Located in the wooded hills of Mendocino County is Fire Flower Farm, nestled amongst the countless Redwood trees. Hildi Gerhart, the engine that drives Fire Flower Farm, and Avery Edmunds, co-founder and graduate of Central Carolina Community College's Sustainable Agriculture program, spend each day tending to their full-sun cannabis garden. It's just the two of them taking on two 10,000 square foot properties, so they juggle many responsibilities and continually stay busy. "There's a big practice in patience and flexibility around here," Hildi says. "We work as a pair a majority of the time, so whatever task is being done can be worked on and completed as efficiently as possible." Taking part in the whole life cycle of the plant is what fuels their cultivation passion, and it's part of what makes their craft cannabis so great. "We really enjoy the quality of life that cultivating provides. Being able to spend a majority of the year outside doing physically and emotionally fulfilling work, constantly learning new skills, and trouble-shooting problems is really rewarding."
Avery and Hildi both spent years before Fire Flower's conception working with cannabis plants. Avery began his industry journey in 2011 after moving from upstate New York to work a couple of cannabis farms in Mendocino County. After a few years of cultivation, the two of them found their way to each other, and he started working for Hildi as her fall harvest employee. Hildi, a graduate of Cornell University, first made it to Mendocino County back in 2006 while living in San Francisco. Some of her friends lived in Covelo, and after a few years of traveling back and forth to visit and work fall harvests, she moved to a fully off-grid house in Willits in 2011 to join the other outstanding female cultivators and farm owners who make up the California cannabis industry. She bought her first grid-flexible cannabis farm in 2016, and her second in 2018, to grow the Fire Flower business into what it is today. "I think Mendo chose us," they said when discussing their decision to start their farm in Mendocino County. They fell in love with the area and the local culture, and after working together for a couple of years, they both realized they wanted to do work and life together. "A relationship based on trust, quality of life, and pursuit of ideals and goals led us to each other, and in 2016, to officially creating Fire Flower Farm."
Both of their properties work with above-ground growing methods, like long, raised garden beds and the use of smart pots. Utilizing irrigation as their main avenue for feeding, they still perform some hand watering and tea'ing throughout the season to achieve a closer check-in with their plants. "Our whole thing is to give to the soil, and thus the plants, quality amendments and nutrients, then step back and play a supporting role." They have an interest in exploring light-deprivation cultivation, but right now, they're focused on dialing in their current full-sun operation. While getting their annual licenses for both properties is the main goal this year, they are also planning the addition of a commercial building. "This industry is constantly pushing us to keep moving forward and get out of our comfort zones," they say, noting new development with the farm is always both exciting and scary.
Photos by: Chris Butler
When not in the field, Hildi handles the administration side of their operation. Avery is a life-long lover of plants and the outdoors, so while Hildi is occupied, you can usually find him somewhere out in the field or running to get materials for afternoon projects. His favorite part of cultivation is the gutting and support time when he can "really tune into the strength of the plant" as well as identify the best way to assist it. For Hildi, her favorite aspect is before the bulk of cultivation even begins. "When the seeds start to push up through the soil, it's like magic," she shares. They tend to grow a single strain for three seasons to gain a greater understanding of its cultivation desires. They stagger their harvests between the properties so their dry room space is used efficiently, and always try to provide a balance of indica, sativa, and hybrid options to best serve the craft cannabis market.
Hive Mendocino is lucky to have Fire Flower on their team. We're grateful to have members who value the spirit of working together and supporting our communities. "Going through the last few years of early regulation has been hard, and I can't imagine doing it without the other farm members in the co-op. We tackle regulatory challenges, Simply Clean grower's certification, sales, cultivation challenges, everything, together. We are able to offer each other information, divide and conquer on tasks, and really practice collaboration and considering different points of views."
With their sweet dog named Otsu and Hildi's delicious home-made yogurt, this farm is a little slice of heaven. It's cozy, alluring, and filled with magnificent cannabis plants that reach high above our heads. If you're interested in learning what strains Fire Flower has available for purchase right now and in the upcoming future, please fill out a Wholesale Account Form on our website, and we'll reach out to you with details soon.
Are you interested in joining the Hive Mendocino Cooperative? Click here to learn more about what it takes to be a member. If you'd like to keep up with Fire Flower's farm projects, plant progress, and more, give them a follow on Instagram! @fireflowerfarm
Photo by: Chris Butler