Humboldt Farm Report #8: Whither or Wither?

Humboldt County’s marijuana crop brings in about $300-$500 million annually, while the rest of the county’s $3.6 billion dollar economy comes from cattle and dairy, education, forestry, wildlife, construction, lumber, fishing, media, non-profits, tourism, wellness, restaurants and retail.

The local community radio station KMUD gives reports of fixed wing aircraft, helicopters and law enforcement movements. They are supported by donations for the growers, as are numerous community service clinics, non-profits and businesses. One grower told me that many small businesses were opened by people who would have found a way to be successful no matter where they were. But the infusion of cash for start up didn’t hurt.

With legalization will come some problems as well as a potential economic downturn if prices don’t hold. And there’s a good chance weed won’t stay at $3,000 to $5,000/lb.

What Humboldt has going for it is a lot of what Napa and Sonoma Counties have with regards to wine, what the French call terroir, a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region belonging to a specific appellation and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grape and wine-making knowledge, all of which combine to give its specific personality to the wine. Can branding and appellation help keep Humboldt afloat?

Humboldt weed is legendary, whether grown indoor or out. Will legalization change that? Most plants are clones, so technically, Mr. Nice or any number of varieties could spread like, well, weeds. Is appellation possible? Co-ops could be formed like the dairy co-ops, organic certification is possible, outdoor vs indoor labeling…but is that viable?

Can Humboldt create a pot tourism industry like Napa’s wine tourism industry, and to a smaller extent Los Olivos, and build on what is already there in the gorgeous county? Does it want to?

Humboldt has a strong organic food and farming base, plus wineries and breweries. Loleta Farms raises its own cows and makes their cheese right in their shop in Loleta. Loleta also has an organic bakery that uses locally grown wheat and fruit. Coss Creek Creamery makes Humboldt Fog and other goat cheeses. Grass-fed beef is the norm; pork and lamb are also raised, and yes, I saw “meat rabbits” at the county fair, but that’s not likely to be a major retail food anytime soon. Locally grown fruit and vegetables abound. Add in an art scene, a film festival, performing arts, the Victorian homes of Ferndale, and you have a really sweet area for vacationing, an hour flight from San Francisco, two hours from LAX–when it’s not fogged in.

Can all that–combined with the ocean, rivers, and lush mountain scenery, river rafting, surfing, and eco-tourism–plus legal artisanal pot help lure tourists? We’ll see in the next year or so. There’s still a harvest to be brought in before the election, and November 2 there’s a Legalize Pot rally at the Veterans Hall.