Cannabis farmers in Northern California are feeling good these days as the future cash king of legit agriculture moves from growing pains to growing gains.
While the recent passage of California’s Proposition 64 legalizing recreational marijuana use in the Golden State could be a bumper crop of good news for growers and consumers alike, there are plenty of possible pitfalls on the path to normalization of this formerly underground economy. The upside is immense, especially in California’s Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties), the largest cannabis growing area in the U.S.
In Humboldt County, known for its stately Redwood forests and giant marijuana blooms of legendary potency, farmers are gingerly stepping out of the shadows to embrace the new day.
Center stage is Humboldt’s Finest Farms, which began in 1996 with a trio of heritage farmers who wanted to create a cannabis brand worthy of Humboldt’s worldwide reputation. Now, they’re pushing their enterprise into the legitimate sphere.
Eco-friendly pride of place
“A lot of people know of Humboldt County,” said Humboldt’s Finest Chief Executive Officer Joey Shepp. “But they may not know the true Humboldt County spirit, which is rooted in sustainability and environmentalism and multigenerational knowledge of the plant and how to grow it. Purity of source is really important to us.
“We feel it’s time to come forward with a brand of Humboldt’s Finest,” he added, “so our home county doesn’t just elicit a stoner joke where people say, ‘Ahhh, Humboldt’s finest’ when they find out you’re from Humboldt, but it’s something you can truly be proud of.”
For the official launch, Humboldt’s Finest will offer six-packs of pre-rolled joints and boxed 1/8s, with concentrates and other products coming soon.
Blessed with the area’s ideal cannabis growing climate, Humboldt’s Finest hopes to deliver on the region’s reputation for potent strains that produce giant flowers and massive buds.
Authentic brand mission
“Humboldt County has a worldwide reputation for growing some of the best cannabis on the planet,” said Shepp, “so we wanted to build on that. We wanted to deliver on that as the authentic brand mission of Humboldt County.”
Because, yeah, it’s also very much about branding. Humboldt’s Finest, said Shepp, is gravitating toward the slogan America’s Craft Cannabis Company.
“We’re really liking that term,” he said. “It speaks to our artisanal, handmade, handcrafted method of growing.”
The distinction will be important if local growers want to preserve a strong niche when corporations inevitably try to flood the zone.
Craft cannabis: buds, wiser
“As family farmers, we’re really concerned,” Shepp said. “We want legalization, because we want to live above ground instead of underground. At the same time, we want to have a fighting chance when the corporations come in. So, we’re starting to see we really need that brand, and we need to communicate that sustainably grown cannabis, particularly the craft cannabis, is what consumers should look for.
“There’s going to be a new consumer emerging that we’re really excited about,” he continued. “What you could call ‘the Whole Foods shopper for cannabis.’ They’re people who care about the origin source, care about the purity, and are willing to pay a little bit more to be sure the source is verified. People who care about verified products — it’s what they expect and want.”
Scalability and such
Though Humboldt’s Finest will launch with a trio of established farms that have been in production for more than a decade and already have earned Patient Focused Certification, the company has a scalability plan in place to bring other farmers into the Finest fold. A massive cannabis farm cooperative with real clout could be just around the corner.
“We have a long line of farmers ready to come on-line and join Humboldt’s Finest,” said Shepp. “That’s really our vision, that we’re going to be the go-to source for the highest quality cannabis. We’re putting together a network of basically friends and family that we’ve grown up with who have had farms, and we really want to be able to support them in a legal livelihood, where they’ve never had that. A lot of them may not know how to distribute, sell, and brand their products. But so as long as they meet our stringent criteria for quality control and sustainability, then they can join under the Humboldt’s Finest banner.”
The Good Humboldt-ing Seal of Approval
Government legitimacy is in the offing as well. Humboldt County is working on a “Grown in Humboldt County” seal and is establishing packaging guidelines, including a pilot track-and-trace program in which one of Humboldt’s Finest grows is involved. Very soon there will be an official county-verified seal of approval for medical cannabis grown in Humboldt County, documenting a product’s strain, purity, grower, and local origin. Now that recreational cannabis is legal in California, the county approval seal will do double duty for consumers.
Today’s shifting legal landscape has cannabis farming poised to grow by leaps and bounds, and Humboldt’s Finest is on point with local pride. The company is poised to take advantage of newfound legitimacy and respect with an artfully crafted product that pays homage to local agriculture.