Chemistry Visits: Outlaw Past Leads to Sustainable Future At Heartrock Mountain Farms
Updated: Sep 9
Clifford Morford left his native Watsonville in 1976 to build Heartrock Mountain Farms along the grade of the Eastern mountains in Mendocino County. He arrived in town with 10 years’ worth of cannabis seeds on hand – a collection he’d begun at the age of 16. That collection led to a home cultivation that would eventually produce much more than Clifford could smoke on his own. When someone offered to pay him $700 for the rest, he suddenly found himself in the underground weed business.
It was not the life he wanted for his youngest son.
“My dad wanted me to be more than just an outlaw,” Daniel Clifford said of his upbringing. “My dad worked for the state and he got busted in the ‘80s for 25 plants. In one way, in the prohibition days growing cannabis gave you a sense of freedom, and then in other ways it didn’t: you had to lay low and couldn’t really be too political.”
His father insisted that Daniel pursue an education, but the draw of farm life was too powerful to ignore. “I helped out on the farm while going to community college, then I did a few years at the University of Santa Cruz, and then I went to Oregon and built a medical garden for my mom and stepdad up there and then came back,” Daniel said.
Side work would amount to 16 years of cultivation experience, and in 2012 Daniel started managing Heartrock Mountain Farms overseeing its transition towards one of the largest and highest profile adult-use markets in the nation. Since then he’s also had 2 kids of his own, making Heartrock a third-generation family farm.
“As tough as it is with legalization, we know that we’re going to have at least one of the unknown forces eliminated,” said Daniel. “[We] still have to deal with the weather and the pests and sometimes the robbers, but not the law enforcement anymore.”
When Clifford decided to build Heartrock Mountain Farms at an elevation of 2300-2500 feet in the Southern Mountain Appellation more than 40 years ago, it was about getting “back to the land” - but the location would also turn out to be perfect for cannabis cultivation.
“So there’s people that put up shade cloth over their flowers as they’re in full sun - we don’t have to do that,” Daniel explained. “We’re still getting that sunset sun and the morning sun, we’re just getting a little afternoon evening shade and it definitely is very helpful for terpene production.”
And the sun isn’t working alone. “In the conifer forest, there’s some data coming out of the lab that the microbiology in conifer forests increases terpene production,” Daniel added.
In fact having other plants, fruits and vegetables growing prominently on the farm is central to Heartrock Mountain Farms’ mission of being stewards of the Earth. It’s also the reason behind the farm’s Dragonfly Earth Medicine certification.
“We grow a lot of food, a lot bio-diversity, a lot of flowers,” Daniel explained. “We have 6 closed loop systems [so] our inputs are very little if any at all, most of them are locally sourced and all of them organic.”
According to Daniel, prioritizing sustainability is also about “voting with our dollar”. Heartrock chooses not to use guanos, bone meal, or blood meal at the farm in part because the workers who mine them aren’t paid fair wages. “Not only is it better for your garden - it’s better for the earth, it’s better for the consumer,” he added.
When the time came to source flower for new Chemistry products, we knew the multi-generational legacy at the foundation of Heartrock Mountain Farms would take us in the right direction. They led us to Lion Claw, a strain of low-THC cannabis ruderalis that according to Daniel delivers “a strong, uplifting, sativa-like high that is incredibly flavorful.” Customers can experience its “skunky to sweet” taste for themselves in Chemistry’s Lion Claw tincture. Coming soon.
If this beautiful collaboration proves anything, it’s that there is no future without fully embracing the past.
“You’ve heard the saying: ‘The most revolutionary act you can do is grow a garden’,” Daniel said. “I see why my dad wanted me to be more than just an outlaw. And you know, now I’m more than just an outlaw, I run a commercial cannabis farm.”
Written by: Kaisha-Dyan McMillan