Written by Natalia Lopez
Sheltered amongst the Redwood forest lies Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties. Together, the three create the infamous Emerald Triangle, an area lovingly known as America’s Cannabis Heartland.
Legacy farmers who dared to grow before California’s legalization in 2016 are considered industry pioneers. Their defiance of the law whilst raising families, supporting their communities, and protesting their right to grow nature’s medicine, was a period of learning that provided invaluable insights for our understanding of cultivating and using the plant.
Despite their long standing presence, women are an underrepresented demographic in the discussion of the Emerald Triangle’s rich cannabis heritage. The mainstream acceptance of cannabis byway of its use as a medicine influenced many who worked with the plant before Proposition 64. Proposition 64 was the 2016 referendum in California which legalized the possession, cultivation and use of cannabis for adults over 21.
Emerald spoke with some of these lady leaders to discuss what legacy means, how legalization has shifted their focus, and what a life in the legal market means to them.
Pearl Moon and Dr. Joyce Centofanti, “The Bud Sisters” – Teachers, cannabis therapy consultants, topical treatment experts and flower competition judges.
Lifelong friends, Pearl Moon and Dr. Joyce Centofanti, met in Montana in 1981. Neither of them could resist the allure of Humboldt County’s ocean, and the mesmerizing call of the Redwoods. Pearl moved to Humbolt in 1981, where she has resided for the past 32 years.
Dr. Joyce has worked as an artist, educator, and scholar, but spent countless times working with Pearl on her cannabis farm. The two friends were united in Montana by their love for the arts and herb– which ignited in them a shared desire to create a product that could help people heal.
Cannabis led Pearl to enlightenment and freedom from alcohol. Dr. Joyce uses it to help settle her mind and tap into self-belief. Their spiritual journey as holistic practitioners began when they dedicated themselves to growing cannabis organically on Pearl’s farm.
Proposition 64 forbade them from bringing their product to market as topicals didn’t meet the regulations for dispensaries. Due to this, the sisters remained underground as they created a legal formula that could be sold in stores and on their website. They emerged victorious and remained even more driven by their mission to raise awareness of cannabis’ ability to heal.
The Bud Sisters continue their mission by inspiring people to take health into their own hands. To this day, their legacy lives on in the people they have empowered.
Wendy Kornberg – Regenerative farmer, owner of Sunnabis: Humbdolt’s Full Sun Farms and co-founder of the Ganjier Council.
As a second-generation farmer, Wendy’s roots in Southern Humboldt run deep. She owns and operates Sunnabis, a regenerative farm on the banks of the Eel River. Here, she uses her three decades of cultivation experience to grow some of the region’s most prized cannabis in a way that honors the earth and fully harnesses the healing power of the plant.
Her knowledge and skills in Korean Natural Farming have empowered her to become one of the most sought-after experts in regenerative agriculture. Wendy has traveled to every corner of the Emerald Triangle spreading the benefits of growing with nature and helping farmers become better stewards of their land, and producers of the highest quality cannabis.
Beyond cultivation Wendy also shares her mastery of creating award-winning cannabis formulations as part of the Ganjier® certification, a first-of-its-kind course aimed at training the next class of cannabis professionals. Wendy’s unique heritage and the knowledge and skills she has acquired as a legacy farmer are now within reach of hundreds of students throughout the globe, helping her to fulfill her mission of serving the cannabis community in Humboldt and beyond.
For Wendy, the word legacy means more than what the next generation will inherit. It recognizes the contribution of people working in the industry during prohibition and how their grit and determination helped “foster the community through the difficulties and hurdles of the regulated market, through advocacy, education, or simply through leading by example.”
Through her community educator roles, Wendy continues to advocate for farming practices that honor the grace and beauty of Southern Humboldt county.
Lelehnia Dubois – Cannabis industry facilitator, co-founder of Canopyright, founder of Humboldt Grace and founder of the Humboldt Grace Legacy Auction.
Lelehnia Dubois was seven when her mother led their family from the shores of San Diego to the misty mountains of Trinity County. This was the beginning of a lifelong pilgrimage for peace with cannabis.
Her journey towards personal acceptance of the plant didn’t come easy, and required years of healing from trauma. After a life-changing spinal cord injury which resulted in the failure of conventional drugs to cease her pain, Lelehnia was led to her true cannabis awakening. This proved to be a pivotal moment as the injury thrusted her to embrace her physical pain, reconnect with her spiritual being, and thrive like never before.
From 2005 on, Lelehnia began producing plant medicine for others while distributing her product at medical dispensaries. Her defense for cultivators, and her representation of women, put her in the political spotlight. In 2014, she became the first chair and president of the California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH), a grassroots organization whose aim was to get farmers, business owners, and politicians to collaborate toward building an equitable model for regulating Humboldt’s burgeoning cannabis market.
