Duncan and Jacob: Cannabis farmers of Trinity County
Walking into the Hayfork County Fair, there was a blue ribbon prize for the best tomatoes, squash, bouquet, and cannabis flower. This sparked my interest in the relationship that the community has with cannabis. Talking to the farmers and other members of the community it became clear how large of a role cannabis has played economically, as well as how divisive it has been. While there has been plenty of publicity covering the environmental degradation, violence and back door deals in the industry, I wanted to talk to some farmers about what they were all about.
A Brief History
Trinity County’s diversity of ecosystems and abundance of natural resources have been home to a number of indigenous groups including the Tsnungwe, Chimariko, and Nor-Rel-Muk Wintu people. Since the mid-19th century, waves of homesteaders, miners, loggers, and other groups have settled on unceded land to make Trinity County their home. The most recent wave of people came to take advantage of the ecological, social, and political conditions of Trinity County that made it ideal for growing cannabis.
Image: Shasta-Trinity National Forest (Raymond 2022)
Cannabis in Trinity County
Trinity County is one of three counties that make up the Emerald Triangle. It is the most rural and rugged of the triangle and is known for some of the best cannabis in the world. As a result of this, there have been communities, cultures, and lifestyles that have formed around the production of this plant.
Duncan is a husband, father, and community organizer that has used cannabis to lead a functional and prosperous life. Growing up in Burnt Ranch, a community near the Humboldt and Trinity County border, he was impacted by the closure of the mills of Trinity County in the 80s, and the exodus in the communities that followed. Many people who remained in Trinity County ended up growing cannabis to support themselves in a place that did not have an industry.
Cannabis as a Medicine
Duncan’s introduction to the benefits of cannabis emerged after experiencing a concussion that left him suffering from seizures. The prescribed medication and treatments had adverse effects on his liver and mental state. During his senior year of high school, as he began to experiment with marijuana, his seizures subsided, and he was able to get his driver's license. Working a job that did not allow the use of marijuana, he drew a connection between the occurrence of his seizures and medicinal marijuana. While this was not supported by his neurologist, he continued to use marijuana to keep his mind and body healthy. This has allowed him to carry a job and live a healthy life.
Duncan soon found out he could grow his own cannabis and distribute his medicine to others in need. The connection he made from sharing his medicine with others led him to continue on his path.
“There is something magical about being able to produce medicine and giving it to someone out of love. When you do that, the amount of blessings come back tenfold” - Duncan
The joys that he experienced are like those of anyone who has partaken in a creative process from start to finish.
"Being a part of a process where you grow something from seed and create a product from it is magical. Throughout the journey, I am dreaming about the flavor, the smells, the colors, and the people that it will help" - Duncan
Cannabis was not just a way for Duncan to connect and help those around him. What started as a medicinal practice became a way to provide for his family. Finding financial security and a fulfilling occupation was able to be achieved in a place that does not have many options.
Jacob is a father, musician, and regenerative cannabis farmer who lives in Trinity County. His farm “Flowerdaze Farm”, won the Emerald Cup Regenerative Farm award in 2018 as well as a number of top 10 flowers awards. With his wife, Karla Avila, he is a co-author of the book “The Flowerdaze Farm Regenerative Guide to Cannabis,” which promotes sustainable practices in the cannabis world.
Jacob’s farm is a 3-and-a-half acre farm with a quarter acre of cannabis. The farm practices building healthy soil through homemade and farm-sourced ingredients. By using food scraps and manure that is produced by his chickens and cows he is able to increase organic matter in his soil. His rainwater collection system, duck pond, and herb garden increase biodiversity on the farm and allow for a holistic approach to keeping the farm and the ecosystem it resides in healthy.
Image: Cannabis flower (Trinity Journal 2022)
The path toward legalization has left the farm in a state of instability. While his support for the legalization and regulation remains, the ways in which things have been carried out could be improved. The permitting, restrictions, and taxes that small farmers face, make it almost impossible to grow. On top of that cannabis, farmers are not eligible for government assistance, or business loans and are excluded from NRCS programs. This leaves them vulnerable to the risks that come with farming.
“When you are working in a system that is focused on volume, patients and users are no longer able to connect with smaller growers” - Jacob
To advocate for sustainable practices and support small farmers, Jacob encourages consumers and retailers to educate themselves on where the cannabis they get comes from and how it is produced.
Despite the illicit reputation of the cultivation of cannabis, it has been integral in upholding the rural communities of Trinity County. The farmers who work to provide cannabis for medical and recreational use are often viewed with preconceived notions that are dismissive of the realities of their work.
“Rather than blaming anyone who is associated with this plant as a cartel member, or environmental destroyer, please understand that many of the farmers are trying to make a living by providing the highest quality medicine, with integrity. We need to separate the good and the bad.” - Duncan
“Like any other farmer, you have a crop that has your livelihood in it. People work hard and care about what they do” - Jacob
Journal, Josh Cozine The Trinity. “$3.3 Million Cannabis Grant Awarded to Trinity County.” The Trinity Journal, 26 Jan. 2022, http://www.trinityjournal.com/news/marijuana/article_a98ae642-7e36-11ec-969d-f326a8b4c051.html.