Local Cannabis Appellation Exploration: Moon Made Farms, Southern Humboldt County

Tina Gordon

Tina Gordon of Moon Made Farms with her product. [Photo by Chris Raven courtesy of Moon Made Farms]

Moon Made Farms is a classic hill spot on the east side of Southern Humboldt – in Palo Verde, to be exact. This is old school weed growing country, America’s cannabis heartland and literally the heart of the Emerald Triangle, where Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties meet. Palo Verde’s outdoor cannabis farming scene is about as far as you can get from metropolitan indoor operations in terms of product, culture and setting.

We came to Moon Made Farms back in October to gather material for this fifth and final installment in our series about cannabis farms in diverse locations in the Emerald Triangle. The series features farmers interested in pursuing appellation designation – a process in the works at the state level, and it is an attempt to put words to local terroir – both the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to cannabis by its environment and the complete natural environment in which cannabis is produced.

Click back to catch up on parts one through four.

Part One: Whitethorn Valley Farm in Southern Humboldt County plus background on the CalCannabis Appellations Project

Part Two: Sunboldt Grown in Holmes, Humboldt County

Part Three: NorthCountry Farms near Hayfork, Trinity County

Part Four: Sun Roots Farm near Covelo, Mendocino County

Palo Verde Appellation Seal courtesy of Robert Steffano

Palo Verde Appellation Seal [Courtesy of Robert Steffano]

It is important to note, there is active, community-level organizing happening in Palo Verde around appellation designation. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis Appellations Project team is currently establishing a process for licensed cultivators to establish cannabis appellations. When this process becomes live in 2021, folks in Palo Verde will be ready. As a matter of fact, they already have a stylized appellation seal.

###

Palo Verde is in the vicinity of Bell Springs Road, a historic and formerly major travel route between Humboldt and Mendocino counties. The nearby locale of Harris was an important stopover on this route, which was called the Overland Route or Mail Ridge (among other names). The history of this area is as richly textured as the landscape. Local present-day institutions include the New Harris General Store, The Heartwood Mountain Sanctuary and the Palo Verde Fire Department.

This is a rural community, about 45 minutes southeast of Garberville. A drive out here from town can bring encounters with cows and horses meandering on the road. The roads are windy and can be rough – everywhere you go around here, you go up or down. The vistas are expansive and spectacular. Pratt Mountain and Jewett Rock stand tall as landmarks in the rippling fabric of grass and oak and fir woodlands.

Moon Made Farms in Palo Verde

Moon Made Farms in Palo Verde [Photo by Tina Gordon]

Moon Made Farms Owner-Operator Tina Gordon tells me that Palo Verde is named for “Rancho Palo Verde,” a ranch that was supposed to be a gentlemen’s getaway for hunting and fishing back when Chamise Creek was going to be dammed. A sportsman’s lodge was built at what is now Heartwood, but the dam was never realized. The owner at the time decided to subdivide and put all of the parcels up for sale.

These days the community is made up of a range of “heritage folks,” Gordon says, people that came here to homestead back in the 70’s and early 80’s. “Second-generation” residents are their kids, basically, the ones that grew up here. There are also a number of residents that came in the last 20 years or so, people that embraced this community and decided to stay.

Gordon falls into the latter category; a thoughtful and unpretentious businesswoman, she is very salt of the earth when she tells me how moving here from the city helped her awaken to the natural world. After all, in the hills of southeastern Humboldt County, you really see the darkness of night, you can tune in to the quality and feel of the air, the water and the seasons…

Tina Gordon

Tina Gordon [Photo by Chris Raven courtesy of Moon Made Farms]

She is now piloting Moon Made Farms, which has about half an acre of cannabis cultivation split across two parcels, including terrace gardens on contour with the land. The location is roughly 26 miles from Shelter Cove and the Pacific Ocean as the crow flies, about 43 miles overland. Elevation is about 2,200 feet. Chamise Creek, a tributary to the main stem Eel River, is due south.

The terrain is fairly steep and the native soil is rock and clay. The tree community here includes a number of oak species, plus madrone, maple, pepperwood and Douglas fir. There were preexisting cultivation sites when Gordon landed here years ago. Over time, these garden areas have been modestly expanded in order to optimize light and to work with the ever-changing trees, always in sync with the contours of the land, Gordon said.

