D’Andre Johnson has been growing cannabis for years. He recently purchased and began developing a new farm in Trinity County. We caught up with him to talk about the trials and tribulations of setting up a new homestead. D’Andre hopes that his story will help inspire young kids living in California’s major cities.
This is my first time growing in Trinity County. Last year I was in Siskiyou. When I got this property in February, it was just a home surrounded by trees, with a fence on one side, running next to the road. At first, it was just me up here, cutting down trees.
I just bought chainsaws and got started. I had cut down a lot of trees at my previous farm, so I felt pretty confident. But these trees are 120 feet tall, 50-80 year old trees! I realized that had no idea what I was doing.
“Not everything went smoothly with all of the trees.”
A young man walked up the road and saw me cutting trees. He asked if I needed any help, and I ended up hiring him on. He was working for my neighbor at the time. I guess he liked it better over here, because he stayed on, and then he brought his brother over as well. Now they both work for me.
Things started moving a lot faster once they got here. We logged for something like a month and a half. I donated a lot of the wood to elderly people throughout town to use as firewood.
“Trinity has been going a million times better. I don’t have a single complaint.”
Not everything went smoothly with all of the trees. We were falling this one, when the wind suddenly picked up and started leaning it towards the house. It looked super bad, so we grabbed the big diesel truck and tried to winch it, to fall it downhill. The wind won, and the tree came down, nearly taking out the house. It crashed into a power line and sparks started flying everywhere! That was a bad day.
We couldn’t develop the property exactly how we imagined it. Initially, we wanted one big flat, but we ended up making multiple terraces. While we were leveling everything out, I flipped a tractor going down to the second terrace. I was coming down a steep hill, and gravity just took me! I fell over 90 degrees, and had to use the bucket to push myself upright. It was fun.
We even had a little incident when my doggie was younger. She ripped all these plants out of the ground. She broke five plants and ripped out another twenty!
Since I started in this business, every day has been a learning experience. My previous farm was much more challenging. Trinity has been going a million times better. I don’t have a single complaint.
It’s been pretty relaxed and chill up here. You don’t see too many crazies. You don’t hear a bunch of gunshots in the middle of the night. Part of that is because the cannabis industry is a lot more new out here. My workers suspect that within the next five years, this is going to become like The Pines. That’s where a majority of the farms in Trinity County are right now.
The organic market ultimately will be the most valuable. A lot of farmers are marketing specifically for SoCal shoppers, and a sustainable vibe is the route they take.
It feels like the industry is waiting for the next big invention, but it hasn’t come yet. We found out that there’s a specific market for CBD: only medical. But I want to appeal to both sides. I really like the medical, holistic approach. I don’t like the corporate greed and sponsorships.
Although I’ve yet to get anything tested, testing is what’s encouraged me to do all organic. Plus, I care about patients’ health. With organic, you’ll get higher yields and a product with a higher potency. It just takes a little more time to figure out your winning formula.
I just do what all the old guys tell me. A little chicken manure, some steer manure, bat guano, etc, etc. The plants love it, and at this point, I love it too. You can shower as much as you want to, but your hands will still smell like chicken manure for a week.
Right now we’re working with a photographer to make a mini documentary about the experience. She’s going to come in and take drone pictures to show off the whole farm. We’re already using the hashtag “from a seed to a dream” on all the pictures on social media to promote it.
The idea is to create a narrative. We want to show kids, especially urban inner-city youth, that a life like this is possible. I’m the first person in my family to cut a tree. I’m living my dream.