“We have to make sure the clones live up to the promised varietal characteristics. The only way to do that is to grow it ourselves.”
What Humboldt Farmers Consider When Choosing Genetics
When you grow in Humboldt you are growing for scale and then there’s that undeniable quality which gives Humboldt weed its own special brand, no matter the strain. What do Humboldt farmers do when it comes to choosing genetics for the season? There are so many things to think about just to find the right strain – OG Kush, but Larry or FSV? Tangerine or Sour D? Do you go fruity or fuel-filled? Gorilla Glue or Girl Scout? Indoor or sun grown? What’s new, what’s going to move? According to some top shelf Humboldt farmers, if you want to grow like Humboldt then there are three main things you need to consider: source, market, and farm conditions.
“The best education comes from experience.”
Know your source – How do you guarantee the strain you’re choosing is indeed that strain?
Knowing where your plants are coming from seems like a no brainer, but even seasoned farmers have been duped and when you are growing at scale the cost is high. How do you know when Girl Scout isn’t Girl Scout? You have to grow it and see. “Gorilla Glue was popular years ago, we had a bad source that went wrong and it cost us,” Explains Sequoyah Hudson of 8 Mile Farm, “We got it from a source that was not stable and was not clean and we had issues with it that year.” 8 Mile is on the small side of big scale, but at 10,000 square feet, that’s a costly lesson. “We were reluctant to try it again, but we found a source that was pretty solid. It comes down to trial and error and there’s trust. The best education comes from experience.”
Wonderland Nursery owner, Kevin Jodrey couldn’t agree more, “The only way to know it is to grow it.” He says. That’s just what they do at Ganjier Farm, Kevin’s sprawling terraced mountain farm, utilized for testing before it sells at Wonderland. “We are in the business of growing what you need. We have to make sure the clones live up to the promised varietal characteristics. The only way to do that is to grow it ourselves.” Kevin explains, surrounded by a mix of quality clones at the nursery, “It’s not only our incredible clones, our genetics are researched personally.”
Research is trial and error, something Sequoyah and 8 Mile are passionately working on. “Three years ago Girl Scout was a popular strain in and we had gotten some regular Girl Scout, it was a solid strain, dense, so we knew there was a market for it. We were gathering some Girl Scout genetics and came across a Platinum Girl Scout, so we got it, we grew it, and it grew amazing, but it was not anything near any kind of Girl Scout.”
Sequoyah and other farmers are working on developing varietals. Their approach is continually adding to the growing resources already in play from years of growing experience in Humboldt. Farmers are starting to talk with each other and share information, explains Sequoyah. “Networking with other farmers is the key. We have such a wealth of experience within our community with growers who have been doing it for so long. People in your ‘neighborwoods’ or others can now say, ‘I have this, I tried this last year, here’s what happened with me.’” That’s part of the reason Sequoyah and six other family farms started the ‘Sun Growers Guild’, an advocacy group for sun growers who can share their cumulative knowledge and use it to grow the brand: True Humboldt. Now the guild is 200 members strong. They share successes and failures so everyone can learn, helping members grow superior plants and taking them out of an outlaw mindset into a business mindset. “When it comes to strains, you recognize there might be something different that you can do that might alleviate another’s problems, or if it was something that was part of the genetics then you know you’d better not try that one because my farm is the same as yours. We share watering techniques, feeding, pest and pathogen knowledge, it’s all to grow the best plant possible.”
At Wonderland there is a constant flow of farmers asking for specific strains for the season. What Kevin and Pedro (Wonderland’s other main guy) and the rest of the team do is ask the farmer questions. They need to know more about where you grow, how you grow etc. Pedro says people come in asking for certain genetics, which is understandable, but there’s more to it. “They ask for what’s popular, but we have to really know more about their growing set ups – indoor/outdoor, climate – to give them an answer and something that works. We don’t want them coming back unsuccessful.” That’s a lot of pressure when farmers with bigger operations come in. A failed crop could mean a huge dollar loss. Pedro nods in agreement, “Yes, you have a tray of 10 and multiply that by 100 acres, that’s a lot of money. We are like personal investors.” He chuckles to himself and shrugs, “…and if that crop fails, they blame us; if it’s a success, they take all the credit.” Kevin understands, “Hey if OG is moving for you then great, I’ll sell it to you. But if we hear something about where you are growing or how you are doing it, we might show you some varietals that will grow well in your specific scene.”
So how do they know which clone is right for you? “Ganjier Farm is the test ground for outdoor growing.” Says Kevin, “We use patients across the state to learn how it works in indoor environments. We’re helping people tremendously, but we’re getting feedback.” It’s unprecedented knowledge. “I’m one brain who is using 150 brains.” This is one reason people come to Wonderland. Kevin and team pass that invaluable feedback onto the farmers who need it most; feedback that is meticulously tracked and written down. “So much of our industry knowledge is oral. We consistently get feedback from some of the best growers – how certain strains did, what kind of weather and growing conditions are at play, flowering time, the yields, and characteristics. It’s all written down so when a farmer comes in asking about a certain varietal we have real knowledge to share.”
