Organically speaking with Humboldt County's Talking Trees Farms.
Heads Lifestyle: What’s the meaning behind the name Talking Trees? Do your plants really talk to you?
Talking Trees Farms: Yes, the trees talk to me. Trees have always fascinated me especially here in Humboldt with the ancient redwoods that bring a majestic feel to the forest. One of my farm helpers actually came up with the name. There is this one part of my property where, in the afternoon, the wind blows and the trees make all these creaking sounds and they just get loud. Plants definitely speak; they show us what they require by visually communicating their needs.
Plants definitely speak; they show us what they require by visually communicating their needs.
HL: Talking Trees Farms is perched on the side of a mountain in Humboldt County. How did you come to be situated in such a beautiful spot?
TTF: We are mostly on the top of a mountain ridge. I got somewhat lucky. I found a smaller parcel at a good price that wasn’t so great for cultivation but still really nice with a cabin so I jumped on it. Once I had the smaller property, I got to know the neighbours. Then one neighbour after another approached me about selling their properties and worked out nice deals for me so I accumulated four adjacent parcels in a matter of five years. It’s a very beautiful area.
Perched on the side of a mountain in Humboldt County, California, Talking Trees Farms' location is stunning.
HL: You grow strictly organically. What led to this decision? What are the challenges of growing organically versus industrial farming?
TTF: Yes, we grow organically and as sustainable and renewable as possible. It has been my personal ethos since I was a teenager to live an organic lifestyle and be a minimalistic focused on simplicity and sustainability. I want to do my part to save the planet. In all my businesses, I have always tried to make things better. Satori Wheels made the first post-consumer recycled skateboard wheels and Satori Movement always focused on hemp and organic cotton for apparel. So it’s only natural for Talking Trees to be as organic and sustainable as possible. It’s such a challenge when it comes to state-mandated packaging regulations; there is so much waste involved in cannabis packaging. I hope to address that and find better ways to meet the regulations as the business grows.
It has been my personal ethos since I was a teenager to live an organic lifestyle and be a minimalistic focused on simplicity and sustainability.
HL: Where do your plants grow? Outdoors or in greenhouses?
TTF: Talking Trees grows full sun outdoor, in greenhouses and also indoor. Most of our plants start in our indoor nursery and get transferred to greenhouses. Then for flowering, we have about 60% in greenhouses and 40% full sun outdoor.
Aerial view of the Talking Trees Farms property with its collecting pond and three greenhouses.
HL: You are a fully independent farm. Tell us about this choice?
TTF: Yes, we have no outside or corporate investors in Talking Trees. It’s all me and the hard work my team and I have put in over the years. We are growing very rapidly with product going into over 120 dispensaries across California. I prefer to remain independent and grow organically rather than become the next mega-cannabis company.
HL: What is your end market? Medical or recreational?
TTF: The market is mostly rec these days but any of our products can be sold as medical because in California it’s just a matter of labelling. More so, I consider all cannabis to be wellness-based. Cannabis benefits personal wellness in so many ways.
I prefer to remain independent and grow organically rather than become the next mega-cannabis company.
HL: Do you grow your own proprietary cultivars?
TTF: More and more, we are working towards that. We recently started to focus on breeding. It will take some time for us to drop our own proprietary strains but we also have unique phenos from other breeders that we have selected which are somewhat proprietary.
Talking Trees Farms and the Emerald Triangle have a well-earned reputation for producing some of the best cannabis in the world.
HL: Can you tell us how many people work on Talking Trees Farms and what the farm environment is like? Do you grow year round?
TTF: The farms employ nearly 20 full-time employees for the actual cultivation from nursery/clone management to the flowering of the plants. Then there are additional employees that work in processing and packaging. We reach up to 60+ employees during harvest time. The environment is very clean and professional now that we are regulated by the state. So much extra work and protocols had to be implemented, like installing an ADA compliant bathroom and parking on a rural property up in the mountains. Some of the things we have to do are silly.
We have a great crew that loves cultivating so the environment on the farm is upbeat and happy. But we work hard because cultivation brings a lot of demands in a limited timeframe. We do grow year-round with the indoor but 49,000 square feet are only in operation from April through December. Even in the off-season, there is much to do with cleaning, attending to compost and such. The work keeps us busy year-round.
Legalization is definitely bringing more light to the industry. There are so many good operators now that have come out of the shadows; this helps improve any negative reputation that some people may have had.
