Everyone has a rooted memory from childhood that carries with you through life. Mine is trying to carry squash from my grandparents garden up to the house for dinner. I’m clumsy in step, but proud to be part of an experience that has my grandparents in smiles. The Harvest. A culmination of early mornings and sweaty humid days in the hot northern Minnesota sun. Daily turning of the compost and perfect rows of wooden lattice built by the trade hands of a Swedish farmer who knew nothing other than pride in his work and love of the food that followed. The squash in question, is twice the size of me and obscuring my site while I fumble for each step up the hill back home. My grandparents laughing behind me because 50 years of farming laid the foundation for vegetables larger than their grandchildren…I was hooked.
Looking back on that harvest gives me more insight than any botany degree from Montana State College could have ever provided. It taught me about patience. Patience in learning from your achievements and your mistakes from one season to the next. Patience in the weather, patience in the deer, patience in the building of fertile soil until you reach the apex of a true living and breathing ecosystem. Farming is my meditation and if you don’t have one of your own, I suggest you pick up a shovel and go flip some compost.
As I got older, I carried that first harvest with me. I found new gardens and new ways of fulfilling that end of year celebration and culmination of a job well done. I built cold frames on the sides of swamps for the chilly autumn climate of northern Minnesota. I covered my tracks with pine bows like an eraser washes chalk from a board. I carried buckets of water miles into the woods. Far enough in where no one was watching…except my garden. I have spent over half my life cultivating cannabis and I enjoyed every second of it.
I spent my twenties in what was once a sleepy cowboy town called Bozeman, MT. Skiing the local mtn by day and a master of the custodial arts in the chalets by nights…with the occasional cannabis plant growing around the corner. The whole time living a dream for myself and for people like my father who vicariously plunged through the snow next to me 1,000 miles away and sometimes from a hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN…Dad had been diagnosed with a rare form of Sarcoma some years before I hopped on the wagon and headed west and his prognosis was uncertain.
The Mayo really had no treatment for Dad, other than surgery to remove the metastasis as they played hopscotch around his body. And that was his life…The uncertainty from one day to the next, of whether another tumor would grow, or life would give him lemonade and the tumors took a couple years off. Then in 2011 I had the pleasure of meeting a man who would change the course of my life forever.
His name was Bruce, and Bruce had also been given the news of some cancer of his own. But there was something off about Bruce…He never appeared to show signs of fatigue or anything indicating that his health was in decline. He was an incredibly jovial human being hung up on nothing other than farming. Farming fruit trees, farming veggies, fruits and…cannabis. That weekend meeting Bruce and his son turned into a blur. We talked for hours about his experience with ingesting cannabis oil derived from the plant and how it ultimately saved his life and kept him smiling in the garden and flipping compost every day. At the end of the weekend, they sent me home with some research to do on my own, albeit skeptical as hell to what I had just heard and experienced to be true.
So I began reading…And reading turned into tinkering…And tinkering turned into formulating and by 2012 my life had a direction outside of a mop bucket and torn ACL. I enrolled at MSU in the school of agriculture and began studying plants in text books by day and studying my own plants at home by night with a whole new lens. I was given a skill that is almost as old as humanity, handed down by my grandparents to me and it was time to put it to use. It was at this time that I walked into the Bozeman Deaconess Cancer. I introduced myself and plead my case that cancer was my focus and that I felt I could help folks given the chance, through the use of cannabis as medicine.
In 2013 I was given that chance and have spent my time since Bent on how this wonderful plant can be manipulated in ways to help more people. The more people I met and the more desperate the situations became, the harder I dug in looking for answers. Those answers are lying inside a multitude of different chemovars of the cannabis plant. Each one showing me something new and exciting, so I came up with formulations to help just about any ailment modern medicine can list.
I lost a lot of friends that I have made in the past 6 years, but I have gained a lifetime of memories spent with them and their families during the most challenging points of their lives. At a certain point, when you spend enough time watching people you care about suffer it changes you…warps and bends you. You have two choices from that point forward…walk away, or trust in the path laid out in front of you and go flip some more compost.
By Matt Kleman