The road twists and turns, winding through a forest of ancient redwoods. We climb out of the forest and ascend switchbacks, eventually cresting atop a golden hill. The landscape opens up and we see the majestic King Range in the distance. Turn left here. Then it’s down a dirt road, up a dirt driveway and into a different world.
Gate’s open, we’ve arrived. It’s a clear October day at the Southern Humboldt Royal Cannabis Company’s lead farm, an elevated location with a view of the King Range beyond and the Mattole River Valley below. Our Emerald Magazine entourage is greeted by smiling faces. We are immediately impressed by the shipshape outbuildings and overall cleanliness of the place.
Sean Stamm is a founding member and president of Southern Humboldt Royal Cannabis Company (SoHum RC). He’s also a mechanical engineer with a degree from CalPoly. This is his family farm, and it’s an awe-inspiring place. One of his employees took us on a tour, walking us through a few outdoor patches accented with solar arrays, past rows of water storage tanks and into greenhouses filled with flowering rows of cannabis. In the drying room our guide showed us his favorite CBD-dominant variety.
After the tour, we got a chance to sit down and catch up with Stamm. He was quite busy that day — October is a guaranteed active time at cannabis farms. And not only was Stamm busy with farming responsibilities, he was also prepping to host a community meeting the following day, with as many as 50 community members — “Our last one had that or more.”
The meetings are a chance for SoHum RC to share strategies and model actions that other local collectives and farmers can adopt to further their pursuit of becoming as compliant as possible. “We’re trying to bring in all these other farmers, [to] give them resources to get their farms as close to compliant as we can be at this point in time,” Stamm says.
And SoHum RC has resources to share, resources that include a network of lawyers, medical professionals, accountants and consultants. They’re also trying to provide their community with access to legal sales to and ways that people can document their income, “because in the old system,” Stamm says, “that’s just such a hard thing to do.” They’ve even developed methods for inventory and batch tracking.
So they’re sharing information, acting as a sort of brain trust for the community. They’re also leading by example, “creating business contracts with all of our employees and providing workman’s comp and doing paychecks with pay stubs.” Other farms can implement their business model and can tap SoHum RC for help with getting compliant — after all, Humboldt County now has a permitting structure in place, established through the County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance (CMMLUO).
It’s a lot of work, running a farm and doing the tasks that Humboldt County requires for a farm to get a CMMLUO permit — the SoHum RC location we are visiting is on the verge of actually acquiring one. “We’re really close. We’ve got all of our pieces of the permit puzzle.” The permit paperwork is quite time consuming, and it’s a big deal — farmers are staking out what they are going to be able to do and continue to do for the indefinite future.
Stamm hopes other farmers in the community do this work at a reasonable pace, as opposed to struggling to develop and document procedures for all the permitting paperwork while simultaneously trying to double production in anticipation of the coming taxes. Stamm’s advice includes being efficient with resources, choosing the right people to help you and doing some of the work yourself. “Now you’re saving money,” he says, “and chipping away at these little steps to get to where you can be endorsed by local government… That’s what we need to do.”
“Certain people definitely see us as a role model. And what I tell people is we’re not there 100 percent either. We’re doing every step we can as fast as we can, but this is something that takes time and it’s all about baby steps…”
The SoHum RC collective was developed “to unify the Mattole Valley under a common brand and give it a place in the market of super high grade producers and old heritage farmers who have been producing [cannabis] for thirty plus years,” Stamm says. So their organization is acting as an umbrella — under farmers can come under their wing or can lean on SoHum RC for support with obtaining permits and developing their own branding.
Back to the farm: It’s self-reliant, rural and completely off the grid. The water supply comes from two permitted wells and a rainwater catchment system. The mineral-rich well water is pumped out of the ground from 120 feet in the rocks, and plants love it — they get “fresh air, real air, fresh water, real water, no chlorine, no additives.”
SoHum RC is working with a lot of CBD strains like Harle-Tsu and Canna-Tsu — both from the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective. They’re crossing some of those CBD strains into some of their own genetics, some old school Blueberry and M10 Hash Plant. Another cool strain they’ve been working with is Shark Shock: Skunk No. 1 X White Widow — “Two old school strains make this new one that’s just beautiful, frosted white and pillowy.”
They also supply a Southern California-based company called “The Herbsmith” with cannabis byproducts for gourmet edibles that are distributed to about 150 different dispensaries.
The company is also developing effective “whole plant” extracts, including “gently processed and unaltered terpenes.” They combine whole terpene profiles for maximum effects, and they work with doctors to help their patients to put these customized extract medicines to work.
“We’re always trying to evolve and innovate wherever we can to make things the highest quality with the least amount of energy input in all fields — from the employees’ standpoint to the plants themselves.”
I believe if more people bring consciousness to where their weed is coming from, if more people insist on a certain standard of quality for their weed, that will put places like this and other similar farms in the Mattole Valley in an elevated position. Everyone should insist that their weed comes from such a nice, clean and well-managed location.
Written by Emily Hobelmann