Take a 20-minute journey into the coastal mountains, and sitting right at the edge of the Mendocino National Forest is the sprawling 10-acre farm that is WildLand. With its 2500-foot elevation in the heart of the banana belt, WildLand is a place that magically exists above the fog, below the frost and a five-hour flight from the East Coast upbringings of its two founders.
“We came here hoping to grow vegetables,” Joey Gothelf said about his relocation to California with business partner Jenn Procacci nine years ago. The kindred spirits were both artists–he was a freelance graphic designer with his own clothing company, and she was a mural painter–but it would be Jenn’s farming expertise that would light their way towards The Golden State.
“Jenn basically taught me everything I know about farming,” Joey said of his co-founder. “She knew about Covelo, had trimmed here before and had worked on an organic vegetable farm nearby.” Being immersed in the region’s cannabis culture suddenly made their original idea of growing quinoa a touch less exciting.
“We both had the same love of cannabis, so we were stoked to be able to grow it,” Joey said. “One thing led to another and all of a sudden it was our lifestyle, then it was our livelihood, and then regulation started coming around and we decided to go all in.” They needed a location perfectly suited for the kind of sustainable farming they’d always dreamed of: a place far away from commercial agriculture, pesticide drift and the risk of tainted metals impacting their cannabis grow. For the two artists, that meant scoring the ultimate blank canvas.
“Our farm is on totally virgin soil. There’s never been anybody here growing anything, it was a field when we got here,” Joey said. “We’ve changed as little of that as possible and aside from the little bit we’ve done, it’s basically the same as it has always been since the earth formed, which I think is pretty rad.”
Native soil combined with the extended season inherent to WildLand’s higher elevation, Covelo’s legendary water supply, and Round Valley’s embedded culture of sustainability (according to Joey, everyone in the area has their own vegetable garden) set the ideal stage for cultivating organic heirloom cannabis strains.
“You don’t grow in pots, you don’t go buy soil, because the soil in the ground is the best,” Joey explained. WildLand doesn’t use any herbicides, rodenticides or synthetic pesticides. They also avoid giving the plants synthetic nutrients, which eventually get washed away into the watershed. Instead, Jenn and Joey begin every year amending the soil as sustainably as possible and making as many of their own amendments as they can, including teas, fermentations inspired by Korean Natural Farming techniques and good old-fashioned plant cannibalism.
“When we get the males in the beginning of the year we kill and ferment them, and then feed that back to all the females and they love it, because it literally has everything they need,” Joey said. Visions of praying mantises aside, each process is meant to enrich the soil such that frequent feeding is unnecessary–the plants pull nourishment directly from the soil when they need it, without human intervention. Combine all of that with the hot, dry regional conditions and you get seriously strong genetics in the form of heirloom strains that leave weak, lab-grown strains in the dust (sorry, Sour Diesel).
Every decision WildLand makes supports a broader focus on ensuring that small farmers are part of every conversation surrounding the industry. Between duties as Head Farmer, Jenn creates space for community as host of The Cannabis Hour on local radio station KZYX. Joey makes time between overseeing marketing and sales to join her for Board of Supervisor meetings, advocating for regulatory changes that reflect the needs of this vital community. “I view cannabis as the last bastion of agriculture that still belongs in the hands of the people,” Joey said. “I don’t want them to turn cannabis into Big Corn.”
That’s why from Joey’s perspective, introducing consumers to heirloom cannabis grown by WildLand and other local farmers, some of whom have been cultivating heirloom strains for 30-plus years, is an honor. “It’s really cool to be a part of the genetic history of cannabis that exists here,” Joey reflected. “I make the comparison to when you go to a Farmer’s Market and buy tomatoes from a guy that grew it, and he can explain to you why this is the best tomato, why it tastes better, why it’s better for you–it’s the same thing.”
WildLand’s commitment to the small, sustainable farming of heirloom strains brought us to Electric Jah, the 1:1 CBD cartridge that is now part of the Chemistry lineup. Electric Jah offers a balancing buzz that won’t overwhelm newbies, and an unprecedented 10.8% terpene profile that’s sure to wow even the most devout cannoisseur.
“Cannabis is medical whether you recognize the benefits or not,” Joey said. “But if you’re purely somebody who smokes for recreation, it’s a super mellow smoke. It’s not something that’ll take over your brain, it’s very functional.” Wellness-leaning consumers who try Electric Jah for pain relief, focus and other ailments “are going to have a better experience,” he added.
Sustainable farming, small agriculture and heirloom cannabis–at the end of the day, WildLand’s all about the consumer experience. “It’s just like wine and good food,” Joey said. “For me, if the weed doesn’t taste good and smell good, then I’m not into it.”
Amen to that.