Note from the Ganjier Managing Partner
The 2017 Golden Tarp Awards saw some of the best light deprivation grown cannabis entries we have seen in the years we have held the contest and our goal has always been to find and promote the skills and quality of cannabis cultivated from the region. During the Golden Tarp entry and first round selection process there were two entrants that were incorrectly taken out of consideration due completely to our error. We did not discover the mistake until after the competition and we apologize to those entrants that the judges were not able to sample their entries or that the public wasn’t made aware of their incredible work.
Despite this mistake on our part, both entrants Humboldt Redwood Healing and Redwood Remedies were understanding and supportive beyond our expectations. Given the importance of competitions for producers in our industry we were humbled and thankful of their understanding. It is truly this sort of approach to business and collaboration that we cannot afford to lose in this industry. We will strive to do better here at The Golden Tarp and The Ganjier. Our community deserves it. – Dennis Park, Managing Partner of Ganjier Media, LLC
Taking the business legit. Gaining more control.
Thomas Mulder, owner of Humboldt Redwood Healing, saw regulations changing mid-2005 and consulted with lawyers to feel out the direction of the industry. It was clear that there was a fundamental change in the cannabis industry of California and a growing acceptance of cannabis in American society. By late 2015, he decided it was time to form a nonprofit organization, to the skepticism of his friends, and turn his operation into a Mutual Benefit Corporation. Mulder found a few board members who also believed in his vision and since September 2015, Humboldt Redwood Healing has been operating as a non-profit. Ever since, they have been operating as such to provide high quality, sungrown cannabis to collective members and dispensaries across the state.
Refining their practices as much as they could, one of the first priorities was to gain more control along the supply chain to ensure that they were able to keep quality standards at their best. Mulder is continuously trying to refine their operations so one of their first acts was to bring more things in-house and have more product quality control further down the chain. This was because one couldn’t reliably trust other people to be forthcoming or accurate in regards to testing and quality of their clones or starts.
Payroll and taxes. A change from the norm.
When Humboldt Redwood Healing went above ground, Mulder prioritized paying their employees above the table, giving his employees a good living wage and paying all taxes. He gave himself five years to try and successfully run the business legitimately and his organization jumped in wholeheartedly; paying federal, state and employer taxes. While others were trying to do half-in half-out, they decided to just go full legit.
Mulder gained a great group of employees over the years and found people that believe in their core values of Quality-over-Quantity every day, always striving to provide the highest quality medicinal cannabis in the market. Their attrition rate since going legal is ZERO. They have added more staff since fully going legal and they always vet potential employees stringently. He also makes sure that employees understand that his organization is a totally above the ground operation, all the way down to giving pay stubs. Mulder wants his employees to be stable, happy and to create a positive work environment.
“It translates to the production plant; it develops a sense of pride and people go the extra mile.” said Mulder.
He believes that positive energy and pride goes back into the plant and that one can see it in the form of great cannabis, a clean work environment (e.g. picking up leaves that fall in the aisle ways) and the extra time and attention they pour into their work.
‘Doing it the right way’. Putting actions behind the words.
“We want to uphold standards from anywhere in the chain”, says Mulder. If they see teenage plants that don’t look like they will perform as well, they’ll compost them instead. They take care of the needs of the cannabis plant as things are going along, focusing on preventative maintenance, such as using beneficial nematodes and bacteria, and using non-toxic sprays. Their approach is to treat cannabis like a high-end agricultural commodity and take a preventative approach to troubleshooting before problems arise.
“…care goes into teenage plants. You might see one that doesn’t look like it will perform as well as the others and (we) will prune it from the bunch.” says Mulder.
Compared to big corporate players, Humboldt Redwood Healing will sacrifice profit margins to produce a higher quality product. There won’t be a big pot of money for the owners at the end of the day because they want to provide good employment and lifestyle for the people involved, for everyone involved in their brand. It’s community and consumers over profits.
Mulder champions being compliant, reinvesting in the long term needs of the farm, the business and staff versus pocketing profits. This involves taking care of roads, performing fire reduction activities, and opening up airflow around the farm.
He proudly shares that every consultant and regulator that has gone through the operation has commented on how clean and compliantly they’ve operated. The farm isn’t just producing a flower; there is a lot more to it. Giving back time to the community, volunteering and being an active member of your community is all part of business.
