…a crudely drawn map leading us down dirt roads and ending at “a big flat with an ol’ ice box in the middle of it”
Ice Box Flat Farms (IBFF) is located in Panther Gap, in the Honeydew area of southern Humboldt County. Southern Humboldt has long been regarded as ground zero for the “back to the lander”, original home grown movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. If this is in fact the case, then Panther Gap is the epicenter.
The first cultivator on record here was growing in the early 1970’s. Some of his strains are still incorporate into their breeding programs today. IBFF got to the Gap in 1987. “We were working in Mendocino and hanging out in Garberville a lot, we met a guy who knew some people that had been “CAMPed” and wanted to sell.
We met them in Redway and with a crudely drawn map leading us down dirt roads and ending at “a big flat with an ol’ ice box in the middle of it” we found our way and Ice Box Flat Farms was born. We have been there ever since.”, says Patrick Andrews, founder of Ice Box Flat Farms.
“We are a family farm.”
“We have been around a long time. We are a family farm. We work hard and we believe in the medical benefits of our products. We are not some flash in the pan, upstart brand. We have stood the test of time.”, states Andrews.
Ice Box Flat Farms wants to identify with a more mature market, a consumer who understands what the Humboldt tradition of quality cannabis is and demands it. They feel that their ideal customer is a lot like them; hard working, honest with integrity. They say their ideal customer cares about sustainable farming, about clean tested product and that they want to know the farm it was sourced at.
“We believe that the average Medicinal Cannabis patient in California is very educated about the products they most consume. It is our job to then create a product that meets those quality expectations.”, says Andrews.
They learned about black box (light deprivation) in 1988, which was a real game changer.
Ice Box Flat Farms started out with outdoor as it was the easiest and most economical method. From the beginning they saw cannabis farming as part of their lifestyle. “We grew for ourselves, so our friends would have access to kind buds and to see how we could breed different varieties we liked and make the land payments. It was fun.”, smiles Andrews.
IBFF learned about black box (light deprivation) in 1988, which was a real game changer. They were able to make two crops a year in a much shorter time. When the greenhouse movement of the mid 90’s started, they transitioned to that. Moving from outdoor deep in the hills to greenhouses allowed them to concentrate a lot more on quality. Instead of taking up all that time making sure the “critters” didn’t get it, they were able to spend time to truly cultivate.
When the medical cannabis program launched in 1996, and they were able to come out of the shadows a bit; the birth of what you see today as the modern day mixed light cultivation took place. Over the past two decades, they have refined those techniques to what you see now; fully automated, climate controlled greenhouses.
“We feel that this type of method give the plants the full benefit of the sun and different aspects of our terroir while allowing for more controlled environment. This aspect makes it easier to control molds and fungus better and minimize the use of pesticides and fungicides. It also allows for multiple crops a year and gives our patients access to fresh meds.”, says Andrews.
Compliance in the cannabis industry is very challenging.
There are numerous challenges with reaching compliance. Municipalities, counties and now the State are coming out with varied regulations that seem to change daily. Also, the regulatory agencies tasked with monitoring and enforcing these new regulations are all just now cutting their teeth on how to do just that.
Because the regulations are so new, there are no precedents set and there is a lot of ambiguity in language that is, therefore, open to interpretation. “I think the next biggest hurdle is how monumental the whole process is. There is nothing in the compliance process that comes quick or easy. It is a slow painstaking process. If you suffer from a lack of patience when you start out down the compliance path, you will learn it quickly. Nothing comes quickly and nothing comes without work.”, states Andrews.
“Most of us have never had to deal with bureaucracy before…”
Ice Box Flat Farms is just one of hundreds of farms trying to comply to the new system. There are plenty of challenges, expected and unexpected. When asked what are the top three unexpected challenges, Andrews first discusses how long it takes to finish up the process.