The ag water source at Moon Made Farms is a rainwater catchment pond that has been around at least as long as there have been maps, Gordon says. “The story that I’ve heard is that it’s a natural pond. It has been reworked, but it is water catch.” Water from the pond is pumped and stored in tanks to minimize evaporation before being gravity fed to irrigation lines, but first it marinates in the pond, coming into contact with the ground and the pond’s ecosystem.

Gordon’s initial forays into permaculture and holistic farming techniques led to years of experimentation with Hugekultur, the technique of building raised, mounded garden beds with woody debris and other green waste. Given the semi-arid environment and the amount of wood generated from tree trimming and fuels reduction, Hugelkultur was an appealing method for both utilizing scrap wood and water retention.

There are variations on the traditional mounded style at Moon Made Farms, including what Gordon calls “on contour Hugul-mounds.” The on contour mounds involve some degree of digging down into the earth to increase moisture retention and to better enable roots to interact with native soil. Gordon also describes the “Hugel-beds” that have taken a few years to settle into their sweet spots.

Growing Cannabis plant on Moon Made Farms.

Growing Cannabis plant on Moon Made Farms. [Photo by Chris Raven courtesy of Moon Made Farms]

The first Hugelkultur on the property was a deep trench that she filled with wood, straw, compost, manure, apples and a bunch of leaf from the land. “Anything I could find, just threw it all in,” she says. Gordon went deep in the name of increasing water retention. The more recent on contour Hugel-mounds cross the forms of traditional Hugelkultur and this deeper trench style.

While Moon Made Farms does not have plants going directly into native soil, Gordon says there is a particular time of year – “a sweet spot” – when it’s best to break up native soil and incorporate it into planting mixes. Oak woodchips are used for garden beds and in their mulch mix, which also includes leaf and organic rice hull; scrap conifer goes into woodchips for pathways.

Moon Made Farms uses Integrated Pest Management strategies to deal with pest pressure, like inter-planting, cover cropping and beneficial predator bugs. It’s a matter of devising buffers and traps – holistic ways to protect the lush gardens set against a rather dry summertime landscape. Aphids, cucumber beetles and thrips may come and go, but Gordon throws out the bright side: Dealing with pest pressure forces her to become a better farmer.

The climate here is relatively mild. Temperatures don’t often crack 100 in the summer; nights are in the 50’s with days in the 90’s. Winters are wet with less of a temperature spread. It does freeze, but if it snows, it doesn’t stick. Gordon says the precipitation pattern in recent years seems to be rain in the fall with somewhat of a break in December and January. February, March and April can bring heavy precipitation.

Fog is not a factor, but there is a northerly wind that rushes through all summer long like clockwork between 3 and 6 p.m. As we talk about the wind, she points to the sky and makes a “whoosh” sound while drawing an arc where the sun tracks; then she directs us to the end of the terrace where we are sitting. The plants follow the sun, she says, but those last plants on the terrace are really leaning, a result of absorbing that wind.

And all of the plants are absorbing or soaking up the environment – the air, the light, the water, the human touch and intention… Gordon believes the essence of their surroundings is eventually transferred to the consumer, which “is why we put so much effort into creating a beautiful space for these plants,” she says. “We want them to have an incredible life, [we want] that essence to be transferred to whoever is ingesting the flower.”

Bud from Moon Made Farms. [

Bud from Moon Made Farms. [Photo by Erica Edwards courtesy of Moon Made Farms]

Gordon finds that CBD-dominant plants do well for her, and she in fact uses CBD on a daily basis. It resonates with her. More than half of the crop this season was comprised of high- and mixed-ratio CBD strains, such as Harle-Tsu, Cannatonic and ACDC. The remaining THC-dominant varieties are in the elevated and inspired realm, Gordon says, and include Huckleberries from Huckleberry Hill Farms on the west side and a THC-rich Pennywise phenotype.

A lot of the farmers we spoke with this season spoke about plants “doing well” for them, so we asked Gordon what it means to her for a plant to do well. It’s a plant that accepts nurturing, she says, a plant that expresses health and vigor and appears to be in balance with its environment. “Some people say it’s like having a good student, the student that soaks up every lesson and really understands what you’re trying to teach,” she said.

When we ask Gordon how she came to the name “Moon Made Farms,” and she tells us when she first started working with cannabis, she observed plants under the moon and thought, how are the plants receiving this light right now? How are they responding to it? How are they using it? “The night cycle in particular contributes this subtlety to the plants that I don’t think we understand yet.”

Whereas the sun expresses in broad strokes over the season and can be considered a masculine symbol, the moon expresses in discrete cycles every night and is connected with the feminine. The name Moon Made Farms pays homage to the night cycle and the fact that cannabis – “the most powerful plant on the planet” – expresses in a female form.

