An interview with greenthumb Madrone Stewart about embracing cannabis cultivation, writing her first book, and inspiring others to get their hands dirty.
Madrone Stewart is the author of Feminist Weed Farmer: Growing Mindful Medicine in Your Own Backyard (out now via Microcosm Publishing) and she’s intimately familiar with what she writes — and smokes.
Based in Humboldt County, California — one corner of what is known as The Emerald Triangle — Madrone has harvested a wealth of knowledge and experience in homegrown cannabis cultivation, all of which she communicates powerfully in her book. Feminist Weed Farmer also explores the lessons Madrone has picked up from meditation and the challenges she’s faced as a female farmer in the male-dominated pot industry.
Feminist Weed Farmer is an entirely practical how-to guide that’s both soulfully written and witty, brimming with great ideas and tremendous heart. That description also applies to the book’s author, who chatted with MERRY JANE about how the text came to fruition, her goals to “inspire liberation” among women, queer folks, and people of color, and her future plans to focus on psychedelics-assisted therapy.
MERRY JANE: When did you originally realize the healing and enlightening power of cannabis?
Madrone Stewart: I am embarrassed to say that it was not exactly an insight; rather, it was by listening to Terrence McKenna rant and rave about the healing power of cannabis. He refers to it as a compound that heals us spiritually, psychologically, and culturally. When smoked, it brings people together; it encourages sharing and empathy. It also helps us to chill out, which is something most of us need!
It has only been in the past few years that I have used cannabis to take deep dives into my subconscious mind in order to better understand how I function in this world. It has felt like dream analysis and I have found it to be very helpful.
How did you first get into growing weed?
I was living at a Zen center and heard about trim jobs. I wanted to make a little money so that I could move to Oakland, have money for a deposit on an apartment, and to even buy a car.
A friend of mine connected me to a cannabis farm in Humboldt and it was pretty soon after arriving there that I made the internal decision to stay in this small town. It was tiny, only a few hundred people, all tucked into this mountain valley. The landscape was rugged, stunning, and felt magical to me.
I was able to continue living at this farm after the trim season ended as I wrote a book about my experience. Once the book was written, it was time to help the farm with late winter, early spring chores. The rest is history. I worked on dozens of farms in the area and eventually started my own.
What specific elements motivated you to start growing and cultivating weed on a larger scale?
I was working with a farmer who constantly encouraged me to buy land and start my own farm. He knew that I was capable and how economically empowering it would be to run my own scene. Farmers, who are usually men, typically make 10 times what trimmers, who are usually women, make. We were both aware of this economic disparity, and with his push I started formulating a plan.
I helped run part of his farm for a while and managed a woman’s harvest one year. When I was blessed with the financial support to buy my own property, I felt like it was time to put all of the lessons I had learned to the test. The first year, I nearly failed, but things only got better from then on. I also like this quote, “What do you get when you don’t get what you want? An experience.” That first year, I did not get the kind of yields I wanted, but I did get a tremendous learning experience.
What was the learning curve like as you developed your own cannabis cultivation systems and techniques?
Most of the big learning happened in my first year, and it primarily had to do with pest management. I learned a life-long lesson: bad things happen to good people and it is not personal. The second year, I developed a pest prevention and eradication plan, which relied on organic compounds. Once I prepared myself for disaster, things went much better when pests inevitably arrived.
I also learned that, for me, projects are about the process first and the outcome second. I had to create systems of working with people that felt respectful, empowering ,and sometimes enjoyable, for all parties. Developing respectful and ideally compassionate relationships with the people I worked with made the experience more worthwhile. I was certainly interested in growing big, beautiful plants, but not at the cost of my mental or spiritual health — or the health of those working with me.
I came to understand that a successful project meant the thriving of me, the folks working with me, my plants, and the land. The aperture opened up on the project so that all of these components became important, not just economic success.
What were some obstacles you faced when entering the cannabis industry?
Initially, I felt like not being part of a boys’ network of growers was an obstacle, but overtime it felt like a blessing. I was able to sustain a level of privacy and integrity in my business life that was difficult for the boys around town.
The biggest obstacle I faced was the constant fear of either being robbed or arrested. What I was doing was legal according to state law, but the cultivation of cannabis remains a federal crime, for which I felt like could be punished at anytime. As a woman, I felt particularly vulnerable to theft, and this left me feeling very anxious around harvest time.
What made it important for you, as a woman of color, to write a pot-growing guide?
I feel like I am serving as a model for all women, folks of color, and weirdos of all stripes to follow your dreams — even when they are unusual. Do it! Be you! Be weird! My next dream is even weirder than my first and I’m so excited! I hope to work as a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist. I think that women, queer folks, and folks of color need as many sources of inspiration to follow our dreams as possible. I want to inspire liberation!
This book is meant to do two things: inspire people to become clear about their dreams and experiences that they want to cultivate, and second, to teach folks how to grow good pot.
The recipes in the book are amazing! Which one stands out most for you?
I was unsure if I would include the canna-pre-lube recipe because I knew my family would read the book and I felt self-conscious about that part. However, I’m glad that it was left in; hopefully it helps lots of horny people have better sex!
What do you see as the future of personal pot cultivation?
I think that as the stigma around pot decreases and it becomes legal across all 50 states, personal pot cultivation will really take off. People of all walks of life love pot, from grandmas to doctors to chefs. You name it — they love pot. Growing it at home is cheaper than buying it, and it’s a whole lot of fun.
What’s next for you?
I am in school studying clinical psychology. I hope, one day, to work legally as a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist. I am also learning how to play the harp and hope to become really good as I get older.