After starting The Dep Report last week in Humboldt County, we now head south to the equally critical center for cannabis production over the last half-century, Mendocino County.
Mendo, as the locals and people who buy big piles of weed call it, is one of the great sacred places for cannabis. As the hippies of San Francisco banked off acid and brick weed sales in the 1960s and 1970s, many would move north traveling past wine country to lay down their roots on communes and farms in the Redwood-covered hills. There, they would learn to grow some of the best marijuana on the planet over the decades. Eventually, it would end up one of the rural places the drug war hit the hardest.
But when they weren’t running from the choppers, they were growing heat. Back in the day, many started getting into the light deprivation style of growing just to have some fresh weed and cash for their trimmers when the crop that needed the full season was ready to harvest.
Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake is one of the best people you can ask when it comes to good pot in his beloved Mendocino. But at the moment, Blake was more prepared to talk quantity. As he talked with some of the industry’s biggest players recently, they had concerns over moving product in the flooded marketplace.
“I’ll tell you what, it was pretty daunting,” Blake told L.A. Weekly. “There are so many deps that have come in from the first run, that [one distributor] said they don’t even need to do the second run or the sungrown. We’re gonna have absolute over-abundance and over-production. I had another distributor telling me that they thought it’d be two years before it was commoditized and it’s going to be this year. The prices are already collapsing, and it’s gonna be a very, very tough year for the farmers because there’s just so much.”
Part of the problem is that while Mendo crushed it as usual, so did many giant farming operations across the central valley and down south that dwarf the scale that the moms and pops of the hills are able to grow at.
“It went really well and there’s so much. There are so many millions of pounds of Ice Cream Cake and Gelatos and desserts that I don’t know what people are gonna do really. I mean, it’s really going to be very, very challenging,” Blake said.
Blake says small farmers didn’t get the shot in the market they were promised before the megafarms showed up.
“Gavin Newsom came up to Mendocino and talked us into evangelizing for [Proposition] 64 based on the fact that in that part of 64 said there’d be nothing over one acre for five years, so that all the small farmers, all the people in the hills everywhere would have a chance to segue out,” Blake said. “Well, two months into Prop. 64 Gavin Newsom opened up large scale farming. And you immediately had 10, 20, 30, 40-acre farms in Salinas and in Santa Barbara.”
Blake can’t comprehend how it was ever intended that a person with 10,000 square feet in the hills would be able to tango with giant players. He argues it’s impossible. He was the second person to enter Mendocino’s cultivation program, but he expected things wouldn’t go well once the ban on big farms was canceled and gave up on the effort.
“How am I going to compete?” Blake asked? “These guys are growing and they can sell it for between $300 and $500 a pound. These small farmers barely or can’t even grow it for that. And so what you’re seeing now is massive amounts. People are already cherry picking the very best of it. They’re beating people up on prices. Prices are plummeting. People can’t even sell last year’s sungrown, that’s just dead. I don’t know what they’re gonna do with sungrown this year because most people want the mixed-light. So what are these farmers going to do with all this sungrown coming out in three months after two gigantic rounds of mixed light?”
Another problem in Blake’s eyes? The limited number of retail points in the marketplace. He felt dispensary numbers getting back up to where they were before legalization would make shelf space available for the little guys to try and survive.
Blake doesn’t regret supporting Prop. 64 and what it meant for cannabis moving forward. But it’s hard for him to watch what’s happening in his community.
“I went for 64. I’m still glad because look what it did: It opened up cannabis across the country, the world. It’s never going to be stopped,” Blake said. “People aren’t going to prison. My conservative family are now using cannabis. That’s all great. The only thing that was promised was that they knew that we needed five years because we’re never gonna be able to compete. Small farmers will never compete with large-scale agriculture.”
Blake’s main advice for friends has been to take whatever numbers they’re hearing now because they’re only heading south in the months to come.
The reality of the bottom dollar will be a thing for many, but not all. For some of the state’s most coveted flowers, whether you’re smoking them or making hash, they can still command prices north of $2,000. And not even just to rappers.
