Not quite sure what to make of the “veganic” label attached to that new strain of cannabis available at your local dispensary? Or perhaps you’re new to cultivating cannabis and are looking for a technique that honors both your vegan and organic lifestyle choices. Good news! Veganic cannabis is a thing, and it has been for some time now.
Plant-based agriculture, otherwise known as veganic gardening, takes the two principles of veganism and organics and hybridizes them into one central growing philosophy. That philosophy is represented by the idea that animal byproducts and synthetic ingredients are not integral or sustainable in providing nutrients and protections to your plants. Where veganic growing has been around in practice for thousands of years, this label has only recently made its way into the cannabis community.
What is Veganics?
Veganics is defined as an agricultural philosophy that abstains from the use of synthetic or chemical-based additives as well as animal byproducts. The central philosophy behind veganic growing is to only utilize plant-based resources in order to provide both nutrient uptake and environmental protection to the crop. This entails not only the removal of any chemical fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide from use, but also products containing animal-based additives such as manure fertilizers and animal byproduct-containing soil amendments.
Growers choose to adopt veganic principles for a variety of reasons, including the mission to abstain from using chemical and animal byproducts, sustainability purposes, as well as the pursuit of a cleaner-tasting and more naturally-derived final product. Veganics cannabis growing touches on all three motivators, with many cultivators adopting veganic methodologies to produce incredibly high-quality, all natural buds bursting with flavor.
The Origin of Veganics
Plant-based gardening has been around for thousands of years, but did not introduce itself into modern agriculture literature until the mid-1900’s. These principles were originally set forth by agricultural pioneers such as Maya Bruce, who introduced vegetable composting through her groundbreaking literature in the 1940s to Rosa Dalziell O’Brien and her son Kenneth, who were among the first to develop a system for veganics out of a hunch that animal byproducts damaged soil health( a concept that would later be proven). However, the term “veganics” wasn’t coined until UK author Geoffrey Rudd began using it as a distinguishing term between plant-based agricultural methods and those using chemicals and animal byproducts.
The single most dominating figure in the introduction of veganics into mainstream cannabis cultivation is master grower Kyle Kushman, who brought veganics into the limelight in 2009 when he adopted the Canna Company’s plant-based Bio Terra soil into his growing regiment, tweaking these soil amendments slightly by adding elements such as humic acid and a variety of microbial inoculants.
Kushman, a long-time cannabis cultivator and industry pioneer, adopted a veganics approach with one idea in mind: to develop a system for cannabis cultivation that allowed for as close to 100% nutrient bioavailability as possible through the use of sustainable plant-based additives designed to facilitate a thriving soil food web. The idea was that by removing animal byproducts from the equation, which he posited would in time affect soil PH levels, as well as removing various chemicals that were known to deplete microorganism populations, he would be able to increase nutrient availability, ultimately resulting in better tasting buds.
Today, Kushman’s veganic cannabis can be found in LA’s Buds and Roses dispensary. He also develops a line of products that include plant-based microbial inoculants and enzymes designed for veganic growers.
Veganic Cannabis Cultivation
Cultivating veganic cannabis is about developing and feeding a living soil with plant-based solutions in order to build cleaner and more distinct flavors. By taking chemical supplements and animal byproducts out of the equation, cannabis is free to uptake nutrients at any time, as they’re always available due to a balanced pH level.
There are differing methodologies to successfully grow veganic cannabis, and many of these principles can be applied to gardens of any shape and size, from containers to outdoor growing. Getting started with veganics is easier than you may think. All you need to get going is a soil amended with plant-based additives, some microbial inoculants, and perhaps the occasional plant-based fertilizer.
Vegetative plants will require amendments high in nitrogen, such as alfalfa cottonseed or even soya meal, whereas plants in flowering will need amendments high in phosphorus and potassium such as potash, rock phosphate, or wood ash. All of these are alternatives to organic options that contain animal byproducts such as bat guano, blood, or bone meal. Protozoa teas derived from hay, microbial- and fungi- dominant compost teas, and the use of various essential oils are also widely practiced in veganic cannabis cultivation.
Veganic Products in the Market
Unlike the agricultural industry, which has certified and regulated systems in place to ensure compliance to organic and vegan standards, the cannabis industry is largely unregulated. There is currently no system in place designed to certify veganic growers, but that doesn’t stop dispensaries from labeling their products organic. For example, Colorado’s mandate on listing all ingredients used for cultivation of a commercial recreational cannabis product can help define which products are truly veganic.
Make sure to always ask your budentder about products listed as “veganic,” as well as what products were used to cultivate that specific brand. If you’re fortunate to shop in an area such as Colorado, which mandates lab testing as well as full disclosure of growing amendments used, be sure to request any and all information proving that your product is in fact veganic as it was labeled.
Veganics, albeit a new concept to the cannabis industry, is a cultivation philosophy with much potential. As regulations are set in place, testing and labeling mandates will make it easier for consumers and farmers alike to find veganic labeled cannabis products on the shelves. There’s a growing market for sustainably sourced, animal-free, plant-based cannabis, and the demand will continue to drive innovations as veganic products become more available.