To this day, Lelehnia continues to find ways to preserve the heritage of farmers and families of the Emerald Triangle. Her work with Canopyright and the Humboldt Grace Legacy Auction uses blockchain technologies, DNA sequencing, and compliance law to protect, authenticate and validate the region’s unique cannabis knowledge, genetics and culture.
For Lelehnia, legacy means honoring the cannabis plant and its power to open a gateway to higher paths of consciousness and servitude. Proposition 64 has allowed Lelehnia to live her truth, and continue healing herself and her community. Her mission to protect and share the Emerald Triangle’s unrivaled cannabis knowledge is how her legacy manifests.
“This is one of the biggest legacies in history. Every step matters, policy, cultivation, everyone is leaving something, we need awareness, you need to know your legacy– know what was laid before you and what you are laying for the rest.”
Katie Jeane – Regenerative farmer, owner of Emerald Spirit Botanicals, Emerald Cup winner in the THCV and sun-grown flower category.
Born and raised in the Emerald Triangle, Katie Jeane credits her children as a significant driving force in her success. As a young single mother, thoughts of her family willed her on as she chanted “power on, power on, strong will, dreams come true,” whilst navigating heavy loads on steep mountainous deer trails in her first role in the industry as a “strong young back.”
Life before legalization was filled with simple pleasures– cooking, family, friends and cannabis. Like many other farmers, Katie’s evenings are now spent jumping through numerous regulatory paperwork hurdles that confine her to a desk. Here, she strategizes the best course for her family’s business amidst the challenges of navigating an ever-changing landscape littered with obstacles.
As she embraces the difficulties of this shifting role and continues to tackle them head-on, her family’s award-winning and unique genetics prove Katie’s success is a testament to her resilience. Choosing to focus on breeding and producing balanced cultivars with 1:1 ratios of cannabinoids, other than THC, has allowed Emerald Spirit Botanicals to flourish in a turbulent post-legalization landscape. Valuing the medicinal benefits of minor cannabinoids like THCV makes the family business pioneers in a legal industry that often pursues THC potency above all else. Her family’s efforts have been recognized by their numerous Emerald Cup awards, where they have taken home prizes for their regenerative farming methods, sun-grown flower, and THCV flower.
Katie’s hopes for the future are a testament to the lessons that lifelong work with cannabis has given her. Lessons to “trust, to follow my heart and the guidance of the plant no matter how odd and unusual it may be. My work and the journey of our family business Emerald Spirit Botanicals, has been profound and magical.”
Amidst its widespread commercialization, legacy farmers like Katie continue to remind us that the true value of this sacred plant medicine lies in its potential to heal. Although decriminalization may spotlight marketing and monetary gains, cannabis should be respected and honored through its conscious consumption, and the use of the plant with intention and gratitude.
Jenn Procacci: Co-owner of WildLand Cannabis, Emerald Cup winner for best CBD cartridge, women’s CannaCup best pre-roll winner
Tucked on the edge of Mendocino’s national forest, Covelo-based Jenn Procacci reflects on the pre-legalization days with misty-eyed nostalgia. Days filled with a robust economy, a thriving cannabis market, and a flourishing community.
Farmers like Jenn enjoyed a level of freedom that allowed them to diversify their time. Her creativity is shown in managing her local community center, painting murals, and overseeing the local food growers association and vendors at the farmer’s market. “These were halcyon days. Everyone in our community had time to spare for one another.”
The journey to legalization and beyond meant Jenn had to scale up her farm to meet the requisites of legalization. Keeping up with compliance and the ever-changing regulations has been a test of her willpower and drive. Weathering the storm has been a life-changing transformation where Jenn has embraced new identities as a business person, successful entrepreneur, and multi-award-winning cannabis producer.
“Despite the challenges, it has been a valuable experience for me. Diamonds are created under pressure, and steel is forged in the fire! Valuable lessons usually don’t come in the easy times,” she says.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Jenn’s evolution has been the ability to go public about her cannabis journey and join the network of other women growers who continue to forge their paths in the industry. These women and their representation of decades-long traditions of working with cannabis as medicine makers, farmers, and distributors are the legacies Jenn strives to represent and uphold. Assume representation means creating a brand and putting yourself out there. In that case, Jenn encourages other women to do so in the hopes they can connect and build a network that may help others find financial independence so they can be free and empowered to live on their terms. “Remember, the cannabis plants we cultivate are female – so I believe the cannabis plant itself is here to serve the feminine, to raise women up and empower them!”
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