For the team at the Original Z, the first run of deps is always crushing in their neck of the woods, but it’s fascinating for them to see the people of the hills long set in their ways come around on new genetics, according to the company’s founders Tony Mendocino and Field.
“In one way, Mendo has been doing its own thing for a long time, and having its own strains, and a lot of people are stuck in their ways. Like to where they’re just starting to break away and go, ‘Fuck man, stuff out there is way better than our mountain strains we’ve been working with,’” Tony Mendo said.
But as Mendo picked up on the new flavors, the farmers were quick to crush.
“There is no learning curve for Mendo folks,” Tony Mendo says. “So that’s an advantage because I think we’ve been a good constant for years for a lot of different strains. Our process has been pretty refined for a long time so I think once everything is said and done, you will be able to really rely on surprises. There is always going to be some crazy hand grenade strain thrown into the mix we’re not ready for. That’s the part I’ve never really gotten used to up here in Mendo.”
Tony Mendo admitted that he and Field ran in the pack, but they were never looking back to see who was in second. But that being said, they argued when the farmers of Mendo do get their hands on those hand grenades that change the game they’re bound to do better than most with them.
But of course, not everyone grows the heat as they do. But it all falls somewhere between fast food and Wagyu. We asked the pair how expensive dinner looked this year?
“Well, I think you got different people in different areas growing more cannabis than previously, right? And you have different areas, I guess in competition, especially in the traditional market. Where now you have a lot more weed in the Central Coast, and people can and are willing to go lower at certain times, especially early on,” Field told L.A. Weekly. “I think it’s been as low as a McDonald’s dinner for fresh deps at like $600 a pound. And it’s been an unwavering number where you can still get $2,500 to $3,000 for good Z Deps.”
We asked the pair if this was the most flooded they had ever seen the marketplace going into the heart of summer. They were quick to point out Mendo went absolutely batshit in the leadup to the implementation of Prop. 64 in 2017. They said the scale was so massive nobody truly feared getting caught. They knew law enforcement would take the lowest hanging fruit and move on.
“There was just so much that it was super low. Although you want to know what’s funny is there is still not as much weed around right now as there was then, but the prices have definitely dipped as low as they did,” Field said. “You didn’t really see packs any lower than $600 really. That was the bottom and it’s still there.”
The final stop on our trip through Mendocino to talk deps with the killers is one of the heaviest duty trophy shelves in all of the game, 3rd Gen Family Farm. There, the “3rd Gen ” himself, Brandon Parker, makes the breeding selections A-list rappers thirst over when he’s not doing some of the greatest hash runs of all time.
Parker argued the weather got a bit hot for some.
“Oh man, I think the droughts kind of hit people a lot this year, and the heat is pretty excruciating. There’s a lot of boof on the market,” Parker said. Full disclosure, Parker has a higher bar than most for something to be considered a quality product.
But despite his high bar, he is surprised to hear what those on the opposite end of the spectrum are getting for their products. “$600 sounds like some fucking horse feather big dog,” Parker said. “That sounds like they fucking pulled it out the bush, you know what I mean? That’s got to be some real hog fart.”
Parker said even if someone is buying 100 pounds, numbers that low are a slap in the face.
Some argue that as the legal market continues to open more, deps will take over in the years to come. We asked Parker his sentiment on that idea.
“I mean, do they grow tobacco indoor?” Parker asked. “No. I mean there’s your answer dog. Do they grow grapes indoor? I think that the sun is the best thing in the world. I think that there will always be – I don’t want to even call it connoisseur grade because that would be calling anything grown under the sun not connoisseur grade – but there’s always going to be a picky son of a bitch that wants to fucking go out and just get the prettiest little nuggets.”
Parker doesn’t have a lot of concerns about the people that make up that segment of the marketplace.
“That being said, greenhouses have always been some of the best weed in the world. I’ve beat lots of indoor growers over the years with my sungrown in my greenhouse,” Parker said. “You know, it’s like the sun is the ultimate dude. Breaking hearts and pulling tarps in my greenhouse. That’s what it is.”