###

Gordon is a deep thinker, a careful farmer and a relatable person. She told us how everyday looks down into her garden to consider where any given day is in the context of the season. “I gravitate to the cannabis first, always,” she said. “I look at the plants and I look at the trees and I look at the hills, and that gives me a sense of where we are in the year, where we’re coming from and where we’re going to.”

That is just one snippet of a long conversation that gave perspective on how she stewards this place, on the deep consideration she give decisions in light of what came before. Talking with her made us realize how profoundly people make the place, how hard these farmers work to bring out the best in their land and how cultivating cannabis enables them to channel the beauty, peace and cleanliness of their environments to consumers down the line.

The point of this five-part series was to look at local cannabis farms in a different way, the difference being not only our positive approach to considering local cultivators and their farms, but also in the deliberate focus on place, product, process and culture. We wanted to highlight the unique settings of cannabis farms across our region in front of a legal process for appellation designation.

While each farm we visited is very different with distinct climates, soils and landscapes, the proprietors all definitely share a culture of positivity, determination and holistic farming.

All of us in the broader Emerald Triangle community are fortunate to have cannabis farmers that are ready to speak on record about what they do and willing to let the world into their gardens through press projects like this. However, mere words and images cannot possibly capture the totality of the people and these places. Either trying their products first-hand or spending real time, deep time at these farms is the only true way to experience true terroir.

The garden at Moon Made Farms.

The garden at Moon Made Farms. [Photo by Tina Gordon courtesy of Moon Made Farms]

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

49 comments

  • Nice story…

    I don’t buy the IPM, talk now that pesticide licenses are required, even for spraying dish soap.

    Thugs selling Avid under the counter without an ovicide gave root to resistant mites.

    Preharvest intervals is most likely a foreign language among growers.

    This chick seems cool, and I hope she turns from growing dope and does something productive.

    Basically, the way to save the planet is to use the full weight of the US Military against marijuana growers and addicts, even if it means using The Mandela Effect to erase hippies from history.

    Honest people don’t use drugs, ever…

    • Do you drink anything with caffine it? Be honest…

    • Coffee, alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals are all drugs; thus the last sentence above can be taken as erroneous nonfactual misguided opinion only.

    • Hey, Mike Pence, no one cares about your 1950’s mentality anymore. Turn Fox News back on and keep drinking the kool aid old man, someday your old guard buddies will finally stop plaguing us with your out dated political gravity..

      • Lol. Mike pence???😂😂😂😂😂few more years. Trump. I garuntee your watching don Lemmon 😜😜😂😂😂😂today must have been real fun👌😂😂happy new year. 🍾🎉

    • Voters decided and you lost the war. The battles continues in banking and interstate commerce but soon those barriers will fall as well. To my beloved who gave so much, some their lives, I promise to continue to advocate and produce the most amazing cannabis products on this planet in my name and in yours!. To those who still oppose and believe the negative stereotype implied by our government of the plant I love our war is not over. The lies and oppression of my dear beloved will never be forgotten, NEVER EVER!!!

      • Voters also voted for Donald Trump. Just because voters vote for something doesn’t make it a good idea .

        • Though I would agree with the final sentence, technically voters didn’t chose Donald Trump. He lost the popular vote by close to three million votes. He did however win the electoral votes.

    • WHY WASTE TIME ON THIS DUDE??

      Yea, I know, I know, but I wasted it on almost a dozen of ya..

    • Keep On Dancing 🕺💃 🎼

      …Honest people don’t use drugs, ever…”

      Well, I guess that explains why Donald Trump snorts Adderall. Mystery solved!

      # SNIFF SNIFF 🏌️👈🏼👃🏻

  • More dope grower nonsense

  • Refreshing. An A-1 written article about an A-1 farm. Inclusive of so many variables taken in the right context and explained to a T. Thank you Kym and thank you Tina Gorden.

    • I agree with central on this one. Good history read and good luck to ANYONE who is actually going through the BS hoops of trying to go legal. It’s a scam, humboldt board of supervisors is playing the short game,all while destroying what is left of humboldt co. Estelle,Rex and others will simply turn this place into a Appalachia ghetto

      • Keep On Dancing 🕺💃 🎼

        They call the proposed State of Jefferson “WEST WEST VIRGINIA” for a reason, y’know? Far Northern CA and Southern OR have a longstanding reputation of being the Appalachia of the West Coast. Nothing new there.