HL: Cannabis farming, especially in the Emerald Triangle, suffers from a rather dark reputation. Is that changing with legalization?
TTF: I really don’t know much about the Emerald Triangle having a dark reputation. I guess Murder Mountain didn’t help but that only represented one aspect of the industry. I think overall the Emerald Triangle has a well-earned reputation for producing the best cannabis in the world. Legalization is definitely bringing more light to the industry. There are so many good operators now that have come out of the shadows; this helps improve any negative reputation that some people may have had.
Talking Trees Farms owner Craig Nejedly oversees all operations.
HL: What was the legal licensing process like for you?
TTF: It’s an extremely difficult and lengthy process. In many cases, it’s a game of win, lose or draw based on your property. I was lucky in that my properties didn’t have too many challenges to overcome and I started very early before the County or State even had a permitting scheme. CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) is the biggest challenge. The agency is very anti-cannabis and they have made it extremely hard for many operators to get permits. You have to deal with so many government agencies and the process costs so much money. It’s hard. It took nearly four years to finally get our annual permits.
Being single-sourced from our own farms allows us to control the quality of all our products. We are proud of the standards we have put in place at Talking Trees.
HL: Is the cannabis grown on Talking Trees Farms sold only as flower or is it transformed? Where are your products distributed?
TTF: Talking Trees makes a wide variety of products. We sell a lot of flower in graded tiers from budget smalls to top-shelf. We also produce pre-rolls and focus on solvent-less extracts. Bubble hash, live rosin, hash rosin are all products we produce in-house. We also collaborate with other manufacturers for live resin and distillate products. We produce infused products from our bubble hash for Space Gem gummies and now Satori teas. We have a very diverse spectrum of high-grade products. We are single-sourced; we do not source flower from other farms to label under Talking Trees. We tried that and consumers noticed the difference. We are proud of the standards we have put in place at Talking Trees and the level of quality we strive to achieve. Being single-sourced from our own farms allows us to control the quality of all our products.
A sampling of some of Talking Trees Farms award-winning products.
HL: You use the cannabis plant in its entirety. Tell us about your “leave no waste” approach?
TTF: We try to make use of every part of the plant. These days, the trim is almost more valuable then the flower. Back in the day, growers just threw their trim away. Times have changed and it’s great to see so much innovation in the cannabis space. We are trying to take it a step further and figure out what we can do with the roots, stalks and stems. Even the fresh fan leaves can be juiced or freeze-dried to make a product of value. Our goal is to transform what was historically cannabis waste into new products.
HL: What do you do with your post-processed materials?
TTF: We try to find a new purpose for it. From the rosin pressing process, you are left with pouches of material that can then be heated in coconut oil. There is still value in the material. We collect the kief from our trimming process and are able to put it into products. After that the post-processed materials we are left with go to compost.
Our goal is to transform what was historically cannabis waste into new products.
HL: You rely on rainwater catchment to hydrate your plants. Why?
TTF: To be honest, water is scarce and the CDFW enforces summer forbearance on using surface water from streams. When I bought the main property, the previous owner had dug a pond that is nearly ¾ of an acre. I had the pond naturally compacted and diverted rain from the building roof into the pond. It also catches a lot of rain in the winter season. Essentially, we are using water that would over-saturate the ground. By capturing this rainwater, it helps the surrounding vegetation stay healthier and greener through the spring and summer seasons. We also know our plants are getting clean water, not water that has been treated with chlorine and other chemicals. The properties are off-grid, so municipal water is not an option. We do have three wells on the property but try to refrain from using any of that water except for domestic use.
Harvest celebration at Talking Trees Farms.
HL: You throw special events at the farm. Tell us about this?
TTF: Occasionally, we will invite other local farmers and friends up to celebrate the season as we draw near to harvest time. Everyone works so hard throughout the hot summer months, it’s nice to have a celebration towards the end of the season and I have great relationships with musicians so it just tends to happen.
HL: Do you have a Talking Trees mascot?
TTF: All of our dogs. Ha! Ha!
HL: What does the future hold for Talking Trees Farms?
TTF: The future is bright! We are going to keep cultivating and producing new products. Our sales are growing as we become available in more and more retailers. In time, I foresee Talking Trees being a nationally distributed brand. I am also looking to expand into hemp for CBD. I want to bring a whole plant CBD extract to market that will be superior to isolate-based products. The future is growing!
Check out Talking Trees Farms at: www.talkingtreesfarms.com
And follow them on Instagram at: @talking_trees_farms