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Photos: Jesse Duncan.Farming
ganja in the hills of Humboldt is like a marathon. It takes focus,
grit, determination, persistence, as well as physical and mental
season is long – 9 months for many. Weather patterns are extreme,
and risks of fire, theft and crop loss are real. Farming isn’t for
the faint of heart, it’s for those who love their craft and are
committed to normalizing cannabis use and touching other people with
their life’s work.
The mountains are covered with snow and the morning frost blankets
the highlands. Native grasses and shrubs sparkle in the morning sun
and wind out of the north or east chills you right to the bone and
dries out your skin.Clones
are arriving or you are popping seeds, so it’s time to prep the
nursery. The team is brimming with excitement and anticipation.
Dreams of a crusher season float around and everyone feels at home.
You rope off a skin, or large plastic cover, and pull it over the
naked greenhouse frame. You pull the plastic tight and wiggle wire
it into place and begin prepping the interior. Lights and heaters
are hung and it’s go time.Baby
plants from places like Source, Highline, Phinest, and Seed Junky
arrive by the thousands and things get real. Each clone is dipped in
an organic pesticide/fungicide as a preventative measure and is then
planted in your favorite soil or soilless blend. Veg plants are the
lifeblood of the operation and are cared for exquisitely. They are
fed and are physically manipulated to create the frame or shape you
desire – short and squatty in my case. After three weeks plants
are moved to their forever home in beds or larger containers.
is upon us and the hillsides bloom…a magnificent display of white,
yellow, purple, orange, and pink. Deer and turkey forage around and
the weather is erratic – warm sun one day, hail or snow the next.
Plants boost up under protective covers and by late month are
transitioned to a 12-hour light cycle to induce flowering.May
is here and buds are appearing. The days begin to grow warmer on
average, but the season’s last cold snap serves as a harsh reminder
that summer is yet to come. Plant growth rates improve and you get a
clear indication of the expected bounty of first-run dep. Teams
spend countless hours touching the plant…removing lower and
interior foliage and de-leafing plants to allow airflow and light
arrives and the season reaches its busiest point. The first dep
harvest nears, clones for the second run are on site and being
launched, and the outdoor or full-term gardens are being prepped and
planted. Soil is amended, nematodes are applied to attack soil-born
pests, and the days grow hotter and longer. Mornings are chilly at
higher elevations and magnificent sunrises welcome you each day. The
weeks are long and productive and the farm is in full swing. First
harvests arrive and after months of significant expense, cash flow
and August are explosive months. Full-term plants grow amazingly
fast and second-run deps explode, offering excitement and higher
yields than cold run. Plants again require hours upon hours of
care…opening, bottoming, coring, leafing, and supporting plants is
of paramount importance. Physically your body is reaching peak form.
Your strength and stamina are radically improved, yet the wear and
tear on your body is real. Eating well, sleeping well, and staying
hydrated are critical as the summer months in the hills are taxing.
Days are hot and dry, the sun right in your face around 3,000-foot
elevations. Pest pressure grows as reproductive rates improve and
your integrated pest management game needs to be on point or crop
loss can be staggering.
summer, unfortunately, has been plagued by smoky skies. Working in
the smoke is hellish, with headaches and nausea a daily occurrence
for most. Ash deposits can lead to pathogen problems and can
contaminate developing flowers. Marching on in these conditions is a
real challenge and takes commitment, personal strength, and undying
love for the cannabis plant.September
is a special month on the farm. After the fall equinox, nights grow
colder rapidly. Full-term flowers begin maturing and Autumn colors
are spectacular. Like the trees around them, cannabis plant leaves
change in color – boasting reds, yellows, and purples. Flowers too
begin to change hue, often purpling in the cold, night air. Some
flowers take on a bluish or silver tint and are spectacular to
behold. Plants glisten in the morning dew and pathogens like mold
and mildew can overrun crowded gardens that have not been well
maintained. Plants that have not been properly supported will
splinter and collapse under their own weight.October,
or Croptober as it is lovingly known, coronates a long outdoor
season. Dry rooms are stuffed with large colas and months of arduous
efforts pay off – one hopes. Rains arrive and large, dense colas
can rot if not harvested in time…a true race against the clock.
Late second run deps are harvested as well as third run deps for
farms at lower elevations. Mornings are bitterly cold once again and
frost settles over the hills a couple of days at a time. Second cut
outdoor flowers are harvested toward month-end and November arrives
at last – the culmination of a nine-month marathon for most farms.
rooms are continuously bucked down, processing is in full swing, and
sales are rapid for well-connected farms with desirable product.
Late outdoor strains are harvested, as are third run deps for some.
Like early season, the weather is erratic. Sun one day, rain, or
even snow the next. Greenhouse covers are dropped, equipment like
fans and heaters are removed or covered, and soil is treated for the
winter. By month-end, the season has come to a close for most.
Physically exhausted, time for rest and reflection has arrived.
Year-round farms like ours will carry on with a winter run, but
Humboldt’s hills become quiet overall. Road traffic decreases,
silence returns, and plumes of smoke dot the landscape as homesteads
burn firewood to survive.Farmers
spend much-deserved time with their families and begin planning for
the season to come. Those who had success toy with expansion,
infrastructure improvements, or expanding their brand. Others
contemplate closing shop and moving on.Farming
in the hills of Humboldt is a truly magical experience. You connect
with nature and with the changing elements in a real and personal
way. One month bleeds into another and you grow harder and stronger
along the way. Your intimate connection to the earth and to the
cannabis plant grows with each season. The fire within you and your
desire to hone your craft and touch more lives with your work grow
stronger each time. Your love for ganja and for your avocation grows
and matures, as do you personally. While physically and mentally
taxing, growing ganja is the most rewarding of my professional
pursuits to date.Being
surrounded by nature and exposed to the changing elements while
growing the world’s most beautiful flower is a gift and a complete
joy. Each season is a unique experience and a unique opportunity for
personal growth and overcoming challenges. Pushing your body to the
limit, challenging your intellect and mental strength, and throwing
down killer nugs at the end of it all means the world to me and to
thousands of others.Onward
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