This spring, the Emerald Tribune was invited on a tour of a large sungrown cannabis farm, deep in the hills of Southern Humboldt. We braved the treacherous county roads and intermittent rain to reach a sprawling cannabis estate, nestled in the rolling hills where the three counties of the Emerald Triangle meet.
Driving out to the farm was a long and perilous journey. We slowly crawled along winding mountain roads, carefully traversing potholes half the size of our vehicle.
There were some places where the pavement appeared to drip and melt off the side of the hill, and a few miles down the street it bubbled and broke into deep fissures. Neighbors say the roads are better now than they have been in decades. How many millions of dollars worth of cannabis drive along these pock-marked roads every year?
Along the way, we took a few wrong turns down mistaken driveways. One of these brought us to a farm with large hoop houses right next to the house and the driveway. Any fears we may have had about the armed and dangerous neighbors were unfounded. A very nice young lady came out of the house and directed us along the right path.
Finally, we arrived at the right place. The homestead was a clean and well-kept two-story wooden home among the trees, with no hoop houses or cannabis plants in sight. The farmer came out to greet us and begin the tour.
The farmer grew up in these hills, on a property nearby. His parents were back-to-the-landers, hippies who home-schooled their children and bathed them in a metal tub.
His first experiences with cannabis came from doing grunt work on neighboring farms. He dug holes, buried water lines, and did other essential farm chores for just $5 per hour. If you ask him today, he’ll tell you that he owes all of his success to those neighbors, and the entire community.
As a child, the farmer used to explore around the hills surrounding his family’s lot. He talked to farmers on neighboring parcels, and learned all about the area. By the time he was ready to buy at 19, he already knew what he wanted.
He leveraged everything he had saved up, and took out loans with incredible interest rates in order to afford his first lot. Back then, the land was worth almost nothing. These farms are hours from the nearest town. Isolation and rocky mountain roads made it difficult to build and get materials.
After a while, he expanded into another large nearby parcel. Eventually, his parent’s property came on the market, and he acquired that as well. Now he has a large acreage combined of many properties.
The house began as a small cement pad and a one room cabin, which, over the course of 30 years, has evolved into a large and comfortable homestead. It’s hard to imagine such humble beginnings when you look at all the plush furniture in the outdoor dining room.
You can still feel the echoes of those early days in some parts of the home. That seminal cement pad has become a mudroom. Other parts of the home are absolutely palatial, like the Alpine-inspired breakfast bar, where you can sit among the trees and look across the valley at the farm.
After touring the home, we hopped into a 4-seat side-by-side and roared across a beautiful valley of golden grass and a chaparral landscape to the grow site. We passed a rain catchment pond, surrounded by mossy fallen trees, and a little house specially designed to hold big drums of natural gas.
Before we reached the plants, we passed a vegetable garden with a yard full of plump and talkative chickens. A little greenhouse there was full of lettuce starts, and the door was lined with rainbow prayer flags. A tie-dyed SoHum scarecrow kept watch over neat and tidy rows of kale.
From the garden, we walked over to the two-story drying house. On one side of the drying room was a gigantic sliding door, which opened up the entire ground floor to let in light and air. The room was lined with linoleum floors to aid cleanup and sanitization. The gigantic stalks of bud hung floor to ceiling, with barely any space below to crouch and crawl in the polleny darkness.
In addition to chickens, the farm hosts a whole herd of goats and a small flock of sheep. We couldn’t get a picture of the sheep, but we heard all about them. The farmer’s wife makes cannabis-infused sheepsmilk ice cream, sometime using a home-made water-wheel powered ice cream machine. The sheep and lambs have their own caretakers, and very nice accomodations.
Finally, we reached the plants. Long rows of hoophouses climbed up the side of the hill. There were more than I could count, each one bursting with fragrant, dark green leaves. A large greenhouse was filled to capacity with starts.
This cannabis estate lies in the very heart of the Emerald Triangle. Standing among the hoophouses, the farmer pointed out the hills nearby that fell in Trinity County, and which ones fell in Mendocino County.
A crew of young men, many of them brothers, oversee day-to-day farm management. Some of them like to sleep in a big circular building that overlooks the fruits of their labor. Workers can spend time outside while working, and sleep comfortably on the property at night.
The final segment of the tour took us around another rainwater catchment pond for some more scenic mountain views, before returning to the homestead. Looking back across the valley at the neat hoophouses of the farm, it was hard to imagine how far we had come.
The Emerald Tribune takes you behind the scenes to the most fascinating farms in Humboldt County.
Whose farm should we feature next?
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