Sprawled across 80 acres along a mountainside, at an elevation of 4800 feet, Pilot Farm lies within an unpredictable ecosystem that would send many cannabis cultivators running to their indoor grow. For brothers Matthew and Christopher Dolinar, however, this challenge is part of the appeal. Their biodynamic Mt. Ashland farm is at the heart of their mission to put sustainable agriculture first—and to change the way people think about sun-grown cannabis.
The Dolinars started Pilot Farms a year and a half ago, combining Matthew’s passion for organic agriculture and medical cannabis with Christopher’s experience in startup culture. They’ve intentionally built their brand with an emphasis on organic practices and pesticide-free product. From the beginning, their team has included flower, fruit and vegetable farmers, as well as an Ayurvedic doctor.
“We sometimes use the hashtag #NerdFarm,” Christopher—who goes by “Dole”—laughs. “It’s a bunch of scientists with microscopes everywhere. Constantly looking at the compost, perfecting [the] recipes my brother has worked on for years, checking the plants and nutrient levels.”
This level of meticulous care is especially important here, in what Dole calls “the most complicated farming territory possible,” where temperatures can fall from 90 degrees to 40 in a few hours, and wild winds whip around the cascading canopy. Pilot Farm relies on native soil, compost teas, and the smallest level of intervention possible in an effort to let the plants fully express themselves in their natural environment. They add nutrients sparingly when necessary; they use no pesticides whatsoever. Dole describes their minimalist philosophy: “We don’t force the plant to be anything it doesn’t want to be on its own.”
Because they grow from seed only, and because their strains are all endemic to the region, they produce hearty varieties with complex terpene profiles. “It’s these extreme temperatures, this volatile environment, that makes our plants so unique,” explains Dole. The distinctive quality of their flower has caught the attention of consumers, and Pilot Farms has seized this opportunity to educate dispensaries around the state about the nuances of terpene combinations and the benefits of outdoor cultivation.
““We don’t force the plant to be anything it doesn’t want to be on its own.”
On the mountainside in Ashland, the Dolinars will continue to prioritize earth stewardship while stretching people’s conception of what outdoor cannabis is all about. “We’re not in this for any sort of exit,” Dole concludes. “Our intention is to do whatever it takes to make this a sustainable, legal market.”
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