  • I can’t thank you enough Emily for these five incredible stories!!!! And your photos on the first four were beyond exceptional. Makes me proud to be living in this community! Sun Roots farm won an award at the Emerald Cup for sustainable farming. Keep it up Emily……

  • It all seems way too precious, like wine snobbery at its worst. Sorry.

  • Just far out man.

  • The Entropic Empath

    I am certainly highly impressed by the level of good hippie shit involved in this grow! I particularly enjoy seeing great weed grown without trucking in potting soil, plastic sheeting and plastic pipe!

    If I used cannabis, or had any interest in it whatsoever, I would, however, grow my own.

    It is nice to think that the area around Alderpoint and Harris will be a Terroir recognized the world over, and that Humboldt will have the “name cache” to make tourists buy the products, but, in my opinion, commercial cannabis will take the business and the money away, and probably within the next 10 years. Alderpoint and Harris backwoods grow criminals, biker gangs, Eastern European Mafiosi and Sinaloa Gangsters, will most likely be growing poppy and cooking meth, and only growing enough weed for the areas that still have prohibition…

    Those of you with a true connoisseur product, like this farm’s beautiful flower, might survive.

    In the end, legalization will prove that not everyone should be a pot farmer, and that “small farmers” of marijuana, will only struggle if they insist upon making their living this way. Meanwhile, the marijuana addicts of California will buy their flower by mail order from corporations who follow laws and pay taxes.

    I predict that, soon, people will, largely, grow their own, the population of Humboldt County pot farmers will fall by 75%, and that good flower will soon sell for $25/lb at farmer’s markets from San Diego to Seattle.

    Remember, kids, nobody needs drugs, pot is not a necessary substance, and marijuana is not medicine.

    • While Moon Made Farms does not have plants going directly into native soil, Gordon says there is a particular time of year – “a sweet spot” – when it’s best to break up native soil and incorporate it into planting mixes.

    • Keep On Dancing 🕺💃 🎼

      “…nobody needs drugs…” (Did you learn that in medical school? 👩🏻‍⚕️🎓🚑)

      Oh, wait, you must be a Christian “Scientist”. Ever been seriously ill before? Ever had any family members who were seriously ill? How about a child? Is your anti-drug, anti-science ideology more important to you than your family members’ lives? I seriously doubt it.

      # THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

  • More fraudulent bs from greedy transplants who couldn’t give s*** about this place if it weren’t for the money. TG doesn’t even smoke weed, never has and everyone know her, knows this. Go ahead offer her some smoke, she’ll decline have her workers smoke it and then they can tell you all about the effects, so then she can pass it off as her own. The MM website with all of it’s new age snake oil advertising is such a joke and also a bit infuriating to us real gardeners. If it weren’t for the weed money she wouldn’t be here, delegating instructions to the people that actually do the work for her. By the way, the moon is great for fungus, not to much for weed, but any real gardener knows this. I’ve heard of people pissing on the plants on acid, but hey, whatever sells right? Gotta make that money and support that lifestyle no matter who you have to lie to or screw over in order to get that booty. How can you claim terroir if you buy your soil? That’s not terroir people, just more lies to sell inferior product. And please stop using feminism to sell your weed. How insulting, just more exploitation to unload your fraudulent crap. Everybody who knows TG knows that this is all a crafted lie to make more money. Just be honest. Fake news people. As far as stewarding goes, maybe putting out rat poison is a way to channel peace, beauty and cleanliness for MM, but at least be honest about your methods. What a great way to create “positivity” for your farm. People really believe their own crap and want to feed us their crap, and can’t understand why we don’t want to eat it. Really so happy and proud not to be a part of this “high jive” group. Gross. Tegridy farms, that’s right folks. Eat it up. What’s that wonderful saying? To people who have integrity, nothing else matters. To the people who don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. Tegridy Farm people, nothing else matters. Money, money, money. How do you sleep at night?

    • Seems like they have some interesting and solid practices. What’s wrong with making money? Sounds like you f@*%ed yourself in that department. Palo Verde or Island Mountain aren’t exactly convenient places to live if your broke, it would suck driving a ‘91 Civic hatchback there for example and having to commute to Ray’s for an “honest days work”. And who cares if she doesn’t smoke weed? Neither do 50% of the people in this industry and plenty of the most successful ones to boot. It’s like complaining that a bar tender doesn’t drink. To each there own, no?

