A Vermont cannabis farmer has attracted some unwanted attention from his community and neighbors due to some unconventional employees on his cannabis farm: 30 ducks of all shapes, sizes and breeds.
Jason Struthers of Essex Junction, Vermont grows 100 licensed cannabis plants at his property. He uses duck manure to fertilize those plants after he bought them to use as meat but opted to let them hang out a while instead.
“I actually bought the ducks initially to use them as meat. But I became attached to them too quickly and didn’t want to slaughter them all,” Struthers said to MyNBC5. “And I was also very new to the process and didn’t really understand it. So I just incorporated it into a permaculture.”
Struthers told High Times the duck manure is more useful to him than other fertilizer options because of the speed at which it’s ready to use in his garden. He said this came in handy particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when supplies across all economic sectors were scarce and highly inflated.
“I have created a duck permaculture. Duck manure is one of the few that can be added directly to gardens without composting or fermentation,” Struthers said. “I’ve been able to create the vast majority of my organic fertilizer needs with the ducks. During COVID, organic fertilizers (everything actually) [were] scarce and extremely expensive. I was able to avoid all that with my ducks.”
Struthers has over seven varieties of ducks now and his cannabis farm appears to be running strong. However, some of his neighboring community members have voiced concerns both to Struthers and to community leaders about both the smell of the cannabis and the sound of the ducks.
“I have ducks of several different varieties. Pekin, Muscovy, Khaki Campbell, Cayuga, Poofy Heads, Swedish Blue, and hybrids of each that have interbred,” Struthers told High Times. “My neighbors want me to move because they are very sensitive to smell and sound. They don’t like my cannabis or my ducks.”
According to MyNBC5, Struthers cannabis farm is in a bit of a gray area because you’re technically not allowed to have a “farm” in his neighborhood. Struthers lives in an R-1 zone, which does not allow for farms, but his cannabis cultivation license originally protected him from having to relocate his ducks in a ruling by the Essex Junction Development Review Board.
However, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture officially designated Struthers’ property a farm in May of this year. This caused the review board to reverse their decision during a review of the case in September. They told Struthers he could keep his cannabis plants, but the ducks had to go.
One of Struthers neighbors who is currently involved in litigation against Struthers and his mallard companions told MyNBC5 that Struthers’ cannabis farm has made life rather unpleasant for those living around him.
“It really impacts us just not being able to enjoy our outside, you know, our lot. We can enjoy the inside, mostly. But if we go outside, then we’re subject to the smells, the noises,” said Wille Padnos, Struthers’ neighbor, to MyNBC5.
Both Struthers and Padnos reportedly filed appeals in response to the review board’s decision. Struthers filed an appeal to keep his ducks and Padnos filed an appeal to make Struthers move his cannabis farm and the ducks somewhere else entirely.
Struthers has not yet given up on his ducks. According to MyNBC5, the process of going through both appeals in court could take months until the fate of the ducks and the weed has been decided. However, the court could decide to fine Struthers as much as $200 per day while the proceedings take place if he opts to keep his ducks.
“H.270 was specifically tailored to protect people like me from municipalities like the City Of Essex Junction. They can not make me stop Cannabis farming unless the legislation is changed,” Struthers said. “The city council recently drafted a letter to representatives, asking to do just that. I will be writing to the same legislators, asking not only to maintain the protections H.270 provides to small cultivators, but to strengthen them.”