Dry farms are rare in California, but people love Crystal Ortiz as a result. High Water Farm Being able to grow cannabis all summer long without having to water it is truly amazing. Sure, central Humboldt County right on the Eel River (the same area where all of the state’s dried cannabis farmers are located) requires a Goldilocks-type microclimate, but what these farmers can do is is very impressive. Indeed, it’s a leap of faith to begin with. Ortiz described the trauma of her first season trying the farm, watching her plants die before they could adjust to their new life on the farm, but it worked out well. Lately, she has been pumping tons of produce from her farm. She estimates that about 70% of the product goes to brands that use the flower for bottling, and the rest goes to hash companies. Dry-grown cannabis has a crazy terpene profile that produces great hash.
Ortiz is also holding back on product to ensure she has enough cannabis to sell half an ounce at her store, Herb & Market Humboldt in Arcata. . She runs this store when she’s not sharing her farming duties with her husband, Noah Beck.
“The weather has been great so far,” Ortiz said. high times for the 2023 season. “We got a very slow start because the field was wet until quite late. So we didn’t get the plants in the ground until a week later. [summer] summer solstice. ”
Moisture retention in dry cannabis cultivation is important, but for young plants, too much moisture can still cause a number of problems. This year, Humboldt’s wet winter has given High Water Farm its slowest start since dry farming began in 2018.
How dry farming works
The fields, soil quality, and local microclimate all play a big role in what happens at High Water Farm.
Ortiz explained that dry farming is ideal in their area because undisturbed sequoia trees keep the water table, or layer of water beneath the soil, in place.
“When you come in from the beach and take the first exit on Giants Street, you’re just past the fog bank,” Ortiz said. “And then there are old-growth sequoias that kind of support the water table. I think that’s exactly what’s going on between the river and the giant forest. They’re keeping water in the water table. So the firs don’t eat up the trees like they do in other places where large-scale logging has taken place, and it’s 20 to 30 degrees warmer than the coast, but still 10 to 30 degrees warmer than Garberville. It’s about 15 degrees cooler.”
Each day, the sun warms the soil and releases moisture stored from the previous night’s and morning’s fog. That water moves up through the roots, hydrating the plant and keeping the soil incredibly soft.
First, prepare the soil during the winter. Since cannabis plants are not watered, they must retain all the nutrients they need to survive the season. One advantage for Ortiz is that the property is located on an old alfalfa farm. Alfalfa is a popular cover crop to help improve soil quality for cannabis farmers who plant it directly into the soil. Ortiz and Beck grow alfalfa in the winter and till it into the soil in the spring to retain nitrogen in the soil. They also use goats to eat cover crops, and their manure is plowed back into the already great soil.
Why is the soil at High Water Farm so dense? Essentially the same thing happens on the Nile River in Egypt, where occasional major floods cause massive layers of silt to accumulate along its banks. To do. Much of the silt that washes into Humboldt’s rivers contains sawdust from logging operations and factories. The last major flood in 1964 left him with a 10- to 15-foot layer of silt along the banks of the Eel River where his farm is located.
Ortiz said he doesn’t find many stones when he prepares his fields each spring, but it seems like old branches from past floods are moving up through the soil. They decided to build a small shrine using sequoia branches they found around the farm.
In addition to goats eating alfalfa, silt forms the backbone of the farm’s plant nutrient profile.
“It’s just this little Goldilocks zone where the river is meandering out and coming out right at the sea level. We’re almost at sea level, so… [the river is] It comes out quickly and gets cold quickly,” Ortiz said.
Every year there is still room for improvement. This year, our neighbors introduced some new hardware, transplanting tools, and it’s easier to get plants in the ground.
“It was even crazier than usual because they had plants and small foragers, but they had all the soil removed and the roots were exposed,” Ortiz said. “He just pulled the transplanter back, dropped the plant into the trowel, and it was planted. He planted the entire 20,000 square feet in less than six hours.”
