Sun Roots Farm: regenerative agriculture and the art of growing colossal cannabis plants

In the vibrant yet challenging landscape of California’s cannabis community, Sun Roots Farm is a rare gem situated in Covelo, California. Driving up its winding entrance will lead to a picturesque landscape, unveiling the incredible experience of visiting the farm’s gorgeous gardens. There, you’ll be greeted by towering cannabis plants reaching 12+ feet high and weighing an impressive 10 – 20 pounds each.

Founded by Forrest Gauder and Patricia Vargas, Sun Roots Farm is a testament to the resilience and integrity within the cannabis community.

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Owners Forrest Gauder and Patricia Vargas among Sun Roots Farm’s huge cannabis plants

By embracing a lifestyle around sustainability, they’ve created an enchanting, forest-like atmosphere with their approach, growing massive plants requiring a ladder for proper care. This landscape is common in Mendocino County, and due to dry weather, it makes for the perfect environment for growing colossal cannabis plants.

The founders’ vision of regeneration

Over the past 12 years, Gauder and Vargas have transformed Sun Roots Farm into their permanent residence. With its foundation rooted in regenerative agriculture, the couple not only cultivates cannabis plants but also tends to various vegetables, herbs, fruits, fungi, native medicinal plants, and perennial gardens. 

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Fruits, herbs, and vegetables grow healthy on the farm

To nourish their garden, they rely on contributions from their animals, with coops full of chickens and fields of alpacas serving as an exemplary model of regenerative agricultural practices. The farm aims to increase biodiversity and introduce closed-loop farming, where farmers recycle all organic material back into the soil and the farm. This system fosters a harmonious coexistence between the land and its inhabitants.

Exclusive seeds and strains 

The farm takes pride in its commitment to exclusive seed cultivation, a distinctive approach that sets them apart. Gauder described the process: “We grow all our plants from seed yearly. From the year before, we’ll select pollen and put it on certain plants to make new [strains] — we’ll then collect those seeds. By the middle of February, we’ll crack open the chosen varieties, starting them in a greenhouse … and propagating them until they reach five-gallon pots.”

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
All Sun Roots Farm strains are grown from seed each year.

The decision to grow exclusively from seed is rooted in the farm’s philosophy of embracing genetic variability and maximizing plant vigor. “The reason behind growing from seed … is the genetic variability,” said Vargas. “We grow exclusively from seed. Local breeding has played a pivotal role in shaping plants that are finely adapted to the valley’s conditions, showcasing positive characteristics such as mold resistance, pest resistance, frost resilience, and more.” 

Sun Roots Farm’s staple strain is Velvet Purps, bred locally over ten years ago. This strain descends from the valley and is made from various crosses by Gauder’s family and colleagues. Its origin begins with Jah Goo, crossbred with its brother T2 and Magic Bus, giving rise to a cultivar with impressive purple characteristics.

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Velvet Purps

“The plant produces anthocyanins to protect itself, but it’s also purple,” explained Gauder. “You can find anthocyanins and all sorts of fruits and vegetables, too. It’s the pigment, the color. This compound has beneficial aspects when consumed by humans, like antioxidants, and it protects the plant. We had a bad frost a few years ago that destroyed a lot of gardens around here, but all our purple plants were just fine.”

Packed with trichomes and a captivating blend of berry and pine aromas, Velvet Purps luxuriously unfolds on the palate. This unique strain, locally bred and cultivated by Sun Roots Farm and a select few friends only, expresses a distinctive charm. Beyond its sensory delights, it delivers a tranquil and relaxing buzz, making it an ideal choice for evening consumption. 

In a market saturated with options, the exclusivity of strains like Velvet Purps emphasizes the farm’s commitment to offering something truly exceptional.

A farm dedicated to sustainable practices 

The farm is also Dragonfly Earth Medicine (DEM) certified. “To be DEM is to achieve a certification beyond organic through third-party verification,” explained Vargas, “It’s a community committed to intentional growth and the creation of closed-loop systems.”

Sun Roots Farm maximizes what the land naturally provides, whether it’s blackberry vines for tea or alpaca manure from their animals. “It’s similar to a homesteading lifestyle,” Vargas continued, “incorporating the cultivation of cannabis with an element of integrity into the product.” From closed-loop systems and water conservation to wildlife sanctuaries and companion planting, the farm is a testament to sustainable living techniques. 

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Chickens contribute to the sustainable practices used at the farm

Vargas also emphasized the importance of observation and mindfulness in their approach, “Take a moment to observe before you go ahead and start harvesting or before you go ahead and start crunching all over the earth.” Gauder added, “As long as we keep stuff covered in the garden, magic always happens. So we’re feeding the bugs, which eat the material on the ground that feeds the plants. It’s a continual cycle of life, rebirth, death, life, rebirth, death.”

The farm extends its commitments beyond the cultivation season. After harvest, they break down plants, mulch with oak leaves, and cover them with hay, creating a winter blanket that transforms into a layer of beautiful topsoil come spring. 

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Gauder lighting up a rose petal joint made from roses grown on their property

At Sun Roots Farm, a calming environment and sustainable living encourage a deeper connection to the products they make and the ones we consume. The farm is a reality where integrity, intention, and regenerative practices converge to create a sanctuary of sustainable cultivation in the heart of California.


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