The women who own Ebb & Flow Farm near Ashland are winning awards and branching out
What do you call two smart, spunky, funny women who create a cannabis farm and deal with a saturated recreational market by moving to other areas, mainly the immensely useful and marketable realm of hemp and, oh, btw, have a lot to say about sexism in the male-dominated world of ganja?
You call them Ebb & Flow. That’s the name of their farm, thriving off North Valley View near Ashland.
Amy Parscal and Lisa Denney came up with the name while doing Medicine Cards one night. The Ebb & Flow card came up over and over, and they noted: Isn’t the world all about that great cycle? You’re flush, then you’re lean. It’s winter, then summer. It’s not going to be flush all the time, like the Oregon pot market was in the dizzying months after legalization.
Who could not have predicted the flood of bud would satiate demand (and drop prices) in the harvest of September 2017?
Parscal and Denney researched and selected the best cultivars and branched out as the Cascade Hemp Collective, selling vast batches of hemp starts. During a recent visit to the farm, plant starts were getting loaded into a big truck as Denney double-high-fived the buyer, both celebrating this thriving new market.
Their big, plastic-covered greenhouses were almost empty after that, and Parscal and Denney grinned as they recounted their wins in the Cultivation Classic, a competition for craft cannabis produced in Oregon held in Portland in May. They took second place in outdoor type 2 hybrid, third for cookies, fifth for quantum Kush — all in very large fields of competitors, with “scientifically rigorous” blind-testing, “no voting for your friends cuz I really like ‘em.”
The women have been growers for 10 years. They met at a New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco in 2003, in their 20s, “a full connection instantly, a really great fit” on a range of common values and passions, says Denney, starting with permaculture, which is a model not just for growing plants, but for the planet and life itself.
They moved to the hamlet of Big Bend, between Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, lived off the grid and started growing medical weed. There they met Eviane Coton and Paul von Hartmann, who are still partner-managers in the business.
Shasta County banned outdoor grows (and they got tired of living off the grid), so the pair bought 160 acres in the Cascades east of Ashland, then, with legalization of recreational, moved to 10 acres just outside of Ashland.
Implicit in their vision is that nature knows best and does it right, and that means “growing outside is good, using all the natural resources and, of course, the sun. We do more good than harm to the Earth. We remediate the soil with minerals. It’s a reverence,” says Denney. “Organic, of course, but biodynamic is a giant step beyond organic.”
Imbued in all this is a deep and unabashed love for Earth.
“I’m from Ohio,” Denney says. “I’ve always loved cannabis. I’ve seen a lot of people go to jail for small amounts of it, but I had horrible migraines as a teenager and it totally made them go away.”
Coton observes, “We love the plants, and they love us. It’s a symbiosis.”
With legalization came dozens of new outdoor grows. Denney says many are not the highest quality, so they end up on the “bottom self” at dispensaries and “give outdoor grows a bad reputation. Outdoor has the lowest ecological footprint.”
“This plant is going to change the planet if we value discernment,” Denney says. “We have to stand up for the fact that outdoor is better than indoor.”
“Indoor may look so sparkly and pretty,” Parscal notes, “but when you break that nug open, it’s not always that way. Some indoor farmers are doing good because they grow in living soil, but most grow hydroponically.”
“Outdoor is Gaia-therapeutic and indoor is Gaia-cidal,” von Hartmann says.
The women look at themselves as scientists as much as farmers. With their shift to hemp, they are partnering with other growers in the Cascade Collective and are engaged in genetic research, increasing quality and using volume sales of hemp to pay for it, says Parscal.
A full-spectrum healing oil, which they call Herba Prima, has emerged from this.
“To survive in this industry, you need to diversity,” Parscal says.
The competition is changing, the women say, with increasing amounts of “big money flowing in from alcohol, tobacco and big pharma to buy up all the failed farms.”
Coton calls for a spirit of “co-creation and collaboration, not competition” in the business, and part of that is addressing its sexism or, as Denney calls it, the “bro-culture” of the industry.
“I feel I’m a pretty quiet person, but I have to yell to be heard and respected,” says Denney.
Parscal worked in IT for Dell, and “there are no (gender) issues in that industry, but here it’s on a different level. It’s been hard, the lack of respect. Women are less than 1 percent in this very bro-centric industry.”
She smiles, adding, “Let’s keep in mind it’s a female plant, and that’s where all the goodies are.”
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.