People have been growing in Humboldt County now for three generations and a lot has changed in that time.
The original back to the landers came in the 70’s and 80’s. They escaped from the city and moved to the hills to raise their children in peace and quiet. Today they are over 50 to 60 years of age, living on a 40 acre parcel that was likely sold to them by Bob Mckee for under $50,000 and has been paid for and developed for decades. They can be characterized by their willingness to follow local 215 laws and their organic low environmental impact lifestyle. They formed our core community. That community has been persecuted under cannabis prohibition laws for many years. Over time that made for an introverted social structure, which did not lend itself to planning for the future. We have been fortunate in our community initiatives (KMUD, Mateel, the new Theater, the Community Park, the Town Square) but very little in the way of economic infrastructure has been put in place for Southern Humboldt’s future generations. The south county’s cities remain as yet unincorporated.
Generation X either left the then small farming community to look for work in an urban area or stayed to homestead and grow pot like their parents. Those who followed in their parents footsteps hoped to purchase property and settle down. They encountered a very different situation than their parents had years before. Property became incredibly inflated due to the influx of growers. People who were willing to sell their properties after a lifetime of “cash living” were looking for a large check as a down payment and were unwilling to owner finance. This put property in Humboldt out of reach for many of the Gen X locals. To purchase property in Humboldt county,you must either grow in “excess” or be wealthy and from out of the area. In this way much of the land was not conveyed to Gen. X locals. Instead communities were overrun by growers big enough to afford it or our “newcomers”.
In fact, if the land developer Bob Mckee had not made it his life’s work to put young locals on Humboldt properties, today less than 10% of Southern Humboldt’s land would have been passed on to the rightful stewards. Thanks to Bob So. Hum. residents have a future.
The Generation X crew that stayed behind and made it onto a piece of property are now for the most part the heart and soul of south county. They can be characterized as innovative, independent, and sustainable. They are responsible stewards of the land. They are leading the way in new techniques and technology. They are the world’s best cannabis farmers. They are in the prime of their lives. They have bonded together, shared information and standardized growing methods, genetics and marketing. Today they are singlehandedly responsible for Humboldt County’s position in the world market.
Third generation cannabis farmers in Humboldt county are generally not yet landowners. They are looking for opportunities on farms large enough to sustain a team of employees. This generally means they are working on a maybe not so sustainable farm just to make ends meet. They are disconnected from the lessons learned about the environment by the back to the land generation. Their chances of owning land are almost non-existent. They have neither been taught about the past or provided a future.
These three generations have very different perspectives and very different needs. By understanding what drives each of them we may be able to forge a future that includes all of us.
The elders are retiring. They may not have put a lot of energy into planning for the future before, but now they want to pass something meaningful on to the younger generations and at the same time insure their lands will be preserved for posterity. They are scared that commercial growing is going to destroy their way of life. Have they asked themselves if their way of life IS economically sustainable? Without larger growers maintaining brand consistency, would the “small grower” on his “small farm” stand a chance in the national market?
The two younger generations are looking for the American dream. They want the freedom to make as much money as they can. They are not set on destroying the environment. They are attempting to establish themselves and deal with difficult economic conditions. They certainly don’t want anyone defining what is or is not greedy or materialistic for them. Much less people who haven’t put themselves in their shoes! They are very concerned that they have enough water to follow their dream If they mismanage their water supply, they know that they won’t stand a chance in the national market.
In short, the elders want environmental stability and the youngsters want economic stability. Everyone wants their way of life to continue being viable.
These participants currently do not seem to understand each other. A line has been drawn in the sand between “small” and “large” growers. The assumption is that ALL small growers are low impact,sustainable eco-growers while ALL“large” growers are Bulgarian, greedy, fish killing, environmental hazards. These are both gross generalizations.