Your Sour G tested at 29%THC and a total terp count of 3.51%. Tell us more.
“The Sour G is our flagship strain because so much extra time and energy is put into it compared to the other cultivars we raise”, states Mulder. Humboldt Redwood Healing cultivates numerous other strains but the Sour G in particular was given extra time and care to get it to the phenotype they wanted.
What hits you first is the gassy smell with a hint of floral/fruity notes. There are also some skunky notes that makes this strain so complex. When first considering which of the four categories of The Golden Tarp Awards this entry fell into, Mulder asked Kevin Jodrey, founder of The Golden Tarp Awards, to help him categorize it. Even Kevin noted that the unique fuel-floral combination was interesting and difficult to assign in one or the other category.
Out in the legal (white) market, this strain does well with its unique gassy smell hitting you when you open the bag. In some places, the Sour G would outsell the OGs alongside it because of how different yet familiar it smelled. While this Sour G is not a mellow strain and is more of a heavy hitter, you are still able to function although with a little more effort required.
“I wouldn’t take (the Sour G) and then study for an exam.” – Mulder
Their Sour G makes multitasking and remembering multiple things a little difficult but it does allow you to focus on one task well. You are not “zombied out” and are still functional but very mentally relaxed and the body loosens up. When Mulder was in the process of vetting the different phenotypes of the Sour G, one person Mulder had working for him requested, “Don’t give me a lot of things to remember at one point in time on that one.”
This type of cannabis is excellent for enjoying non-strenuous outdoor activities, or relaxing and de-stressing, and not for you to go out and do a list of tasks or errands.
Some people have a couple of drinks at the end of the day to turn off the racing thoughts due to the rigors of today’s world. This strain in particular would be a good alternative to achieve the same results with an arguably healthier product.
How do you provide consistency with your products?
Consistency is something they take very seriously and they have a strict grading policy in-house. There will be different levels or grades of product in every single batch and they take time to go through that grading process to reach and maintain that consistency.
They are not going to market a premium, Grade A sungrown product which is a bunch of small buds of B-grade product. “You can’t provide the exact same thing each time for someone but you want them to realize and believe through experience, that you will consistently bring them something that is always top quality. By following the protocols in our process, we believe this is how we get that end result. It’s about the consistency of product quality”, says Mulder.
Steps we take for the environment and the community around us
As far as their forest management practices, they do things like opening up the underbrush, letting the air and Mother Nature pass things through the farm, and that’s where they get some of the more unique terpene expressions; these different flavors and tastes come from their farmland and the natural environment.
Humboldt Redwood Healing believes in letting Mother Nature breed. There are trees that may need to limbed up or maybe some that are not beneficial in the area. For example, Mulder is really big on Redwood trees and promote their growth on the property vs Tan Oaks. Tan Oaks are invasive, even according to the timber management plan.
They deal with clearing the underbrush, chipping the Tan Oaks and spreading the chips over the forest floor around the Redwoods to help with moisture retention. They strive to be more in tune with the natural ecosystems from their region and to be aware of these ecosystems in how they plan their cultivation strategy.
Mulder takes precautions to not have fertilizer or pesticide run off issues so they don’t use chemical pesticides at all. They have rock check dams on every drainage run off area on the farm to see if there was sediment, to be aware of it and solve for it.
Mulder prefers open air and letting the plants breathe, rolling up the sides of the greenhouse unless there are things like fires or contaminants nearby, in which case they keep covers on to avoid the ash and microbial issues that result. They also flush things out when harvesting for 7-10 days with fresh water. They do everything they can to have a flower that is still good even 12 months later. “We try to go above and beyond to increase the quality of the harvest”, says Mulder.
Your farm is on TPZ land. What does that mean and how does it affect the cannabis?
Timberland Production Zone (TPZ) means an area which has been zoned and is devoted to and used for growing and harvesting timber, or for growing and harvesting timber and compatible uses. Landowners of TPZ lands receive property tax reductions in exchange for public benefits related to good land management practices that protect wildlife habitat, stream health, and sustainable timber production.
“TPZ land is where the roots of this whole movement started and there are unique terpenes and flavors you get by being around those trees. When you are around those Redwoods, you get that coastal fog that every now and then that will cool things down so all your terpenes do not cook off (due to heat)”, said Mulder.