When it comes to picking clones for her farm Sequoyah says they are looking for strains that are good producers with strong genetics for outdoor and tap into their great knowledge base from the guild members and fellow farmers. “We produce our own seeds and we also get them from a reputable source. OG Kush is popular, but it’s also prone to powdery mildew on the coast, so you have to take that into consideration. Looking at what’s available, looking at our own seeds, networking with other farmers to find clones. That’s how we start the season.”
Know Your Market:
“You are not only looking for good genetics, you are looking for strains that are going appeal to the market.”
Of course, another component when choosing your genetics is market awareness. There are a few variables in play. When it comes to the market, patients are learning too. For example, the demand for terpenes is starting to overtake the demand for potency. The concentrate market is changing the way weed is bought; therefore it affects how it’s grown. In terms of strain, the OG’s are always in demand, but the market is flooded with OG, right now the fruity over fuel-based flowers are also in demand, so there’s a fine balance. A balance a farmer needs to consider.
Farmers are not only looking for good genetics, they are looking for strains that are going appeal to the market. Historically the black market has been the only market, but now there’s a diverse market. People (patients) are more aware of flavor and terpene profiles. They are understanding more about what they buy and the conversation is shifting.
Kevin says so many people will come in asking for whatever trend is flying off the shelves. He likes to find out more before he’ll point you to the OG that’s so popular. “If it’s working for them, then it’s all good, I’ll sell it to you. But if their conditions are not conducive to that plant, then it’s not going to be successful and I want everyone to be successful, so I talk about it and explain the science of it.”
Know Your Farm – how you grow, where you grow:
“It’s not what you do, it’s what the farm fucking makes you do.”
That’s another difference; in Humboldt, there’s not a big need for indoor growing.
“We look for strains that are good producers with strong genetics for outdoor. Ganjier Farm is the test farm for outdoor growing.” Kevin explains, “We are just four years into the twenty-one year plan. The genetics we point you to depend on your farming practices.”
Kevin and crew always ask what your climate is like where you are growing – is it in a valley, on a hillside, indoor, outdoor? Sometimes they’ll steer the farmer away from the strain he/she may be asking for because their research shows the genetics may not be right for those growing conditions. “The OG may be popular, but that’s a family. There are specific varietals within that family and we can optimize what you do. It’s all about putting the farmer in the position for their location. For example in the OG family, Larry finishes in a different time (Oct 7) than FSV (Oct 21) – it’s a two week differential. Kevin explains, “It’s not what you do, it’s what the farm fucking makes you do. You can optimize your crop experience if you work with the farming environment because it dictates the reality.”
With the increased interest in terpenes you also need to know how the growing conditions affect those terpenes. Indoor may grow beautifully colorful flowers, but their terpenes aren’t as strong, and tests are proving that. There’s something to the strength of the plant that comes from the genetics of being outside, the elements – wind creates a strength in stalk, sun brings a different potency, the rain; all of it, the plant responds to in a unique way, you can’t simulate that indoors. Kevin says the only other place in the world with a climate like Humboldt is Afghanistan. “We’ve got this incredible air coming off the Pacific, mountains, flatlands, water that’s so pure from so much rain. The conditions make for strong plants. That’s where you get into growing strains that are naturally resistant.”
Those very things affect the terpenes and the potency content. 8 Mile farm is on a southern-facing slope that goes down to the Mad River. “We definitely look for strains that are known to be good producers for outdoor growing, on a hillside, with sun exposure. We’re not looking for strains that do better indoor.”
Kevin says the outdoor farm is invaluable, but relies on a mix of information from all over.
Ganjier Farm project is a testing ground where they use all of this accumulated knowledge to grow. The farm is purposefully terraced – with different growing conditions in mind for different varietals. From the air it looks like the beginnings of an Italian villa, not a mountainside in Humboldt County. (https://youtu.be/WwMdUlX7De8) “We are bringing knowledge from the leaders in industry farming. It’s outdoor cultivation that others can learn and benefit from.”
Kevin and his experienced crew are meticulous about growing and gathering knowledge, knowledge that until recently was oral. “In prior times written information caused legal issues – now we’re starting to share it, you can go on the internet, it’s becoming normal business in cannabis. All the other industries touch, why can’t we?”
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 128
- How to Grow it like Humboldt by Lynnette Nutter
- How Humboldt treats its soils by Allison Edrington & Kevin Jodrey
- Strong roots survive – Heritage farmers share tips and advice on transplanting
- Unbound Growth – Veg cycle advice from Humboldt’s finest
- Feeding Humboldt’s Flowers How Humboldt’s Sungrown Farmers Handle the Flowering Cycle and Harvest
- How Humboldt harvests – meeting demands of California market