When Prop 64 was passed in California in 2016, it was done against the will of countless legacy operators who could see the writing on the wall and did not support this form of so-called legalization. One saving grace in the law was a provision that wouldn’t allow any cannabis farms over the size of one acre to go into operation until 2023.
Instead, loopholes were exploited allowing the “stacking” of cultivation licenses into massive conglomerate operations. The costs associated with this business model immediately shut out the legacy farmers who quite literally planted the seeds for what has bloomed into today’s societal shift toward cannabis acceptance and reform.
These investor-backed, corporate boof-herders had funds to burn on licensing, infrastructure, marketing, and mass production that gave them a huge head start and gave the regulated cannabis market a pretty bad reputation with many savvy consumers.
Meanwhile, thousands of mom n’ pop growers up and down the state, and particularly in the famed Emerald Triangle region of Northern Cali, have been left out of the regulated market – some by cost, some by choice.
Those who did jump in were not only met with the logistics, marketing, and regulatory nightmares that simply didn’t exist a few short years ago but those legacy outdoor cannabis farmers in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties are also on the front lines of the battle against climate change and the extreme droughts and risk of wildfires they now face.
Overbearing regulation and taxation, worsening climate conditions leading to wildfire “seasons”, and now these same farmers are being told that the wholesale price for their products is cratering and that they’ll be lucky to sell a pound of weed for what it cost them to grow it.
This absolutely is a crisis that is not only impacting the cannabis industry in California but threatens the grassroots of our culture which erodes further every time a legacy farmer calls it quits.
A problem of this magnitude cannot be solved overnight, but there are solutions.
Any plan starts with a first step, in this case with advocacy and awareness, and that is where the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative plans to shine.
Emerald Cup Harvest Ball Will Highlight Craft Cannabis Farmers
Tim Blake is the founder and CEO of the Emerald Cup, a resident in Mendocino County in the Emerald Triangle, and a self-confessed former cannabis outlaw with decades of experience cultivating the plant under the California sun.
He knows all too well the plight that his fellow farmers now face and has vowed to provide a platform to promote these foundational growers to the thousands of cannabis connoisseurs expected to attend the Harvest Ball event this December in Santa Rosa.
“Our industry was built on the backs of small legacy farmers,” Tim told us. “With what is happening right now it’s driving them right off of their farms. It’s a tragedy and a shame. While we can’t undo what has been done, we can all make an effort to save small farms. Our Small Farmer Initiative is the first step in our dedication to doing so.”
Knowing that the program would be limited in its pilot run at the Harvest Ball, Blake formed a council of highly respected voices from the cannabis advocacy space to collectively decide which criteria would be used to decide how many farms could participate in the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative this year.
It was decided that a total of 27 farms would be included in the program to be launched at the Harvest Ball Craft Cannabis Marketplace.
This will consist of four (4) operators each from Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties, three (3) each from Nevada and Sonoma Counties, and two (2) each from Lake, Calaveras, and Santa Cruz counties. An additional three (3) slots will be made available for approved Social Equity Operators as defined by the requirements of these areas.
Eligible farms from these regions are invited to apply with the Emerald Cup beginning Monday, November 8th (details below).
Growers must meet several criteria to qualify for the program:
Hold a current and valid cannabis cultivation license for the state of California
Have a maximum farm size of 10,000 square feet
Meet ONE of the two following requirements:
* Practice sustainable farming
* Participate in third-party certification programs such as OCal, Sun + Earth Certification, Clean Green Certification, Regennabis, Envirocann, etc.
On the application, you will be asked to provide EITHER your Third-Party Certification OR a description of your Sustainable Farming Practices.
Applicants will be entered into a lottery system to determine who will fill the number of slots as outlined above and the 27 beneficiaries will be announced on November 15th.
At the Harvest Ball, these deserving farms will have the ability to present their products to attendees with pro-bono and premium placement on the Marketplace floor, a reduced concession arrangement, and heightened promotion to drive attendees to seek and support these small farms during the event and beyond. We tell you all the time to KNOW YOUR SOURCE, well now is your chance.
Yes, there are quite literally thousands of small farms that need help, but again, this is the start of that larger conversation and we applaud the Emerald Cup for putting their money where their mouth is and providing the spotlight for these 27 and raising awareness about the rest.
An industry rally and press conference will be held on Saturday, December 11, 2021, at the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball to raise industry, government, community, and media awareness of the crisis.
“Conditions on the ground in California are far more challenging for small heritage cannabis farmers in the legal system than most people realize,” Michael Katz, the Executive Director of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, recently told us.
