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Living Off the Land

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The tale of Canna Country Farms is one of a multigenerational survivor from Humboldt County, California. Ted Blair, Canna Country’s owner and an award-winning third-generation cannabis farmer, considers the operation a model full-sun garden representing the best “the hill” has to offer. The farm’s geographical location helps, as being in the right location in The Emerald Triangle is critical to growing the best fire possible. Canna Country sits not too far outside Garberville, California. The town of about 1,300 people is southern Humboldt’s first major population center, just north of the Mendocino County line at Cook’s Valley.

High Times Magazine, May 2024

Southern Humboldt is King

Some would argue that the Southern region of Humboldt County is some of the most ideal cannabis-cultivation lands in all of California. Numerous Emerald Cup champions in various categories dot the region, and, like Blair, many of their families have spent generations living off the land and the amazing cannabis it can provide.

When you’re talking about elite outdoor flowers grown by legacy survivors, southern Humboldt is one of the best places you can start, as far as Blair is concerned.

“We’re a third-generation farm that went legal, and our property is off the grid,” Blair told High Times. “We are a rainwater catchment. We’re in the ground. We plant a full-term sun, we don’t use any light, no light assist, and we’ve been creating our genetics for about five years up there.”

Blair immediately emphasized that they’re really all about family farming, being carbon-free, and doing things as natural as possible with all organic inputs for their plants. Also deeply embedded in the farm’s core values is trying not to do any damage to the environment.

We asked Blair if living off the grid has impacted his gardening style, given the connection to the land that comes with that kind of lifestyle.

“Absolutely, yes,” Blair replied, “I need to utilize the sun and do most of my heavy work during the day off of the electricity and try and save it for, you know, later at night. We don’t have to have any backup generator of any kind.”

Blair lived off the grid with his family when he was growing up, but they eventually got power.

The farm is a piece of property his family has owned for about 15 years. His mom helped him get started, and in the years since, he has taught his sons how to manage the farm and grow great weed, as contests in recent years have proven. In 2021, Canna Country took home second place for #26 in the sungrown flower category of The Emerald Cup and ninth for #9, followed by a sixth place win for #26 in the same strain and category in 2022. Last year, Canna Country Farms took home a second-place award in the non-infused pre-roll category for its collaboration with Huckleberry Hill Farms, a Whitethorn Rose and Canna Country #26 blended pre-roll.

Based on his many awards, it’s clear that Blair’s cannabis is unique, but he points out a lot is going on at the farm besides cannabis.

“We have fruit trees and persimmons and berries, and we have wild mushrooms in the winter,” Blair said. “We aren’t far from the ocean. So we have a boat, we go salmon fishing, rock cod, halibut, and crab.” 

Blair said he’ll be using the fish carcasses in an emulsion he is making for this year.

Blair went a little deeper into what makes the region so special; it’s the climate, but it’s also the experience that’s in the hills.

“Not only is it just awesome sun and weather, but planting in the same dirt for almost 14 years and regenerating the dirt every year, it keeps getting better and better,” Blair said. “So, having the great weather and all these applications that have their own microclimates, having our genetics that are rare, and then knowing how to cure, dry, and store and just keep it as fresh as possible. And those are things we really can’t teach. It’s just trial by error for me anyway.”

Locally Bred

Blair has been growing cannabis since he was 13. His older sister would toss her roaches off the back porch, and one year, two plants popped up. He started tending to those plants. His mother also always had a couple of plants in her garden that she would let him help with.

The backbone of Canna Country in recent years has been the breeding work they did five years ago. Blair has spent the past few years digging through all those seeds based on which crosses he was the most excited about. In total, he has 305 crosses from that season five years ago. The work has been steady.

A lot of the pollen involved in the process was community-sourced. Different farms had pollen available on different days. They would let folks know what day so they could come over and grab it fresh.

His favorite from the pack so far is the #26. It reminds him of the phenos he grew as a guerrilla grower in the hills during his youth. It’s green all the way through until it gets some purple at the end, exclusively on the flower itself. The strain is a pairing of Forbidden Fruit and Cherimoya.

