectors, But the majority of our time was spent looking into a microscope Elaine help me identify and quantify what I was seeing and tighten up my scope game. I still send my soil out for biological analysis. I feel confident in my ability to identify and quantify most microbes but feel that the validity of this project would increase if I used third-party laboratories. I use the techniques Elaine has showed me when trying to create and identify good compost. ￼￼￼
I’ve been growing cannabis for over 15 years but have had zero experience in this type of agriculture and knew no one that grew cannabis using these techniques to say I was nervous was an understatement. Elaine looked through our microscope slides and confidently assured me that our crop was going to do great. She was correct! ￼￼
Dr. Elaine Ingham has programs online that are extremely worthwhile. I highly suggest that people interested in progressive farming techniques check out Soil Food Web.com￼.
It costs about 5500 to prep the ground of our 40,000 sq foot plant canopy, compared to the cost of buying pete moss, expensive nutrients, large pots or raised beds our cost to move from dirt to living soil was almost unbelievable￼:
250 yards Woody Compost: 3000
1000 lbs Worm compost: 1200
Imo ingredients: 250
Broad forks: 400
Labor: many many liters of blood sweat and tears.
We needed only the smallest amount of copper zinc and boron to balance our soil
Chemistry. Our total cost in nutrients for a 40,000 sq foot canopy and around 3000lbs of dried flower was about $1500.00
This year our first batch of bruce banner dried flower came back at whopping ￼29.7% THC dried weight! ￼Not only do regenerative soil practices ￼produce better quality medicine, they aid in reversing global carbon trends￼￼. this style of agriculture is ecologically sound, ￼and dramatically lowers cost of production making cannabis accessible to more people wile gaining a competitive advantage for growers.￼
Light deprivation and defused light, building above ground:
We grow in 2700’ of high tunnels or hoop houses. I like to Ups cycle material as much as possible￼ and was happy to buy used hoops from a retired farmer at about $400 for every thousand feet. We use 10mil opaque ￼poly to defuse ￼￼the sunlight and 10mil Black and white poly for our light Depp. The light deprivation plastic is on timed motors that close at 7pm, reopen at 10pm, close at 4am and reopen at 7am. Growing with light deprivation allows us to flower under the high spectrum light of June and July sun that’s actually brighter￼, doing so increases terpene and cannabinol ￼production in our flowers as opposed to plants that flower later in the year when the sun is lower on the horizon. Who would’ve thought that big fireball in the sky could replace a Gavita lol. ￼
Using light deprivation slows us to harvest a 40,000 square-foot canopy twice a year while protecting us from late fall rains. we use little electricity at our grow and run the entire farm on a 200 amp service with an average monthly electric bill of $190 for 6 months a year. That’s 80,000 ft.² of flowering canopy for about $1200. ￼ indoor growers do the math...
We dry our cannabis in insulated 40 foot shipping containers￼. We use blower fans in the first 24hours to move air through the containers as plants tend to lose 50% of their water weight in the first day. Afterwards we use dehumidifiers to maintain humidity levels at around 50% and air conditioners to maintain temperatures between 65 and 70°. ￼￼￼it takes about 12 days for our product to dry.
The Yasha farms team is committed to producing cannabis mindfully through innovations in regenerative cannabis horticulture. ￼As multinational corporations that make up the industrial cannabis complex ￼attempt to control cannabis it is meaningful for us all to remember that cannabis culture is our culture. we are the stewards of the plants we cultivate, and of the microbes and ground they grow in. ￼￼