Katz readily accepted Blake’s request to join the council to craft the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative, saying, “This community helped set the stage for the current wave of cannabis legalization now moving across the world, but they are at risk of being forced out of the very industry they helped create, and facing existential crises in both licensing and access to the consumer market. I’m grateful to The Emerald Cup for taking action at this critical time to both raise awareness of this dire situation and to provide concrete solutions for struggling businesses with the tools they have available.”
Katz continues, “Simultaneously, Origins Council and other organizations are representing the needs of these farmers to legislators and regulators with sensible and thoroughly researched recommendations for State policy reform. We are truly stronger together, and it is my honor to represent the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance in support of this crucial Initiative alongside the strong leaders working together to provide this opportunity. Everyone involved is committed to providing the best possible outcomes for our community, and to continue working towards a fair and equitable regulatory system that supports equality of opportunity and enables the survival and success of small cannabis farmers. I look forward to seeing everyone at The Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, to sharing craft offerings from the farms selected to participate in the Initiative, and to continue building out the program to help as many farmers as possible.”
Also on the Initiative Council is Genine Coleman the Executive Director of the Origins Council: Mendocino Appellations Project.
“Legacy cannabis and the compassion movement of California sparked the repeal of prohibition and the birth of a multi-billion dollar global industry in the making,” says Coleman.
“The heritage of the rural legacy producing regions of California is a national historic treasure, rich in genetic and cultural resources that are facing extinction and which must be immediately protected at all costs,” Coleman continues, adding, “This is what has driven the California cannabis appellations movement, the first of its kind in the world.”
Though the Cup has served in recent years as a reflection of society’s growing acceptance of cannabis culture, it is also a trendsetter, introducing consumers to what’s-coming-next for nearly two decades since the event was first held in 2003.
The Emerald Cup has traditionally been known as the must-attend year-end event for the cannabis culture and a celebration of the fall outdoor harvest and the farmers who make it happen. With a focus on sustainable, regenerative, and responsible farming techniques, the Emerald Cup has helped to set the bar high for potency and purity in cannabis products while preserving the communal connection between cultivators and consumers.
“Legacy cannabis has always been a community before being an industry, and that remains to be true today,” Coleman says, and we couldn’t agree more.
Any parties interested in finding out more about the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative and the Harvest Ball Craft Cannabis Marketplace, please email: Michael Katz at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative application will open Monday, November 8, 2021.
The submission process will close for all farms on Saturday, November 13, 2021, at 11:59 PM PDT.
All participants of the 2021 Harvest Ball Small Farms Initiative will be selected by lottery and alerted by Monday, November 15, 2021.
Have you grabbed your weekend passes for the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball yet? We’ll be there blazing our trail all over the fairgrounds – come kick it!
Tickets are available NOW at www.theemeraldcup.com
Text the word HARVEST to 420-420 for a chance to WIN FOUR FREE TICKETS!
Still reading? Enjoy this bonus content from Genine Coleman about how we got here:
In 2016, Proposition 64 promised the people of California a 5-year head start for small, legacy farmers to establish their businesses within our state-siloed regulated cannabis market. Instead, on the dawn of implementing legalization in late 2017, the state opened the gates to licensing large-scale farms, setting the stage for massive statewide overproduction. The state published findings from that same year estimating the statewide consumption of cannabis to be 2.5 million pounds per year. This year, an estimated 8.5 million pounds were produced under 8,000 cultivation licenses, with another 5,000 license applications in the queue. Today California has only 1200 licensed retailers to serve a state with 40 million residents, and 150 million visitors annually – with roughly 60% of California’s local governments banning licensed cannabis retail operations. By comparison, Colorado has about 1100 licensed cannabis retailers to serve 6 million residents. California’s regulatory system does not allow for farmer direct sales to consumers unless the farmer is a vertically integrated operator holding a distribution and retail license, which is out of reach for the vast majority of small rural farmers due to the cost and complexity of licensing. Lastly, California charges cannabis farmers a $150 production tax per pound. The overproduction glut and resulting wholesale pricing collapse have many small legacy farmers in California paying to produce cannabis and struggling to sell their product to recoup production costs, even at rock bottom prices. The math does not add up. California consumer access to regulated cannabis must expand immediately, the state cultivation tax must be eliminated immediately, and licensing requirements must be simplified immediately. If these actions are not taken, the current statewide market crisis will turn into a statewide market catastrophe for small and large producers alike. — Genine Coleman