Sonoma cannabis grower gains statewide recognition for ‘living soil’
Moon Valley Cannabis founder Eli Buffalo is the only indoor cannabis grower in Sonoma Valley, but his success with “living soil” has garnered acclaim far outside the Valley of the Moon.
Buffalo and Moon Valley Cannabis has won first in most eco-friendly indoor facility at the Emerald Cup in 2021, third place for hash at the Emerald Cup in 2023, and first place for its “Hawaiian Snowcone” strain at the statewide Transbay Challenge in Los Angeles on Oct. 21.
“We beat all of them and took first place overall for best flower in the state,” Buffalo said of his unique growing style. “They're not going to have the same expressions, the same cannabinoid profile, the same terpene profile, they're not going to have that similarity.”
Buffalo has grown cannabis in Sonoma County since 2005 and founded Moon Valley Cannabis in 2015 as a medicinal marijuana producer. When California voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016, Buffalo pivoted toward recreational cannabis and opened his own shop in 2018.
His growing methods differ from others — whereas other growers will replace soil each season or add fertilizer to recharge the soil, Buffalo relies on the use of “living” soil. Worms, roly-polies, spiders and other insects inhabit the soil and create a self-sustaining mini-ecosystem for the plants to thrive.
“We fill them with soil one time and we don't ever change that soil ever,” Buffalo said. “It's built as like a living soil blend. So it's comprised of peat moss, compost, different minerals … essentially it’s a good place for biology to thrive.”
Buffalo and childhood friend Josh Wegleitner have developed the soil over years through intuition about what’s best for the soil.
“We're trying to provide, essentially, a giant buffet within our soil for that plant to be able to uptake whatever it wants whenever it,” Buffalo said. “We're not we're not necessarily feeding our plant, we're feeding the soil.”
The soil beds, measuring 18 inches tall, 4 feet wide and running the length of his grow house, stand on rolling wheels that can moved to maintain a 36-inch walkway, in compliance with Sonoma County regulations.
Large challenges remain in the regulation and taxation of cannabis for Buffalo, however.
“The taxing here in Sonoma County, it’s a (sic) joke. They did a big reform and they helped out all the outdoor growers and pretty much just screwed all the indoor growers,” Buffalo said. “And that kind of made people like me have to deal with the ramifications of that — like it just tripled our tax rate.”
Sometimes, Buffalo misses the simplicity of his former career as a motorcycle mechanic when he compares to the ropes and ladders of cannabis regulations.
Cultivating cannabis, he admits, is a lot more enjoyable.
Buffalo and other cannabis growers held a panel discussion at SPARC dispensary on Sonoma Highway on Oct. 26 to describe the successes and ongoing issues for the cannabis industry. And many Sonoma Valley growers likened the current moment for California cannabis as “after the gold rush,” where the initial rush of growers into the market has dissipated and left only the most dedicated growers.
The results are hard to argue with for Buffalo, who appears to have a marijuana-Midas touch: Everything he touches turns to green, and that green turns to gold medals.
“The way that we're growing is different,” Buffalo said. “Nobody can produce the plant the same way that we can.”