Amidst California’s Kincaid Fire, Brooklyn’s Humble Bloom Creates Healing Through Cannabis

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By Melissa Hutsell

One Brooklyn-based company, Humble Bloom, made the trek from New York to Northern California for a weekend retreat at Aster Farms and The Lodge at Blue Lakes, both located in Upper Lake, CA. 

Humble Bloom curates educational experiences with leaders in the industry, including the team’s most recent Healing Earth and Community Field Trip to California on October 25-27th. The two-day retreat featured food, Ganja Yoga, farm and facilities tours, exhibitions, a film screening, Peace Pipe Bond Fires, and more.

Just two days before attendees arrived in Upper Lake, the Kincaid Fire sparked in eastern Sonoma County. The fire, now 100% contained, burned nearly 78,000 acres, according to CAL Fire. More than 200,000 residents were evacuated before the fire was extinguished two weeks later on Nov. 6th. 

Solonje Burnett, co-founder of Humble Bloom explains that starting Thursday, Oct. 24th, the team duo started receiving inquiries about the fire, and its effect on the weekend’s schedule. 

Located in Lake County, the event was approximately one hour away from Geyserville, the region where the fire is reported to have started. The retreat was out of harm’s way, but attendees did hit delays. 

Thick smoke seen while driving south on I-5, after rerouting from the U.S. 101 because of the closures. Photo By Tory Baxter.

Some scheduled activities, including a tour of the Flow Cannabis Institute, were cancelled due to road closures along U.S. Highway 101, and power outages, which has wreaked havoc on the state’s residents throughout October. 

Burnett describes the experience as timely, and unreal.“Coming from New York and seeing the anticipation, preparedness and resilience of locals was striking and a bit disheartening. Climate change is real and NorCal fires have become the norm, similar to the devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean that have affected my family,” Burnett tells the Emerald.

 

Visitors who traveled from around the U.S. witnessed first hand some of the effects of California fire season on the cannabis community—including the PTSD experienced by the Aster Farms team as they feared another fire, explains Burnett.

Aster Farms, which hosted the weekend’s farm tour and terpene education sessions, was on high alert. The farm and its team are still in the process of recovering from one of the state’s largest wildfires, the Mendocino Complex Fire, which claimed several of the company’s plants, structures, and their beloved cat Harry, in 2018. The company has since created a line of products, named in honor of Harry ($2 from each purchase of Harry’s Harvest products goes directly to local volunteer firefighters).

New growth begins to grow over burned vegetation. Photo by Rachel Daugherty.

Danniel Swatosh, co-founder of Humble Bloom, says that while driving up to Aster, damage from the Mendocino Complex Fire was apparent, but new growth was starting to rise.

“Seeing the vibrant new growth blooming under the gnarly burnt out trees was a powerful symbol of hope. So green and lush against the smokey branches. The purpose of our visit became all the more relevant,” Swatosh adds, “I witnessed a pivotal shift in people to become agents for change.”

Swatosh explains, “the concepts that we were trying to elevate during the weekend—drawing parallels between regenerative farming and community building, and that our future is written in our history—became visceral. That new life is possible and springs up after a destruction and tragedy seemingly with more vitality and promise for the future.”

Several attendees delayed their arrival times to Saturday. One facilitator dropped out in order to run clinics in evacuation shelters in nearby communities all weekend, Burnett explains. Then, the power was shut off at 5 p.m. on Saturday before dinner, and a performance by Kat Dahlia, she says. Though they had to conserve energy, the show went on. 

Smoke from the Kincaid Fire can be seen from the 101 while driving up to Blue Lakes Lodge. Photo by Tory Baxter.

Devyn Lodge, HB field trip attendee, explains that he had quite the journey home from the event. 

“Due to the roadblocks and the power outages, I ended up running out of gas in Hopland around 4 p.m.,” says Lodge. “I stayed in my car for about 11 hours in a town without power before some of my family members finally got to me.”

 

It took hours, says Lodge. “They had to drive inland and around all of the road blocks with a gas can to get me.”

“I was fortunate that I brought my dab rig. I sat in the passenger seat of my car and took dabs until I was finally able to convoy home with some of my family,” Lodge says, “I was able to head home around 4 a.m. in the morning the next day.”

Tory Baxter, HB attendee and co-founder of Tree Femme Collective, says, “I counted seven fires […], many towns without power, and quite a few disgruntled citizens annoyed with PG&E for cutting their power.”

Flames seen during the drive up from Oakland to Upper Lake. Photo by Rachel Daugherty.

Rachel Daugherty, founder of Fine Healing Goods, says the weekend started out tense as the fires could be seen on her drive up from Oakland to Upper Lake. It was already intense and connective, she adds, “but having the farms we were visiting and residents of California all threatened by the fires while we were celebrating the plant, was harrowing. We felt the enormity of the situation and it made for a bit more emotional ride.”

Photo taken by Devyn Lodge.

Regardless of delays and outages—there was space to come together, and to heal. 

Despite it all, “we were able to accomplish a container for healing compassionate community to thrive and connect through a shared love for the plant,” Burnett adds. “And by making it accessible through various educational entry points infused with love, social justice, sustainability, regenerative farming, […] meditation, bond fire with live music and THC s’mores, and moments journaling at breakfast.”

Participants filled the weekend by learning about activism, terpenes and local Native displacement history. Attendees got “vulnerable during Rise, Shine and Share with Fine Healing Goods; and cried and made breakthroughs during breath-work with Aria Diana,” Burnett explains. 

Guests also co-created a mandala from flowers with Dogwood Botanicals, “and made connections with people who came from as far as Texas, Minnesota, and New York to find community through cannabis education,” she adds—all while supporting the local economy. 

 

Emerald contributor since February 2016

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