      • I like that analogy about the bar tender. And it’s totally true. who the fuck cares if she smokes or not. Seems like this other person has something against TG personally judging from how long that hate rant was.

        • Apples and oranges

          It absolutely matters and the bartenders analogy is a horrible one. She’s a wine maker or beer brewer that doesn’t drink her own craft! She’s at the production level not some bartender at the bar. The best wine makers drink wine. Her weed is sub par at best and anyone trying to grow this plant and claim all this wonderful stuff about their product but doesn’t taste themselves is a joke in my opionion. If your baker won’t you taste your bread? If your a cofffee roaster won’t you drink your own beans? That’s what this is. This sounds to me like another person that recently came into a property and they are pretending to be something they are not. How long has she been growing on this land?

          • a Baker doesn’t have to eat the bread they bake to know it’s good bread. Baking, brewing; growing good herb is all know how and practice. So while I agree that it’s un-logical to not try your own products, my opinion is still you don’t necessarily have to in order to know if you’ve done it right

      • Sharpen your pencil

        You mean like Berner, Tommy Chong, Bela, Jungle Boys, or anyone else at the top of the market? Oh wait….. For the record, locals in general are tired of the TG types flocking from every shithole city to “be one with the land”….. They can do that without pretending to be something they are not!

        • No, not those weed celebrities, I know they all puff, I meant 50% of the largest producers and buyers. Most likely these ‘locals’ parents moved to the hills from some city. Although this is where I choose to live, unfortunately for us, most real cities in America make every large town in California north of Healdsburg look like a real shithole. Sadly without weed, they are all going to look a lot worse. Lastly I don’t think this TG lady is pretending to be a anything , seems like she is the HBIC of this scene. Lol, I wish my mother in law was as motivated! Go Tina!

    • Wow. You got some scary-ass pent up anger. I wouldn’t want to be around that vibe either.

  • Great read, great job Tina. You rock 🤘🏻

  • I agree that you can not have an appellation based on soil with perlite added as well as who knows what else?
    If you understand wine appellations they do not fertilize the soil with Nitrogen to increase yields, they use native soils, then close by areas with similar soils and a local shared environment can be an appellation. Wine grapes are also not grown in Greenhouses, or under lights.

    • (Ps: I’m not the Emily of this story, nor is my name really Emily) That’s true and so is the fact that there is nothing particularly great about the climate here. It’s good, yes. But there are other places much more attractive to a farmer. If you have good ag land, which there isn’t a lot of in humboldt, and you’ll need a good amount of it, and it needs to be accessible, then you might have a case for a unique terroir that the hotter climates don’t have. Another thing we have is water, so that’s a bonus. We can catch enough during rainy season to water all year if you have the infrastructure.
      But all these little mountain grows way up in the hills are not going to make it in the legal world. Wake up and crunch the numbers! Let’s keep it outlaw as long as we can, then tell our stories to the grandkids. Going legal is a sellout, and you are selling yourself out. Lame end to a good story.
      It’s amazing that legalization is doing what years of criminalization and CAMP could never do- Put the hills outta business. (Ed Denson paraphrase )

  • What a crap story.
    Get a life

  • I hope this farm has security in place in case publicly draws unwanted attention.

    • I agree. Would not surprise me if robbers get their info from the planning department through a PRA request. Cops should look into this as part of their investigation. In the meantime, invest in a couple of big dogs, maybe an electric shock gate that can be turned on and off (if there is such a thing)

      • Making public all applicants another of the ECERY SINGLE DECISION MADE failure by the county.. you know some places amend 64 to enhance commerce, others, like HumCo, fine their constituents add loops and hoops fines fees and regulations. No commerce going on in the home of the American Cannabis Trade. Nope. Bye bye BOS>

  • Thank you, Emily. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • Congratulations Tina. I appreciate all the work you’ve put into helping our appellation establish itself.

  • Rise of The Galatic Core

    I think that the stars make the THC crystal’s glisten and sparkle brighter making the buds even more sticky and the full moon light beams down on the plants makeing the buds bigger and tighter but the Huckleberry’s make the grasshopper’s eat the flowers because they might like the taste.

  • Let's work together

    Good job Tina
    Keep up the good work

  • Banana og terps all day long

  • Excellent write-up. All the best to you Moon Made! Loving this Cannabis Appellation Series.

    Note to the soon departing BOS: Wish I was seeing more of it IN TOWN! Legal Cannabis Commmerce! Hello! Goodbye!

  • Great job Tina! Totally awesome!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *