The Emerald Triangle: Californian Cannabis & Tradition

What is the Emerald Triangle?

The Emerald Triangle refers to an area located on the northwest coast of the United States (northern California) and comprised of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. To be delve into the origins and traditions of cannabis cultivation in this region, we must go back to the 60s, during the Summer of Love in San Francisco. During the second half of the decade, and with the hippie counterculture as a backdrop, a good number of growers settled in this area in search of a place that would meet the ideal conditions for the outdoor cultivation of cannabis, namely isolation and a privileged climate. Since then, the Emerald Triangle has been one of the main sources of cannabis supplying California. As of 1996, and after the approval of California’s Proposition 215 for medical cannabis, the production in these three counties shot up due to the increase in demand, reaffirming the Emerald Triangle as one of the main producing areas of the country.

Map of California showing the Emerald Triange

Map of California with the Emerald Triangle outlined in red

This region is often referred to as the Napa Valley (famous for its vineyards and the quality of its wine) or the Silicon Valley of cannabis given the large proportion of the population devoted directly or indirectly to the cultivation of this plant, and also to the incredible quality of its produce, be it flowers or cannabis seeds. As we have said, this area has a series of characteristics that make it ideal for this activity: the population is scarce and widely dispersed, with large tracts of unpopulated land.

In addition, it enjoys an ideal climatology for growing cannabis, with great solar exposure, absence of strong winds, an excellent and fertile soil and optimal temperatures. All this means that the cultivation and breeding of this plant has become, without doubt, one of the main and most profitable activities in this region, with excellent varieties of cannabis developed by local breeders.

The Emerald Triangle, US capital of cannabis

In fact, it is estimated that this area that includes the three counties produces more cannabis than anywhere else in the country, and it is has been speculated that it could be one of the most important production areas worldwide. Besides the high number of growers living there, every autumn hundreds of people come to the Emerald Triangle looking for work harvesting cannabis; these are mostly itinerant trimmers, known as trimmigrants. However, this green rush is not limited to these three counties, indeed it’s increasingly common to find trimmers looking for jobs in other neighbouring counties such as Sonoma or the aforementioned Napa.

The Emerald Triangle has its fair share of vineyards

The cultivation of wine grapes is also popular in the valleys and hills of the Emerald Triangle

All classes of people arrive constantly in the Emerald Triangle: backpackers, trimmers, growers, breeders, specialists in resin extractions… anyone who feels an affinity for some aspect of the plant will be at home in this area like. Not without reason, the profits that can be obtained, in particular for those who grow outdoors and don’t have to pay expensive electricity bills, are an incentive that can be difficult to turn down.

So the cannabis culture and industry grow ceaselessly in these three counties where the love for the plant has for decades been well-rooted in many families, many boasting third-generation growers. According to a 2014 report, cannabis was already turning over more money than traditional wine production, and there is now talk of creating a series of Denominations of Origin to distinguish the flowers grown in the different areas of the Triangle.

Although until recently the locations of the crops were chosen more for their capacity to keep crops hidden rather than on the quality of the soil and the microclimate, now thanks to the legalisation of cannabis, farmers are beginning to exploit the sites that are theoretically the best suited to cultivating cannabis: Mattole Valley (Humboldt), Bell Springs/Spyrock (Mendocino), Hayfork Valley (Trinity) or Mid Klamath (Humboldt and Trinity) are some of these areas.

The Emerald Triangle has a great climate for outdoor growing

A beautiful cannabis plant flowering in the Emerald Triangle (Photo: Brian Shamblen)

Past, present & future of the Emerald Triangle

The area saw a significant increase in population several decades ago. Many remote places were populated by young people who in the decades of the 60’s and 70’s wanted to return to the land to escape the social unrest of the time (for example, the Vietnam War) and have a more sustainable and ecological lifestyle. Groups like the Diggers, a community of activists from the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco, were pioneers of cannabis cultivation in this area, followed by hundreds of young (and not so young) folk who simply looked for a different way of life.

Today, many of these activists who moved to the Emerald Triangle in the 1960s are still cultivating, as are their children and, in many cases, their grandchildren. The cultivation of cannabis in this area is already something of a tradition for the new generations, who view it as one of the daily activities carried out by local people to obtain economic sustenance, as well as the hundreds of people who continue to arrive at the end of each summer to work on the harvest. In addition, January 1, 2018 saw the legalisation of the adult use of marijuana in California, which will allow many more growers and users to “come out of the closet.”

But what is the future of the Emerald Triangle among the growing wave of legalisation that more and more states in the US are experiencing? Will it hold its reputation as the largest cannabis producer in the country? The fact that growers in many other areas can carry out their activity freely and professionally could slightly demystify the products from the Triangle, although tradition, soil, climate and the knowledge and experience of the nearly 20,000 growers in these three counties will surely mean their produce will continue to be considered among of the best in the world.

Mendocino Skunk Chong's Choice by Paradise Seeds

The spectacular Mendocino Skunk from Paradise Seeds

Cannabis varieties originating in the Emerald Triangle

The counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity are not only renowned for the quality of their herb, but also for the cannabis cultivars that have been created in this beautiful corner of the world. Here are just a few of them:

All that’s left is for us to encourage you to try some of these excellent genetics and, if you can afford it, choose the Emerald Triangle for your next holiday… or go and work for a local grower! You won’t be disappointed, we’re certain of it!

Best regards!

April 6, 2018 | News and Events
3 Comments


3 comments on “The Emerald Triangle: Californian Cannabis & Tradition

  1. Reed B Turney

    friends. don’t know where to put this information for ‘posterity’ but i’ll say some things here …. i do know first hand some of the ‘tradition’ of growing in the emerald triangle.. i doubt this information is located elsewhere… it was in 1973 that a pakistani man by the name of Bahadur Khan Wald from outside of Peshawar Pakistan came to the area to bring the first quantity of pure indica seeds from his own fields in pakistan.. his idea was to be able to grow the real indica plants here in the u s that he used to make his hashish and hash oil that he sold black market.. he ended up distributing much seed into the trinity alps area of denny and willow creek, ideal areas for production.. by the time i showed up on the scene again in 1977 there was a vigorous bit of growing being done on mining claims back in the area.. i was a mechanic and ended up working on many a grower’s trucks and vehicles.. in denny; well, first of all you didn’t go there unless you knew someone; and you still had to be careful.. with families living far off the grid and crops of 20,000 or more plants in the area.. in denny everyone had a side arm on their belt.. if forest service or blm or anyone else went into the area on horse they would have that horse shot out from under them.. Bahadur never realized his dream or profited from his efforts… at one point he was staying in a side shed of my shop in eureka on harrison street.. he had shown me photos of his fields of poppies and indica plants twelve feet tall and by the acre.. pretty amazing… …. now how the indica plants that made the emerald triangle got there to begin with is known….by more than me and one other who’s still around and was even more involved than i…

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