Tristan Strauss: Farming of the future: Cannabis and Santa Barbara County
Guest Commentary

Tristan Strauss: Farming of the future: Cannabis and Santa Barbara County

Cannabis farming is again under scrutiny as Santa Barbara County Supervisors considered amending cannabis policies. The local discussion on cannabis as a newly legal industry seems to never end. Cannabis farming is new to the area as a commercial product and raises questions for the local community.

My belief is that county residents will resolve the differences brought about by this cultivation and grow as a community from this sector. We can learn from each other and work together to find common ground as the cannabis farming sector matures and the notion is more widely accepted.

I am the President of CARP Growers, the cannabis farmers group in Carpinteria Valley, and CEO of Headwaters, a cannabis company that applies modern, data-driven methods to farming and distribution operations throughout the state.

Over the past several years I have associated with hundreds of industry professionals and politicians: skilled individuals who serve our county government and its planning department, neighbors in Carpinteria Valley who are dedicated to their community, and responsible farmers and business leaders in our nascent industry. This industry attracts compassionate young people who will be leaders in our communities for decades to come.

I’m not personally surprised by some of the opposition we have heard from county residents during this time. Cannabis has been persona non grata for 100 years, and those of us who legally operate in this industry are subject daily to the intensity of opinions and cultural friction surrounding our industry.

I believe that an honest assessment of our industry stands up to all scrutiny. In fact, those of us who are members of CARP Growers have welcomed thousands of members of the public onto our farms. We value transparency and operate in good faith with all neighbors and regulators. Let this serve as an open invitation for anyone in the county to ask questions of farmers and contact us for an opportunity to come over visit and create a dialog.

My company is organized like any company built to scale. Cannabis is a big opportunity for Santa Barbara County and the future of our economy. The commodity we produce is distributed throughout the state, and the profits from those sales bring an entirely new revenue stream into our area’s economy. The county should be applauded for its foresight in pioneering an effective model to support cannabis in its agricultural portfolio.

Cannabis has been established in Carpinteria for nearly five years now, so there is already data we can analyze and objectively measure. Carpinteria is the only city in the county that saw a decline in its crime rate. There were fears that cannabis would cause a decline in home values and tourism, but recent data, shows exactly the opposite.

Carpinteria’s tourism and real estate excelled in the period leading up to 2019, a period when cannabis farming was fully operational. Agricultural employment has grown and remains the top employer in Carpinteria Valley.

Life in Carpinteria continues to improve, and through our farmers group, cannabis farmers are dedicated to helping our community thrive. We’ve already seen the added tax revenues from cannabis provide critical support to the county in a time of crisis.

I can acknowledge that intermittent odor issues linger, and our solutions have been imperfect. We have not yet arrived at optimal odor containment, but we work toward this goal every day, both by tightening existing operations and testing new technologies. Let us be clear and understand that odor elimination is a shared goal between this industry and our neighbors, it is only a matter of when not if.

Our neighbors are smart and care deeply about Carpinteria and Santa Barbara County. The same is true for my colleagues who have chosen to work with cannabis farmers rather than against us. My hope is we continue to move forward by better understanding the benefits of cannabis farming. I advocate for a continued dialog and peace in the Santa Barbara County cannabis deadlock, and that we move forward together on common ground with a spirit of resolution and an eye toward a productive and cooperative future for all county residents.

Tristan Strauss is President of CARP Growers, a cannabis farmers group in the Carpinteria Valley.

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