Meet Your Farmers: Gus and Monique (Mo) of SunBright Gardens
SunBright Gardens is located in the hills just outside of Covelo in Mendocino County. It's run by my partner Gus and Monique (Mo) who have cute little baby named Kahlo who just turned 1 and 3 chocolate labs, 2 cats and a flock of chickens beeping around the land. They plant following The Stella Natura Biodynamic planting calendar and Mo is on the Board of Directors for The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance. Here’s their story…
Q: How did you get your start in cultivating cannabis?
A: Gus's father went on a trip to visit his sister out in Covelo in the 70's. His sister along with her husband ran the Yolla Bolly Printing Press making handmade books in a beautiful studio in Covelo. His dad fell in love with the area and after several visits brought Gus's mom out and they began living in Covelo together. Gus's father got involved with the Garden Project led by Alan Chadwick. After a while, Gus's mom became homesick and shortly before Gus was born they moved back to Arkansas. Then in Gus's early 20's his father brought him out to Covelo on a road trip. His grandfather had passed and they came to Covelo to spread some of the ashes at his aunt's home at the printing press. Gus really thought the area was beautiful and enjoyed the river and the lifestyle that people were living. The following year, he was offered an opportunity to help take care of some cannabis plants and decided to try it out. So he packed up a small truck, a little trailer with tools, a dirt bike and made his way to Covelo. Over time he learned from local master gardeners and they shared with him all the secret techniques to cultivate potent medicinal cannabis.
I grew up in the foothills of northern California in a small town called Placerville. In my early 20's I moved to Hawaii to work on an organic vegetable farm. I spent 3 months learning how to grow food, meditate and practice yoga. Then one day I got a call from a friend back in Covelo that offered me a job trimming for the harvest season. I was in some debt and figured it would be a great opportunity, so I left Hawaii and moved to Covelo. After arriving, I befriended Gus through some mutual friends and eventually we started dating. Shortly thereafter we started cultivating cannabis together. Then a few years later we left the Covelo valley and purchased a 45 acre parcel up in the surrounding hills. Slowly over time we began building a home and created a small cannabis garden. When Prop 64 passed we decided to enter into the commercial legal market. We wanted to start a family and didn't want to be in fear of persecution for cultivation so we took the plunge and started the permitting process.
Q: Tell us about your cultivation style
A: We have a 2500 sq ft outdoor garden surrounded by a handmade fence from recycled wood from our land. We use beneficial insects, nematodes, & fungi to combat pests. We encourage beneficial predators to live within our surroundings because we believe in the connection that nature has to all things. We grow our plants from seeds using genetics that are local to our area. We use solar energy to pump water from our holding tanks to our cultivation site. We grow cover crops each winter and turn them into green manure in the early spring. We plant following the Stella Natura planting rhythms and companion plant with other beneficial herbs, vegetables and colorful flowers to attract pollinators. This is our first year using our own compost we made over the last several years and we are excited to see how things turn out. Each year we strive to improve our gardening techniques and move towards regenerative practices and closing loops wherever we can. We've introduced more chickens to our existing flock and plan to collect their manure to use in our cannabis garden. We make affirmation signs that are placed next to each cannabis plant to set our intentions for the garden. We care about our Eco system and never use pesticides, herbicides or liquid fertilizers. Gus really believes in the hands off approach and gives the plants water, love and compost and lets nature take care of the rest. Dendritic Agate is planted underneath the soil under each cannabis plant. It's known as the stone of plentitude and is effective in bringing abundance and fullness to all areas of life, including business and agriculture. It also has a strong connection with the plant kingdom and is used to enhance the yield of crops and maintain the health of plants. Plus we just like getting witchy with things! We experiment with flower essence potions, compost teas and this is our first year trying fermented plant juices.
Q: In addition to being a Mendo Gen farmer, you are also actively involved in the green renaissance be it a BOS meeting, working group and then some. Can you share with more about what it is that you do and why you do it?
A: [Mo] I care deeply about my community in Covelo and want to see everyone make it through this transition into the legal market. I felt like we didn't have representation when our 3rd district representative took a leave of absence. This left us without a supervisor during a very crucial moment of the cultivation ordinance process. I decided Covelo's voice needed to be heard and recognized. I became inspired by others in our county to get engaged and involved. So I did just that and started attending board meetings. From there, I formed the Covelo Cannabis Advocacy Group and host weekly meetings every Friday to keep folks informed of what's going on at the county and state level. Our group is amazing! People will show up to important board of supervisor meetings and are great at sending letters to state officials to encourage fair effective policy that will help us all be successful in the regulated market. I look forward to our Friday meetings each week and it's because of the amazing people that I continue to do this work. It's my personal goal to see my community survive this transition and thrive as a whole. "It's about the WE not the ME" is my mantra these days. I've also been actively involved in the county cannabis working groups on various topics and was just recently elected to the board of directors of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance. I'm so honored and grateful to be involved with this organization and I look forward to all the great things we can do as a county working together to see us all succeed. It's really an exciting time!
Q: What do you enjoying doing with your down time?
A: In our down time, Gus enjoys kayaking, spending time with our son Kahlo, camping and sipping on some quality organic coffee. I love going to antique flea markets, sewing, embroidering, silversmithing, playing with Kahlo and watching him grow. And we love throwing parties for our community!
Q: What does it mean to be a Mendo Gen farmer to you and why do you feel it is important?
A: We believe it's important for small farmers to stick together and help each other out and Mendocino Generations provides this important platform. It feels like a family and we love Chiah and Jamie and all they do to support us all as we navigate through uncharted territory.
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
A: We are passionate, dedicated and care deeply about the survival of all small farms and gardens like ours. It's our hope we can unite with others to blaze the path forward in providing healthy, potent, quality, honest, craft cannabis to consumers in the legal market. We must support small family farms in rural areas and lift each other up. It's not about scaling up but aligning with important values and it will always start with our communities. After all, a healthy community means that everyone is thriving and that should be the goal of every cannabis cultivator as we build this industry together.
To learn more about Sunbright Gardens, you may visit their website here and follow their journey here on Instagram. Have a Mendo Gen farm that you’d like to see featured on the blog? Let us know by writing firstname.lastname@example.org.