Host of The Farmer In the Sky Radio Hour
a brief Auto-Bio...
1971: Having been inspired by Bill Drake’s groundbreaking book, The Cultivator’s Handbook of Marijuana, (1970) I planted my first crop of cannabis in Southern Oregon. I also hitchhiked around with a huge bag of seeds playing “Michael Marijuana Seed.”
1975: How to Grow Indoors Under Lights, (1973), by “Murphy Stevens” inspired me to try growing indoors under VHO fluorescent lights. I did bring my plants to full flower but they were not at all impressive by today’s standards. This was also the year Stevens made the switch to High Intensity Discharge lighting. I was there when an engineering student at the University of Washington came into Stevens' shop and told him how much more efficient HID light were than VHO fluorescents.
At that point I continued to be primarily an outdoor grower. Most growers at that time felt that while indoor-grown cannabis was very pretty it couldn’t compete with that grown outdoors in terms of potency. I would later learn why this was and figure out how to fix it.
1978: I grew my first HID-lit indoor crop. This was in addition to my outdoor crop. Like many others both before and since then I fell afoul of the learning curve and lost most of my crop to spider mites. Then there’s the crops I lost to inter-sexing (botanical Hermaphroditicism) because of my ignorance of the importance of correct photo-periodicity. In the years since then I have made every mistake you can at least once. As a result I know how to prevent most of them and to fix almost all the others.
1979: I become a life member of national NORML.
1980: I started buying equipment from a shop in Seattle called “Hydrotech.” At that point and for the next nine years they were the leading edge of plant lighting technology. I learned their equipment and inventory so well that I frequently waited on customers who came in after me while the owner—Kevin Bjornson– was taking care of the ones before me. This is also when I began collaborating with him on a monthly column in Sinsemilla Tips magazine called The Farmer in the Sky. We produced this column until October of 1989, when the DEA, in something called Operation Green Merchant shut down the magazine and 63 grow shops in 48 states.
1981: This was the year I started putting the clues together that would result in my developing a growth technique called Sea of Green (SoG). A friend of mine, growing in Eastern Washington doesn’t have time to stick all of his starts in the ground. One, in a half gallon clay pot, grows into a single 24" long bud.
1983: A series of accidents gives me the second clue and I learned about the Inverse Square Law which caused me to hypothesize that significantly greater yield, per year, could be achieved growing single spear-type colas in a shorter period than could be grown using what I described at the time as the Candelabra, Christmas Bush, and Tall Girl methods. Putting it very simply, the ideal level of light for maximum plant growth in cannabis is 5500 foot candles at the top of the plants. Too little and you don’t drive the photosynthetic reaction as fast as you can. Too much and the plants go into a condition called photo inhibition which is the stoma (what the plants breathe through) contracting to protect themselves from excessive water loss. The Inverse Square Law, in English rather than mathematics, says that at twice the distance it takes to lose half its intensity light is one quarter as strong as it was at its source. This is why full-sized indoor plants which are not side-lit do not get big buds on their bottom branches. There is so much available light outside that this is not a major consideration.
Late in the year I went to work at Hydrotech in production. Three months later, recognizing that I was at least as knowledgeable about the inventory as he was and more knowledgeable about growing. the owner made me the General Manager and de facto COO. I held this position until October of 1989. In this position I received input about cannabiculture from literally hundreds of professionals.
1984: I begin testing my hypothesis and got astoundingly excellent results. (It would take me over a year before I could repeat them but the intervening crops were still excellent.) This was also the year I first wrote about Sea of Green (SoG), in an article in Sinsemilla Tips.
1985: I tell a guy in Seattle named Greg about SoG and, a few weeks later, on a trip to Holland, while taking him the Northern Lights seeds which would kick-start the Dutch seed industry he tells his friend Neville about it. Yes, I mean Neville of Seed Bank fame. This is probably why some people are confused about where SoG came into use in cannabiculture.
Hydrotech opened our Portland store. Jorge Cervantes, has verified, in writing, that the first time he ever heard of Sea of Green was from me in 1985. I introduced my first book—Growing Indoors for Fun and Profit—at the 1985 NORML national conference. This is the same time and place that Jack Herer introduced The Emperor Wears No Clothes. His book did much better than mine. We began a friendship which would last the next 24 years. I also begin putting together what Assistant US Attorney for the District of Oregon—John Haub–would, 4 years later, refer to, repeatedly, as “a multi-state network of extremely sophisticated indoor grow operations.”
