photo by John Miller
As the Sisters of the Valley made their way back from working alongside of Aubrey Plaza in the now viral movie promotion, they took a few moments to find their favorite version among the countless remixes since its release before getting back to work. Each Sister has around a decade of knowledge in their part of the cannabis medicine making process, culminating in just short of a century of experience about the needs, benefits and possibilities of the cannabis plant. With the new moon cycle starting in just days, packaging the fresh product would soon be underway, and there was still much more work to be done.
"The Weed Nuns"
Frequently referred to as “The Weed Nuns,” the Sisters of the Valley are known throughout the Central Valley region and across the world for their cannabis related activism and their holistic approach to cannabis cultivation. While all Sisters do take vows of devotion, activism, ecology, chastity, obedience, and living simply, those vows come from the influence of their Benguine Mothers, not the Catholic Church they are often mistakenly associated with. The Beguines, which predate Christianity, were a group of woman who lived together, dressed similarly, prayed with one another, and strived to keep women from poverty and provide them with prosperity and property. From making their way to local government meetings and championing job creation, to their pursuit of organic growth and minimizing their impact on the planet, the Beguines impact every aspect of the Sisters’ lives. Following in their footsteps, the Sisters live and work together, keeping their production schedules aligned with moon cycles. As the Sisters set in on their day’s work they perform a series of blessings with white sage and Palo Santo wood to cleanse the area’s spiritual energy. “For us, the cannabis plant is a feminine plant, and she gets offended if her environment isn’t clean. So for us, if you want potency, you need to treat it with respect and you don't let people leave cigarette butts, trash, and containers lying around.”
The particular types of cannabis that the Sisters work with is high cannabidiol (CBD) and low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), with the latter being the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. “We grow strains that come out to ten percent in CBD and less than one percent in THC.” She went on to note that they are working exclusively with strains of cannabis that have been selectively bred to have high levels of CBD, an antioxidant that has properties that are thought to protect the brain and its many functions, and low levels of THC. Their products are made from the whole plants, ensuring consistency in CBD to THC ratios, as shown through tests done by everyone from the Merced County Sheriff’s Office private labs, their cannabis is largely undesired by users looking for a psychoactive effect as marijuana that is smoked to get high typically ranges up around 20 percent. “Because of that, we know we’re safe, because the Sheriff’s Office was nice enough to share the report with us,” she said. In addition to ensuring their crop is grown in a clean environment, both spiritually and physically, Sister Kate pointed out that farm works with natural herbal tea mixtures that stimulate growth in a holistic way, ensuring that their growing process remains completely organic, without any need for hard industrial additives. “Every grower has their own attitudes, styles, and approach,” she said. In a time of continuing legalization at the state level, she went on to mention that their process continues to evolve as more information becomes readily available in the age of legalization. “It really depends on what we’re learning out in the world combined with what hydroponic stores have available. More and more they are catering to people who are growing in a natural and organic way.” Over the years, they have had dirt and water samples taken from the land by local students majoring in agriculture to ensure that their organic methods are finely tuned.
As they continue to perfect their methods, other agricultural and cannabis farmers in the area have begun to look to the Sisters of the Valley, hoping to work alongside of them and benefit from their knowledge of both organic farming and cannabis cultivation. “We would go and take a look at their farm, and it wouldn’t be organic, and so we wanted nothing to do with it and wanted it nowhere near our weed,” Sister Kate recalled. Over the years as the movements furthered themselves, the farms surrounding the Sisters of the Valley began changing, with all the surrounding land save for one holdout now using strictly organic practices. Sister Kate has seen a similar movement occur among other cannabis growers who have embraced the same practices in the last three or four years as they trade weed and pest killers for companion plants and ask the Sisters to perform blessings on their plants.
The drastic change in attitudes concerning the healing benefits of cannabis in the local and surrounding counties can also largely be attributed to the Sisters propensity to make their way into local government meetings where cannabis is the subject of conversation. “There are people in the Central Valley who have told us ‘we can’t grow cannabis because it stinks’ but in reality, because we have so much dairy, we need hemp and we need cannabis to mitigate the horrible smells that come with them.” She went on to say that if the Central Valley were to embrace hemp and cannabis, it would allow to production of both a new plant apart from those that currently cover the valley floor, as well as a variety of manufactured products that can be produced from the material, both of which could provide economic gains. “If there was ever a place that needed jobs, this is it,” Sister Kate noted. “We’re not in the psychoactive business, but I think some of them think we’re lying about that,” she continued, pointing to local lawmakers’ reluctance to embrace the many medicinal benefits and uses of cannabis. For those interested in learning more about the Sisters of the Valley or their CBD salves, oils, tinctures, soaps, and other products, they can be followed through social media or by logging onto SistersofCBD.com (all product pictures provided from www.sistersofcbd.com)