The unique characteristics of the farm’s location are understood and leveraged. A change of location can impact the end result of even the same strain in very different ways. Mulder has taken the same exact cuts and gifted them to people for their personal head stash and it’s a different result, no matter what strain.
Strains adopt different characteristics in different micro-environments and even small differences like being a mile down the road or having a different amount of natural shade on a property greatly affects the end product.
“(Cannabis) in Humboldt was originally grown in the shade among Manzanitas and in tree gardens and all kinds of different things and that gave us the unique smells. As we go wide open, we need to remember that we need some of those trees to absorb different things, maybe put out different types of air (from the Redwood trees) than you would in Salinas Valley. Those different factors will play a big part in what the end result is”, said Mulder.
A deep understanding of the plant and their specific locale makes a difference.
Overall, the Humboldt Redwood Healing brand distinguishes itself from other local producers, large scale grows, or even smaller indoor grows, by focusing on quality, leveraging experience and the local terroir, and emphasizing sustainability, environmentally and operationally. Both are about building something that lasts, has real value to the people involved (patients and employees), and making sure growth happens in a healthy way with a long term focus.
When they do their market research for what trends are happening in the markets, a lot is involved. Product research, market research, market projections, and keeping a close relationship with their customers and their evolving tastes are all different ways Humboldt Redwood Healing keeps ahead of the curve and maintains brand loyalty.
What are some of the challenges of operation between the white and black markets?
Mulder sees a problem with the white market; he’s had friends who are stepping forward but finding that they are in a significantly slower process. A black market farmer can liquidate hundreds of thousands of dollars of product overnight but white market farmers can’t. It’s challenging and requires budgeting, projections, and a lot of patience. Mulder said that his peers will often say, “Oh my god, I can’t move (one) box at a time!” in exasperation.
It is a slower process getting your product ready for market, having to test along the way, and realistically it is about a month after harvest before anyone sees any revenue. When there are bills to pay and people are used to seeing money sooner in the process, it is a frustrating adjustment for people going above ground.
Another hardship is that the government doesn’t wait to take their money. Sales tax is taken out of the account directly as is Payroll taxes on the first of the month…which makes it very challenging to stay above board. Compliance is expensive and not worthwhile if money is your only goal for being in cannabis.
In the black market, his observations are more about the way business is conducted than market demands. Volatility is the word he uses most often. The predominant driver in the black market sales is making money rather than supporting each other or championing the consumer.
“…(it’s) really, really volatile. You have farmers basically out against each other, undercutting each other. Rather than helping and supporting each other, they work against each other…being tight with their secrets or even trying to force people out of business”, said Mulder.
Humboldt Redwood Healing has had some very positive interactions in the white market via relationships with distributors such as True Humboldt. The support received, especially by those that achieved compliance early, has been critical in the new market. Getting your brand and products into the market has always been a challenge once it leaves the farm but in today’s industry, solid and reliable entities like True Humboldt can make a world of difference.
Who would you describe as your customer/demographic. Who are they?
After asking all the different consumers who try his product, Mulder found that their consumer demographics run all over the board and it was less about a particular category of consumer than it was about those seeking a particular result. In this case, it was the Sour G for its mind calming effects.
Humboldt Redwood Healing believes that cannabis doesn’t have a specific demographic and that a commitment to growing clean cannabis, being aware of their environment and its contributing factors, and the genetics they consider to fit into their region, while still being aware of what consumer trends are, is the recipe for longevity.
People’s tastes and preferences will evolve and change and adhering to a specific category of strains or focusing on a specific demographic does not support a long term relationship with the consumer. Their belief is that tastes and preferences will change over time, and a relationship with the consumers and commitment to quality and high standards is the way to go.
What do you want Humboldt Redwood Healing to be?
Thomas wants to build something that he can create and pass down to his kids, if they want to be a part of his industry. He wants to build something that is sustainable. If he can provide stable, well-paying jobs to the community, he knows that he is building something truly sustainable and giving back to the community. The employees will live in the community, spend their money, and build a life there, and that’s a long term focused plan.
Doing things this way helps to give better job security to the people he employs. He is able to give them better assurance that they will have a job after that season rather than the uncertainty of the black market. They know they have work next year and for years to come rather than hoping they don’t get busted that tarp season, skating through the winter and hoping they have a job next summer. He wants people to have job security and believes people put in that extra effort as a result of that stability.