Mix it little by little when planting. Terabesco Vermicompost and some kind of good organic drying amendment. In the past, it has also included Perfect Blend. Doctor Earthor royal gold. Royal Gold has a new product called Crown Jewel, which Ortiz used last year. Just put a small handful in the planting hole and that’s it for the season. Ortiz estimates he has only purchased 10 to 12 small bags of corrections this year.
I asked her what had changed the most mentally as she entered her sixth season without irrigating her plants. She was quick to point out the flaws in the market that are preventing people from getting excited about different varieties.
“The game changes a lot, like trim, and people want 200 pounds for one breed,” Ortiz said. “We realized that as weed smokers, we really had to scale back our excitement about different flavors and do what really works on dry farms.”
Ortiz estimates there are about six licensed dried cannabis farms throughout the state, all located on either side of the river in her neighborhood. Some of her compatriots who farm nearby include: Sensivolt Rosie Reynolds, a long-time farmer, and Beth Dunlap. Ms. Dunlap, known as her Farmer Beth, has been farming for her 38 years on her father’s old farm, where she grew up.
These three farms, High Water Farm, Sensivolt Organics, and Cando Attitude, are collaborating on the Dry Farm Cannabis brand.
“And we’ve put out a lot of stuff under dry farm cannabis, we’ve put out pre-rolls, we’ve put out bottled cannabis, we’ve put out bulk cannabis,” Ortiz said. “And it’s kind of an exciting collaboration because between the three of us and him, we can sell directly to consumers at different events and things like that.”
Ortiz said part of the reason this is exciting is because it’s more fun and easier not having to keep honking your own horn. You can create a space, share it, and share reps with each other.
Make space for small farms and save Humboldt
After years of being deeply involved in the center of Humboldt County politics as legal marijuana emerged, Ortiz now considers his primary activity to be dispensary. Herb & Market Humboldtwhere she’s making room for a small farm she’s trying to hold on to.
“We don’t have a lot of customers. We’re not that busy. But you know, we also have about 100 dispensaries in Humboldt County, and it’s like selling sand on the beach. ,” Ortiz said. “But that’s where farmers can learn. They can interact directly with consumers and see why their packaging isn’t working. Why their labeling isn’t working.”
Thanks to Ortiz’s dispensaries, farmers can have an experience that is very difficult to get out of the area in the protected environment that Ortiz provides, and then have events elsewhere in the south where they sell directly to consumers. can.
“So they can try it here and I’m watching them. I think it will work,” Ortiz stressed.
While Ortiz enjoys supporting local growers, the coming months are poised to see Humboldt County implement a culture-changing voting plan that could permanently cripple the county’s cannabis industry. I predict that the political situation will worsen.
Humboldt cannabis farmers are currently Humboldt Cannabis Reform Initiative (HCRI) was written by Nimby, an anti-cannabis activist from Neeland, California, and is fairly outdated in the county.
“They went into the community and lied to the community to get enough signatures,” Ortiz claimed. “It turned out that it was a cannabis endorsement that only targeted farms under 10,000 square feet, but they had gathered enough signatures to fraudulently remove them from the ballot. And now [the ballot initiative] This is a truly terrible, truly destructive proposal that threatens every legal farm in Humboldt County. ”
One of the most frightening things about this initiative is that it would become statute law and would require another election to change. Some bad ideas include banning additional structures on cannabis farms, preventing growers from making changes like installing water tanks or solar panels. Perhaps the most devastating part is that the initiative only allows for one cultivation license per person per plot. This will impact many people who have spent years building distribution and manufacturing on the ground. This initiative would kill them and the county’s cannabis industry.
The HCRI ballot initiative is expected to appear on the March 2024 ballot. Ortiz went so far as to say that if it passes, it would end Humboldt County’s licensed cannabis industry. Currently, there are very few licensed farmers, and many have already gone out of business. Ortiz thinks it’s hard to know how much sympathy the cannabis community has about keeping farms afloat. She plans to talk to other business owners and point out that if they support HCRI, there will be no cannabis money left for their facilities.
This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.