It is much more complicated than that. Labeling people and deciding who is and isn’t greedy is unacceptable – 99% of Humboldt County growers are neither “large” nor “greedy” when compared to other agricultural ventures. This over generalization about “the evil grower” has now escalated into a militant witch hunt. We at Humboldt Growers don’t understand why people who have been so persecuted would then choose persecution over resolution. The 6th draft Humboldt County Ordinance suggests more aggressive policing of Humboldt County cannabis farms. That is not even remotely possible; and if it were, the county would gladly use all of our hard earned tax dollars policing us rather than spend it on schools and hospitals!
If people are unhappy with the results they should look at the causes before casting blame.
The United States Federal Government has proven without a doubt that policing and persecuting cannabis cultivators is a losing battle. Confrontation will not work. Cannabis cultivators have been trained to evade and rebel. Offer them well thought out solutions that benefit them!
Looking at this dilemma globally: Humboldt County is number one in the world for quality and consistency, but when it comes to volume we are way outclassed. Other county’s have way more arable, low elevation flat land and water. To maintain our current market positioning(economic stability), we may need to direct ALL of Humboldt county’s resources(sustainably) at cannabis cultivation. Currently those resources are being mismanaged. Someone needs to do a study that shows our standing in terms of resources in relation to our competition. Then we need to work together to manage the resources we have to our advantage.
Farming communities in cultures all over the world have a long history of helping their neighbors, leading by example, and passing knowledge from one generation to the next. They have done this to preserve a way of life, manage their lands, and build community.
When we see that our neighbor is from out of town, knows nothing about fire safety, erosion control, or pest management and is struggling with exaggerated costs and plummeting prices while trying to make himself a home, let’s be compassionate and go help him, rather than ask the authorities to persecute him for doing the same thing we did. I think we will be surprised to see that people want help and advice. People need to see what they can do, not be told what they can’t do. Show them the way. Provide them with information on how to grow amazing sustainable cannabis. Make them one of the team.
Different players play different roles. The retiring elder has been cultivating world class mazari genetics on his small farm for a lifetime. Much of these genetics are yet untapped. The world has not really seen them. These old timers are up on the hill breeding the next “big hit”. These guys are also now on the front lines, again, creating state laws that need to provide us all a future. We need them!
Conversely the younger generation has their role. They are working together to standardize growing methods and unify behind popular genetics while managing the vast number of buyers coming in. The elders need to piggyback off this market stability. Buyers are not coming to Humboldt for 50-100 pounds of mazari ranch weed. They want 100 pounds at a time of consistent kush or sour diesel product.
If we all see that we are in this together and that we play different but equally important roles, we can make sure we get what we have spent three generations fighting for.
To make this “transition” go smoothly, people need to understand that the cannabis farmer won the war on drugs. Traditionally that means they get to set terms and make demands. Currently 90% of the cannabis grown in Humboldt county is sold out of state. Legalization offers the farmer nothing but regulation. That means these people have no reason to comply. Sending more enforcement(with or without guns) will only waste time and tax dollars. If we can sell the Humboldt county grower economic stability, they will buy it.
We need to agree on a sustainable plan that makes converting to legalization advantageous to the grower and does not include heavy handed enforcement and policing.
We should adopt the Bob Mckey model and form a “land management association”. This association will designate climate zones where certain types of cannabis can be grown, identify at risk properties and purchase them as agricultural preserves, and form a “HELP Task Force” of neighbors to bring newcomers and those who have strayed into the fold.
Finally, the incorporation of Southern Humboldt cities must be front and center in the deal we are striking with the county. Let us ask what services the county intends to offer us before we worry about how much we are paying in taxes. We need infrastructure in south county and we need national representation. Lets put together a package that describes what we need to maintain the way of life we have now long after legalization. If we vote the 6th ordinance in without incorporating, all of our tax dollars will go towards Northern Humboldt’s infrastructure and we will get nothing.
We need the older generation to offer solutions that take into account a sustainable future for generations to come in Humboldt county. Do not overregulate like the other legalized states have. Remember they did not have a thriving economy to destroy. We are unveiling the largest independently owned business the world has ever seen. Please find a common ground and make sure that the pending legalization provides a future for us all.