While much of the country was celebrating dabs and oils on 710 day, here in the Mendocino County “Highlands,” in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, we were focused on where it all begins: cannabis flowers. Mendonesians, as we like to call ourselves, are pros at both working hard and partying hard. So even though the thermometer hit 105 degrees in Laytonville at the first Cannabis Farmers Market, the legacy craft farmers proudly came out to showcase their goods.
After lengthy negotiations with state and county officials, we were finally able to get permits for events where farmers can legally sell licensed flowers directly to consumers. In order to do so, a permitted distributor must deliver the flowers already in packages to an on-site permitted retailer who collects the money and taxes for the distributor, who then pays the taxes to the state and county.
The Cannabis Farmers Market was held in an open field, which met the edge of an oak grove on the grounds of the Mendocino Cannabis Distribution Center. Just off Highway 101, it was easy to find with convenient parking and great prices which combined to attract approximately 420 visitors. They came from as far north as the Oregon border – from Del Norte and Humboldt Counties – and as far south as Silicon Valley, as well as Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa and even Nevada City.
Visitors happily made the pilgrimage to meet and support the farmers, who were delighted to present their wares, share their knowledge and greet the people who buy their flowers. For the farmers, it was equally special to see and even hug those of us who are still in business, as well as all the other friends we have made along the way. Many of us haven’t seen each other since before the coronavirus pandemic.
Highlighting Craft Cannabis
Fifteen farms were represented at the Cannabis Farmers Market, and each offered a fine selection of their own sungrown or light dep flowers. Several of the farmers are “legacy,” meaning they learned farming from their parents, and in some cases even their grandparents. These were “back to the landers” who first migrated to the Emerald Triangle in the seventies, and soon discovered the best way to make money was to “grow marijuana under the manzanita bushes” or in pots hidden up in the tree branches. In memory of all of our intrepid predecessors in the traditional market who created our culture, a shout out goes to Richard Jergenson who had a booth for his Cannabis Culture Museum documenting our history.
Partly from local tradition and partly from county law, only small farms were featured at the market. The legal maximum canopy for Mendocino is 10,000 square feet – not even one quarter acre – but most are smaller, some even mini “cottage farms” of 2,500 square feet. Small farmers live at their cultivation sites and over the years have tuned into their environment, becoming experts at cultivating pure and sweetly stoney cannabis plants, with the extra care that can only be given when the grow is on such a small scale. As Marty Clein of Martyjuana brand says, “every plant, every day.”
“There aren’t many of us left,” observed several of the farmers, as we reminisced about all the others who are no longer in the legal cannabis game. It has been a real challenge to survive, what with all the strict rules and regulations, along with the incumbent costs required to get the many necessary permits. This gives us all the more reason to celebrate those of us still here, determined not to give up as we dedicate ourselves to cultivating and sharing the best small-farm, sungrown flowers in the world.
Customers were overjoyed to be able to purchase this craft cannabis, as opposed to “corporate grown” flowers, directly from the farmers. And what a treat for us farmers to be able to again meet our customers and interact directly. This market was a win-win for everyone. As cannabis attorney Omar Figueroa said, “The deals at today’s Farmer’s Market were superb; definitely worth the drive for those lucky consumers who got a chance to attend this inaugural event.”
While no consumption was allowed on the grounds due to the high fire risk at this time of year, everyone seemed happy to take their purchases home to enjoy. In compliance with BCC regulations, customers made their choices at the various booths and were given a Purchase Order. They then drove to a location a few blocks away where they showed the PO, paid and received their cannabis. Prices ranged from $16 to $25 per 1/8th, plus tax, making the total costs considerably less than when purchased at a dispensary – up to a third of retail prices!
A Great Success
Nick Smiglys is the owner of Mendo Distro, which hosted the Cannabis Farmers Market. “I really care for our local farmers, and it is an honor to share my space with them for this amazing event,” he said. Considering all the time and labor that went into preparations, both with legal channels as well as getting the site ready, Nick’s commitment to the local farmers was evident. The vision for this event stems from Traci Pellar of the Mendocino Producers Guild, who dreamed of hosting a gathering where legacy farmers showcase their cannabis flowers and share stories of their origin and heritage. Through hard work and dedication, this labor of love finally came to fruition.
In addition to being able to purchase small batch cannabis at lower prices, attendees also enjoyed delicious food from an array of local vendors. Thanksgiving Coffee Company served up lots of iced drinks on such a hot day. The owner, Paul Katzeff, said he was happy to offer friends-and-family-priced drinks because Geiger’s, the local grocery store, sells more of his coffee than any other local store.
The Redwood Remedies booth had a mister and sprinkler going to refresh folks from the heat. Corinne Powell of Laughing Farms was brilliant to design fans featuring her farm logo for sweaty customers, and she surrounded her booth with colorful marigolds. But as Mickey Bailey said, “I didn’t notice the heat much as it was so nice to be with such a great crowd of happy people!”
Indeed. I especially loved the sign at the entrance that stated, “No Politics,” so people would remember this was a celebration and not yet another meeting to discuss the survival of the small farmer. Events such as this may be the ticket to success at last!
The plan is to host cannabis farmers markets at least 4 times a year, assuming the County grants permission. The next one would take place mid-September, so stay tuned to the Mendocino Producers Guild website for details. You won’t want to miss it. As Happy Day Farms cultivator Casey O’Neill always says, “Great Success!”