The New York State Finger Lakes is uniquely positioned to be the perfect setting for cannabis farming and cultivation. With a robust farming economy already in place, Finger Lakes farmland is more productive than 90% of the land on our entire planet. The region is most famously known for its viticulture and hop farming. They say the secret is in the soil, but that’s not all that Finger Lakes has to offer the cannabis industry.
The New York Finger Lakes Region is quite literally the perfect setting for cannabis farming and cultivation. Its glacier-formed hillsides and layers of nutrient-rich sedimentary rock and soil offer the perfect environment for one of the best grape-growing regions in the world. Prior to Prohibition, the Finger Lakes region was the #1 producer of hops for the nation’s beer industry.
So what makes Finger Lakes soil so perfect for these types of crops? The region holds many layers of terroir dating back thousands of centuries that include limestone, shale, sand, and clay. The ideal soil for cannabis farming is called loam, a soil coincidently defined as holding the perfect balance of sand, silt, and clay. Its varying layers of sedimentary rock are not only rich in minerals and nutrients but also help create a soil pH level of around 6.9. For reference, a pH level of 6.0 is considered the perfect environment for cannabis.
The other environmental element ideal for cannabis cultivation? Drainage. The glacially formed hillsides of the Finger Lakes and its loose soil types are ideal for properly aerating excess water.
Commerce & Tourism
The soil in the Finger Lakes region is prime for cannabis farming and cultivation, but the advantages don’t stop there. In 2018, a report confirmed that .56 million people visited the Finger Lakes wine country and spent a total of $2.43 billion (about $8 per person in the entire US) in tourism that year alone. With visitors flooding the area to enjoy lake views from vineyards and hop from tasting room to tasting room, a booming leisure tourism economy already exists for cannabis to build on. The same 2018 study revealed that the primary reason for visiting this area is recreational weekend travel, with 81% of visitors staying overnight and visitors as a whole averaging stays of 3.4 days. These consumer habits supply plenty of opportunities for cannabis farms to capitalize on.
Perhaps most importantly for long-term success, the Finger Lakes region is already investing in cannabis education. Being in such preliminary stages of cannabis legalization and a far cry from federal legalization, robust education programs are hard to find.
Finger Lakes Community College offers a Cannabis Biology & Cultivation track in its horticulture program. Recognizing the growing market for the consumer, medicinal, and industrial uses of cannabis, students in this track will gain a historical, legal, and wellness perspective on this complex plant. Courses teach garden cultivation and management skills, including the understanding and application of cannabis plants.
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, also offers tracks and special interests in industrial hemp and cannabis biology. The school received strong state funding for research on hemp varietals best for the region, cultivar development, and societal barriers to the industry.
Cannabis legalization has only just begun in New York State, but there are already growers staking their claim in the Finger Lakes region. Head & Heal, a USDA certified organic CBD farm located in Cortland, offers a large product line of CBD-infused wellness products. Tap Root Fields, Honest Pharm Co., and Seneca Hemp Co. are just a few others in the area worth noting.
The future of the cannabis industry in New York is bright, and it’s likely we’ll get a front-row seat in watching the Finger Lakes become a world-class epicenter for cannabis cultivation.