What is Terroir?

It’s no surprise that this county is known worldwide for cannabis. For decades much of the cannabis that came from this region needed no name other than “Humboldt.” In the same way that sparkling wine grown in Champagne is simply called Champagne, so is Humboldt synonymous with the finest cannabis.

As policy develops in California to regulate the commercial production of cannabis, a major concern of Humboldt County’s small, independent cannabis-producing families is how to prevent the corporatization and corruption of this beloved craft. One solution often put forth by farmers is the creation of an appellation of origin. Based upon the French term appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), it translates to “protected designation by its origin,” or more clearly, “to be called by its place.” By creating an appellation of origin, rural producers can participate in the marketplace with a product that is not generic and capture economic value for traditional practices, quality standards and geographical boundaries. While other producing regions in California may desire an AOC, the case can easily be made that Humboldt’s top crop is already known by its place. The task is how to protect it.

Humboldt County, with its ancient forests, steep terrain and six beautiful rivers, is already naturally connected by watersheds. Due to its remote location and back-to-the-land culture, Humboldt residents are intimately connected to the land and its influences. From community hubs and granges, farmers have started to organize and develop the framework for AOC.

Growing the world’s finest cannabis is a complex skill set that has been carefully nurtured and passed down through generations secretly and at great risk. Beyond the typical growing conditions farmers face, there has been an entirely different set of obstacles in this clandestine crop. The very fact that Humboldt’s cannabis was grown in small batches, in secret and by a culture of people with a moral obligation to fight an unjust law is part of what makes it so unique. Protecting that heritage is a fight the farmers of Humboldt won’t give up easily. It’s in the terroir.

From “Appellation Destination” by Chrystal Ortiz featured in Humboldt Cannabis Magazine