“Most of us have never had to deal with bureaucracy before. Government agencies move slowly. They have a method and that method is paced. Remember, you are asking for an agency that a year ago was issuing permits for new garages to grant you an entitlement to grow a 1/2 acre of bud. This type of change comes with growing pains. That being said we are so fortunate here in Humboldt to have a Board of Supervisors and a planning and building Department dedicated to advancing the industry.”, says Andrews.
Another challenge is the cost to do business in the industry. Almost EVERYONE has their hand out and are either offering services they are too inexperienced to justify the costs or the proposed fees and taxes are nearly criminal.
“Its unreal how much more things cost the canna-industry. Everything from legal fees to permit fees have that extra “canna tax”.”, argues Andrews.
“Including myself, every other person involved in coming into compliance says the same thing; “Some days I just want to give it all up”. Since the industry is our love and livelihood, and we are in essence opening our underwear drawer up to multiple agencies to examine, it is very difficult for this not to get emotional.”, says Andrews.
Despite everything, Andrews argues that in the end its all worth it. That it is impossible to describe the feeling one gets when their final permits are handed over the counter.
“…we are currently concentrating on water run off management and erosion control.”
Currently, Ice Box Flat Farms is focused on continuing their compliance work for the season. IBFF has a checklist for the next few years and are knocking things off that list. From the environmental perspective, they are currently concentrating on water run off management and erosion control.
“We are big time outdoors people. We understand the need for clear creeks and streams and the vital importance they have on salmon and trout habitat. From a business perspective we are working hard to expand our presence in qualified dispensaries. We also feel that branding is now a necessity.”
Compliance is also bringing opportunities and the ability to scale properly to a community that was, for obvious reasons, never inclined to leverage the best in technology advancements. Farms in Northern California are going to need to compete with large scale indoor and outdoor growers across the state. Being able to build the modern, cannabis-specific greenhouses and have them entitled and permitted is the key.
“By combining all the best Humboldt has to offer: sun, exposure, on shore breeze, clean water combined with the ability to control that a bit and produce year round allows us to cultivate a product the markets in the Bay Area and LA desire.” says Andrews confidently.
“…we have sun, rain, fog. We have crystal clear naturally ph balanced water. “
In California, the gassy/fuel strains have just taken over the marketplace. Various OG’s, Sours and so on are what dispensaries continue to ask for. Ice Box Flat Farms has forged a great relationship with Dark Heart Nursery as their genetics partner.
“Right now my favorite is Dark Heart’s Sour Diesel from tissue culture and their Tahoe OG cut.” says Andres.
“What separates Ice Box Flat Farms from some warehouse in the desert is pretty obvious.”
Beside the decades of cultivation experience brought to the table, Ice Box Flat Farms’ location has sun, rain, fog and crystal clear naturally ph balanced water. They also enjoy this magic little breeze that rolls off of the Pacific and up the Mattole River Valley that carries with it air that is ion-charged and full of micro-nutrients.
“This breeze gives the cannabis grown in our valley a difference in taste and efficacy you have to try to appreciate. All of these things combine to give our product what we like to call “character”. All of our product, no matter the strain, tend to be full bodied.” says Andrews proudly. “We believe that the sun and the exposure to real life environment is the only way to bring out the maximum potential for taste, smell and potency. I have never seen tear drop size amber glandular trichomes on a flower grown under a 1000w light.”
Ice Box Flat Farms is expanding their product line to include some cool manufactured products. Fresh frozen and live rosin is an exciting product category they are exploring and they are currently working on an Ice Box Flat Farms Ice Cube. “It comes from the fresh frozen process and we think will be a cool addition to our line.”, smiles Andrews.
Ice Box Flat Farms has signed an exclusive contract with Pacific Expeditors Distribution to distribute our products. IBFF also has a patient base at a number of collectives including; EcoCann in Eureka, Shambhalla in San Francisco and Sonoma Patients Group to name a few. Online they can be found on Facebook, Instagram and their website.
“We are going to be running some really fun promotional deals here in the upcoming months, so check us out.”