Farm Report #8: Whither or Wither?

Humboldt County’s marijuana crop brings in about $300-$500 million annually, while the rest of the county’s $3.6 billion dollar economy comes from cattle and dairy, education, forestry, wildlife, construction, lumber, fishing, media, non-profits, tourism, wellness, restaurants and retail.

The local community radio station KMUD gives reports of fixed wing aircraft, helicopters and law enforcement movements. They are supported by donations for the growers, as are numerous community service clinics, non-profits and businesses. One grower told me that many small businesses were opened by people who would have found a way to be successful no matter where they were. But the infusion of cash for start up didn’t hurt.

With legalization will come some problems as well as a potential economic downturn if prices don’t hold. And there’s a good chance weed won’t stay at $3,000 to $5,000/lb.

What Humboldt has going for it is a lot of what Napa and Sonoma Counties have with regards to wine, what the French call terroir, a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region belonging to a specific appellation and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grape and wine-making knowledge, all of which combine to give its specific personality to the wine. Can branding and appellation help keep Humboldt afloat?

Humboldt weed is legendary, whether grown indoor or out. Will legalization change that? Most plants are clones, so technically, Mr. Nice or any number of varieties could spread like, well, weeds. Is appellation possible? Co-ops could be formed like the dairy co-ops, organic certification is possible, outdoor vs indoor labeling…but is that viable?

Can Humboldt create a pot tourism industry like Napa’s wine tourism industry, and to a smaller extent Los Olivos, and build on what is already there in the gorgeous county? Does it want to?

Humboldt has a strong organic food and farming base, plus wineries and breweries. Loleta Farms raises its own cows and makes their cheese right in their shop in Loleta. Loleta also has an organic bakery that uses locally grown wheat and fruit. Cypress Grove Chevre makes Humboldt Fog and other goat cheeses. Grass-fed beef is the norm; pork and lamb are also raised, and yes, I saw “meat rabbits” at the county fair, but that’s not likely to be a major retail food anytime soon. Locally grown fruit and vegetables abound. Add in an art scene, a film festival, performing arts, the Victorian homes of Ferndale, and you have a really sweet area for vacationing, an hour flight from San Francisco, two hours from LAX–when it’s not fogged in.

Can all that–combined with the ocean, rivers, and lush mountain scenery, river rafting, surfing, and eco-tourism–plus legal artisanal pot help lure tourists? We’ll see in the next year or so. There’s still a harvest to be brought in before the election, and November 2 there’s a Legalize Pot rally at the Veterans Hall.

18 Responses to "Farm Report #8: Whither or Wither?"
Elliott | Sunday August 29, 2010 04:21 pm 1

May they flourish

Lisa Derrick | Sunday August 29, 2010 04:22 pm 2

It’s a very green county, lots of organics. And everyone seems really HAPPY!

bgrothus | Sunday August 29, 2010 07:16 pm 3

Back in the day, I lived in a place that had a little hometown green industry. I had a room mate who got a job cleaning pot. She would come home with hash under her fingernails, it was a side benefit of the job.

PJEvans | Sunday August 29, 2010 07:16 pm 4

I have a copy of the Field Guide to California Agriculture. It has a section on pot as a crop, and it’s pretty clear that Humboldt (and its neighboring counties) are close to ideal for growing the stuff. (Pot apparently needs a lot of water, as well as weather that isn’t hot.) So I don’t think that the Emerald Triangle is going to lose out; their product will be higher quality (pun not intended!).

greenwarrior | Sunday August 29, 2010 07:23 pm 5
In response to bgrothus @ 3

i had a friend who had an indoor growing operation and once, when he was in need, i filled in cleaning for a couple weeks. i’d forgotten about that! i’ve always loved being around the growing plants. it wasn’t hard to arrange in oregon.

Larue | Sunday August 29, 2010 07:24 pm 6

There are guns, there is grower paranoia, and one does NOT go for a walk in the woods up there.

Campgrounds have been known to be raided by thieves, at gunpoint.

There’s a whole sordid side to Humboldt folks may not know about.

I know cuz’ I used to know people who lived up there.

I doubt in 10 years the climate’s change all that much.

Be interesting to see some folks who DO know how it is, chime in.

Legalizing pot, MIGHT change some of the cultural/social elements that are not ‘safe’ for the general populous.

All the hippie outlaw branding is nice, but . . . the beast has a seamy underside, as they always do.

bgrothus | Sunday August 29, 2010 07:25 pm 7
In response to greenwarrior @ 5

I remember sitting at the table in the kitchen when she would clean her nails and roll the hash into little balls. I was never a big smoker, but I am sure we smoked some of that stuff.

Lisa Derrick | Sunday August 29, 2010 07:43 pm 8
In response to Larue @ 6

I have been following Humboldt pretty closely since Prop 19 came up, and just got back from a week there. It less bad now, though couple days ago an outdoor grower shot his three workers, killing one, wounding another and scaring the third in a mountain grow spot. Law enforcement found a lot of money at the guy’s house and indications that the land was not a purely 215 farm.

