CC in Cannabioland
On Assignment for CC
The Cannabioland marijuana farm is located in the tiny village of Litzistorf, a half hour train ride from Bern, the capital of Switzerland. I came on assignment from Cannabis Canada, to capture the legendary Swiss marijuana fields on film. I was travelling with Jeremy, manager of the Hemp BC store.
We first saw the dark green fields as we were walking on the overpass from the tiny train station. The size of the fields induced some doubt, but as we approached the plants they became more distinguishable and all doubts quickly vanished. We were elated to find cannabis bushes everywhere.
We soon met Klaus, a German covered in green plant material wielding huge clippers. After a sticky handshake we were looking and smelling beautiful green godesses, some towering above our heads.
Walking through the barnyard we noticed ganja plants growing all over the place: by the compost, in the vegetable garden, amongst the apple trees.
We soon came across makeshift drying shacks and a group of Cannabioland employees. They were all wearing green farm pants and the Swiss “ganja cow” t-shirts, and they were busy shucking dried cannabis plants of all sizes. They encouraged us to explore the amazing sight before our eyes.
The Educational Aromatherapy Trail
We reached up, bending the huge colas to nose level, inhaling a multitude of fragrances which rivalled any aromatherapy centre. The feeling of standing amidst hundreds of enormous cannabis plants freely basking under the late summer sun, amongst fields of corn, sunflowers and cows, was an exhilarating emotional rush.
I have been photographing cannabis plants for a few years, but the amount of different varieties surrounding us was phenominal. There were two-foot single cola Afghanis, six-foot multi-coloured bushes, and ten-foot christmas trees. The full rainbow spectrum of colours was represented within the hundreds of different varieties. Some were full of seeds and others were close to sensimilla.
Jeremy and I followed the educational trail, reading the information plaques as much as my German allowed. The signs informed visitors of the many different uses of this remarkable plant: fuel, building materials, clothes, food and medicine.
The trail led to an opening in the field where there was a big white tent, under which the Swiss Hemp Co were selling different cannabis products.
There were hand and body oils, shampoos, beer and liquors with buds in the bottle and cannabis herb tea. People with medical marijuana prescriptions were able to buy large bags of dried cannabis or even whole plants.
A Smoke before Supper
We didn’t actually smoke any Swiss cannabis until later that evening. In Switzerland you are allowed to grow and possess cannabis, but the use or sale of cannabis just for drug purposes is still illegal. Yet after touring the fields all day with no smoke I wanted to try the medicinal qualities of the herbs.
That opportunity came when we were invited to dinner by some farmhands. While a huge meal was being prepared we were joined by Ed Rosenthal and Chris Simuenek from High Times magazine, and Meila the pollinator lady. Judging by the amount of cannabis in the Swiss fields, Meila will need to increase the size of her pollinators.
While the majority of the Swiss buds tasted great and were very smooth, I found that most lacked strong medicinal effects, providing only a mild, working high. The big jar of trichromes, however, took care of any shortcomings.
Supper was served just as the side effects took effect. All the vegetables were organically grown in the house garden. The hearty Swiss meal was by far the best meal of the trip, my kudos to the chefs.
After supper I talked to the farmhands about their jobs. I learned that harvest started in the waning days of August. Their mornings begin with a walk around the fields looking for ripe plants to be chopped. They let the plants dry in the sun for a while, then load them into tractors to be transported to various barns, where they are hung to dry. The work is hard, hot and sticky, and there is no puffing on the job.
Buds, buds, buds. . .
The next day I returned to Cannabioland with a new arsenal of film and resumed photographing. I entered the large greenhouse bordering the field, where I was dwarfed by the massive cannabis plants. . . bushes. . . trees! They were grown in the dirt floor of the greenhouse, and with the protective canopy were able to reach staggering sizes. Some of the plants had stalks the size of my head, not to mention the size of the buds. Many of the colas were larger than most plants ever get.
Again the variety was amazing, ranging from airy foxtailed Sativas, to super tight christmas trees, to sprawling bushes. A few of the plants were bent along the top of the twelve-foot high ceiling. I climbed up a ladder to get a giraffe’s view of this cannabis jungle, and spotted a few tomato plants that someone had snuck in! Some people!
Later, Ed Rosenthal and I raced the shadows cast by the descending autumn sun, photographing as many different plants in the fields as possible. Every time we turned around there was something new to see. The plants in this smaller field had been better taken care of: they were healthier and had less mold. More diligent male eradication and the protection provided by the trees resulted in more sensimilla than among their more open sisters.
That night, after another delicious dinner, I followed an American friend up a metal ladder through a hole in the floor of a large hayloft. I felt like I was spelunking in a dream cave, as the buds seemed to stretch down at me like stalactites from every possible hanging space.
Their collective odour was one of the finest a cannabis enthusiast’s olfactory senses could ever come across, and once again my nose was doing the Toucan Sam.
I explored the the different chambers, and found one room which consisted of levels of chicken wire mesh holding only colas. The drying tops were spilling over the sagging wire. Another smaller room was used for trimming.
I was inadvertantly stepping and leaning on buds in various stages of drying, trying to fit as many buds in my frame as possible. A fish-eye lens wouldn’t even have been adequate.
After the plants had hung for a week they were quickly trimmed and then sorted into three piles, depending upon the quantity of seeds. Heavily seeded buds were sold to hempseed producers, while the lightly seeded were used as aromatherapy or screened for trichromes. The best seedless buds were nicely trimmed and bagged to be cured longer and then sold as medical marijuana.
Since I had no film left I traded in my camera for scissors and joined the rest of the crew in manicuring the huge harvest. Scissors in hand, I worked at a large wood bench covered in glass with a raised fine mesh screen. We continued the arduous task of clipping the huge harvest.
The barn had already been filled and emptied three times. At first I was neatly trimming the colas, but after seeing the rate at which my coworkers’ piles were shrinking I changed techniques. With the amount of plants drying and many more still in the field there was no time for pretty trim jobs. I transformed from Edward Scissorhands into an army barber pigshaving buds.
A Hopeful Goodbye
Soon it was time to go to the