1986: At this point state of the art was growing (SoG) under a Hydrotech “Kingdome” paraboloid hood with side lighting. Advanced growers would start under halide lights, then switch to HPS during the flower stage. This required that they change both their bulb and the ballast which drove it. While looking through some Spectral Power Distribution charts (SPD) I found a bulb made by a little Japanese lighting company called Iwasaki. The spectra it emitted, going by the SPD, was better than either halide or HPS for plant growth. More importantly from a commercial point of view was that by using this bulb, if it worked, my customers could get better light than they were getting from HPS without having to own and switch out to HPS ballasts. It took me almost 6 months to get a six pack of the Iwasaki Eye-ace 940. This was the very first time in their corporate that Iwasaki products were sold for a horticultural application of any kind. I tried them and found that they produced excellent results, so we wrote about them in our column. They caught on like wildfire. Iwasaki entered the field with an increasing number of excellent products. Along the way they changed the name under which they do business in the USA. The name they changed to was Hortilux. Although they no longer hold as much market-share as they did at their peak, they remain the largest producers of HID bulbs for horticultural lighting in the world.
If I remember correctly this was also the year we wrote about supplementing lighting with UV-b to increase the potency of the plants and hypothesized growing in a sealed chamber with CO2 supplementation and dehumidification. Both the UV-b supplementation and the sealed room concept had never been written about before.
1986-October 27, 1989: I continued to expand both, my grow operations and Hydrotech.
Late in this period I began to develop the SoG concept even further. It seemed wasteful to me that the light hitting the walls above the canopy of the SoG wasn’t growing a plant and giving me product. I figured out how to line the walls with plants. This is the Emerald Cavern or Coliseum technique. To put this in perspective, at 3 plants per square foot our hypothetical 16 square foot SoG bed holds 48 plants and at 4 plants per square foot this becomes 64 plants. An Emerald Cavern with the same footprint is limited only by the number of tiers utilized. The lighting requirements are somewhat different. On October 27, 1989 indictments were unsealed in a major investigation the DEA labeled Operation Green Merchant. Sixty-three grow shops in 48 states and Sinsemilla Tips magazine were raided and shut down. Over two hundred people were indicted. I was one of them. I was arrested on October 29, 1989 and charged with “Manufacturing a Controlled Substance, to wit, Marijuana” in excess of 12,000 plants. At that time this was the second largest indoor grow case in the history of the Federal District of Oregon. I ended up, after plea bargaining the quantity down, pleading “guilty” to 3,999 plants.
October 29, 1989-June 17, 1995: This period was spent on an involuntary, federally-mandated, sabbatical.
June 17, 1995- June, 2006: For a number of reasons I am not prepared to discuss what I was doing during this period except to say that I continued to develop further expertise and the ability to apply it.
June, 2006-Present: I became a grower for medical marijuana patients in Oregon and, because of a frequently overlooked clause in Washington’s MMj law, there as well. Hempstalk, 2009 Immediately after he came offstage, I was the last person that Jack Herer consciously consumed cannabis with. It was an odd Karmic Wheel completing it’s rotation. I was there when he introduced the “Emperor…,” which rocketed him to being the best known “pothead” in the world and I was there at his very last speech. I spent that night at the hospital with his personal assistant, son and wife. Present: I continue to be licensed as a grower under Oregon and Washington’s MMj laws. Based on my many years of involvement in cannabiculture, I offer consultation services on the design and operation of facilities to produce high grade cannabis. I know more about its lighting requirements and how to fulfill them than all but a handful of other people on earth and they, except one, all have a string of letters after their names. This knowledge includes a thorough understanding of the interaction of physics and organic chemistry in cannabiculture. I have quite a bit of knowledge about nutritional requirements, pest and disease control and nutrient delivery systems. I am familiar with the construction requirements, including plumbing, wiring, security and HVAC as well as CO2 supplementation and dehumidification. I am currently working on my second book about growing–The Cultivator’s Handbook of Medical Cannabis: How to Grow Wiser. In another closing of a Karmic wheel the man editing this book is Bill Drake–the man whose book started me on my life’s path.
March 12, 2014: Thanks to Casper Leitch and the Time for Hemp network, the Farmer in the Sky’s Radio Hour makes it’s debut.