At an indoor grow recently raided in Eureka, three 20-somethings with over $200K in a seal-a-meal bags and over 100lbs of pot which appeared ot be destine for Colorado and Minnesota were arrested. They were busted with warrant indicating “suspicious activity.”

Legalization will cut down on that sort of law enforcement behavior, though exportation will still go on.

Until recently Humboldt had a 99-plant per person grow limit, we’ll see if that gets re-introduced after Nov 5.

hijean831 | Sunday August 29, 2010 07:43 pm 9
In response to Larue @ 6

So much of that is due to prohibition, though, no? It is implied that the growers are in support of legalization and the rally on 11/2; if so, it is encouraging that they are pro-19 even though it could have a serious negative impact on their business and the local economy overall.

extremistgreenie | Sunday August 29, 2010 08:03 pm 10

I lived in HC from 1980 to 1984 while attending college in Arcata. I did not enjoy the pot culture. Even back then the stuff they grew was incredibly potent and it has only gotten more so since. The whole pot culture was pretty much the only issue anyone really cared about and was pervasive and penetrated every single aspect of life and living in that county. To say the constant barage of pot talk, pot smoke, pot politics, pot clothing, pot growing, pot food was tedious would be an understatement. That stuff really does rot people’s brains and I witnessed it first hand for years. The trouble with it is the effects last so much longer than alcohol. People high on weed tend to stay high for a long time and it does impair them just like alcohol does. I am only saying all this because if pot is legalized it will go a long way to cure some ills but it will come at a price many do not seem to have considered.

papau | Sunday August 29, 2010 09:53 pm 11
In response to hijean831 @ 9

I wonder what the actual impact of legalization will be – While $3000 a pound after cleaning is unlikely, with $300 to $600 ($20 an oz.) a more likely price at retail, I wonder how much the farm portion of that price will change compared to the mark up for getting it sold. Volume of course rises. In bread the price of wheat can double and have zero affect on the price of bread because almost all the cost is marketing. Will marijuana farming be like that? Indeed Volume will be a problem since as uses for hemp in oil and fiber are waiting and proven, so the mega-corps may well be a threat.

Ralph | Monday August 30, 2010 03:55 am 12
In response to extremistgreenie @ 10

That stuff really does rot people’s brains and I witnessed it first hand for years.

I observed plenty of pot-addled people in the Bay Area in the 1970s, and was pretty stoned for awhile myself,so I know what you mean. Marijuana induces a kind of torpor. But I don’t think all that smoke caused any permanent brain-rot. Without a clinical study, it’s impossible to be sure, but I would be surprised if people had effects lasting more than a few weeks.

druidity36 | Monday August 30, 2010 04:17 am 13

Has anyone read this analysis yet?

It’s from a group called “Stoners against Prop 19″ (growers in N Cali, i think) and it makes a couple of interesting points…

kindGSL | Monday August 30, 2010 07:36 am 14

kindGSL | Monday August 30, 2010 07:46 am 15
In response to druidity36 @ 13

Yes, I have argued with some of them.

My impression is they are pot growers who want to continue to take advantage of a black market, tax, regulation and accounting free economy. I just do not support that position. I think they exploit their workers.

I believe legalization is the best way to improve our society. Their biggest concern seems to be the criminalizing of smoking pot around one’s kids (red flag) and age limits, both reasonable concerns, IMO, but not the bill killers they claim them to be.

I have to wonder about people who are getting really upset about losing the ‘right’ to introduce pot to minors anyway. I think that is an issue better left up to parents and medical doctors or argued about as a freedom of religion issue.

On the other hand, if young people want to argue FOR their freedom of religion in the political arena, I am all for it. Lets have that conversation.

Sister Lauren
THC Ministry

bobdoran | Monday August 30, 2010 08:54 am 16

A quick correction: Coss Creek Creamery does not makes Humboldt Fog, the prize-winning goat cheese is made by Cypress Grove Chevre.

druidity36 | Monday August 30, 2010 09:50 am 17
In response to kindGSL @ 15


did you read the 19 “myths” on their website? I’d be interested in specific refutations… many of the points they make do not support how you characterize this group; ie. “they are pot growers who want to continue to take advantage of a black market, tax, regulation and accounting free economy”

I don’t live in California, but i get the sense that it is difficult to change Ballot Initiatives once they’ve been written… i just wonder if we’re settling for a “weakened Public Option” with the way Prop 19 is written.

Lisa Derrick | Monday August 30, 2010 02:31 pm 18
In response to hijean831 @ 9

The rally is sponsored by Yes on 19, which is funded by the founder of Oaksterdam University in Oakland– I bet Oaksterdam would like too get a toehold in Humboldt with a franchise.

Yes on 19. Tax Cannabis 2010. Sponsored by S.K. Seymour LLC, a Medical Cannabis Provider, dba Oaksterdam University, a Cannabis Educator

Hopefully with legalization the resources of local academia at Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods, both of which specialize in agriculture, forestry, wildlife, conservation, etc will step up and do something locally to teach techniques.

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