“We had this strain that was nice, that #26 strain. [It] had that smell, and I couldn’t get out of my head that I remember from when I was a kid,” Blair said, “It’s woody, peppery, and spicy. It’s creamy. It’s got all these different flavors to it. I just fell in love with that immediately. That was our star, that was my star, and it is my favorite. And there have been several others.”

Right now, the farm has popped 47 of the strains from the massive breeding project. Usually, Blair would pop about 50 seeds of each cross. He is working on trying to get licensing agreements together and get the work out to people who want to do large grows but has found a lot of red tape in the process.

“I think to have your own strain that no one else in the world has to grow on your farm, we all recognize how important it is,” Blair said noting the #26 is currently their diamond. “Having that in our pocket is probably the only reason we survived.”

Another big winner from the breeding project was the #9. It brings together Humboldt Skunk and F4 Sour Diesel OG Kush for a very gassy experience that the farm calls unforgettable. The team at Canna Country promises a full-bodied high but said there is still plenty of cerebral activity.

Blair noted that the red tape involved with licensing his strains is difficult on top of the fees that he already pays the state and county to exist, in addition to an assortment of other agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Water Board. The farm does whatever it has to stay in good standing. For Blair, going legal was never an option if he wanted his work to keep going; it was a must.

“It was sort of like you had to join up if you wanted to keep doing what you were doing,” Blair said. “At that time, county officials were sending out these threatening letters. They were abatement letters. They were going to come out to your house and start fighting you and doing all this scary stuff. I wanted my legacy, my kids, to be able to do what they’re doing.”

When Blair decided to go legal, he had no idea about the kind of pain and suffering that he would face throughout the process. In our interview, he questioned whether he would still have done it if given a chance to do it over. As for watching other people go hard without jumping through the legal hoops, Blair loves his neighbors regardless of what side of the fence they’re on and doesn’t want any of them to have to deal with heavy enforcement.

Blair went on to explain the biggest hurdle in the legacy market besides the pound price crashing. He argued that just getting the product to market is a struggle in a market driven by THC percentages. Consumers do not often make their purchases based on factors other than THC potency, so Canna Country’s effort to highlight things like the terpene ocimene doesn’t always get the spotlight it deserves.

Packing Dilemmas & Selling Direct

As someone who is very earth-conscious, Blair has been blown away by the amount of packaging he is required to use in order to be compliant. He’s even more shocked at just how wild some folks get with it.

“It’s terrible, man. It’s terrible. If I roll a joint, there’s no stuff I throw on the ground. There’s nothing I throw in the garbage,” Blair said. “[If] we go into the dispensary and want to buy one cartridge, it’s like a pile of garbage, and then you got to buy the battery, and there’s a pile of garbage. It’s just insane what this has turned into.”

Blair feels one of the most helpful things for small farmers would be simplifying direct-to-consumer sales. The average distributor charges 17% of whatever they can convince the retailer to buy the product for. Being able to send things directly from the farm to consumers would be a massive benefit for growers. As the California industry potentially expands to other states, farm direct would mean delivering freshness and quality, especially in Humboldt.

In 2024, California cannabis testing facilities were required to adhere to stricter controls from the state. While these new restrictions should help get inflated THC numbers back to reality, Blair doesn’t think it will matter if consumers aren’t educated.

Those who buy Canna Country flowers understand that quality isn’t defined by THC percentages alone. Among the people buying Canna Country’s flowers is Farmer and The Felon, a brand that has previously won The Emerald Cup with its gear. Farmer and the Felon aren’t going to just toss things in their bags that would dent their reputation. That relationship is certainly another feather in the cap for Canna Country.

“Canna Country embodies the holy trinity of cannabis: genetics, the farmers, and terroir,” said Patrick Anderson, brand manager for the Farmer and the Felon. “For the past two years, they’ve been an exceptional partner, as they have harnessed this synergy to grow cannabis with wildly diverse profiles and unique effects.”

Keep an eye out for Canna Country Farms on competition podiums across California in 2024.

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of High Times Magazine.





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