HOPLAND – The Real Goods Solar Living Center in Hopland, a lush 12-acre pitstop along Highway 101 showcasing sustainable and off-the-grid living, was sold to Flow Kana cannabis company.
Flow Kana acquired the 12-acre property from John Schaeffer, Solar Living Center founder and a pioneer in the solar energy movement, for an undisclosed price. The property in Mendocino County’s southernmost town has lured about 200,000 visitors a year into its solar demonstration sites and gardens since its opening in 1996.
Michael Steinmetz, Flow Kana co-founder and CEO, said he plans to revamp the property and eventually add a visitors center and cannabis museum while keeping the original mission to teach people about sustainable living.
“We want this site to hold dear and true the values of (Mendocino) county and showcase that and share those,” Steinmetz said. “We’d love this to be the first stop for cannabis tourism at large where people can find out about hotels, hikes, rivers, trails. The idea is for them to be able to experience and learn what they can do in the region.”
For more than 50 years, cannabis and the back-to-the land movement have been defining features of Mendocino County and its neighboring Emerald Triangle counties of Humboldt and Trinity.
Flow Kana buys cannabis from about 200 small organic farms in northern California to sell under the company’s banner, showcasing the farmers and signature products such as Willie’s Reserve, a line of prerolled joints and cannabis flower for Willie Nelson.
The property sale doesn’t include three tenants on the site: Real Goods solar products retailer, Schaeffer’s educational nonprofit Solar Living Institute and the Emerald Pharms cannabis dispensary run by Santa Rosa-based CannaCraft. Steinmetz said those tenants will continue operating and Schaeffer will stay on in an advisory role for about two years. Steinmetz said he doesn’t expect to make major changes to the Hopland property this year.
Schaeffer said he’s been looking for the right person or organization to buy the property from him for years, but he was waiting for a buyer with a similar mission and a commitment to preserving the property’s public education programs. He said he’s been keeping an eye on Flow Kana since 2017, when the company bought a ranch formerly owned by the Fetzer family in Redwood Valley, establishing its headquarters there. He’s convinced the company’s stated mission to promote regenerative farming and sustainable practices is a genuine one.
“I came to the conclusion they had the vision closest to mine, they believe in regenerative agriculture, biodynamics, natural building,” Schaeffer said. “They offered a lot of resources.”
He and Flow Kana officials began serious talks about a transaction in December and closed the deal Thursday.
Flow Kana has opened aggregation hubs in Laytonville and Whitethorn in Humboldt County, where marijuana growers sell their harvests, which are brought to the company’s main production and manufacturing center on the former Fetzer ranch in Redwood Valley.
The company has raised $175 million since 2014 to create a statewide supply chain for cannabis grown on small farms. Steinmetz said his company plans to expand its network of farmers and launch new partnerships with local cooperatives with collection sites.
The company recently launched a community-supported agriculture program to encourage cannabis farmers to diversify their crops and support other local farmers, Steinmetz said. The produce goes to Flow Kana’s 250 employees and staff at participating dispensaries.