Q&A with Herbanology

Heather Dunbar

Sun+Earth Spotlight: Herbanology

Herbanology is an off-grid, small-scale, family owned, Sun+Earth Certified adult-use cannabis farm in the forested hills of Mendocino County near Ukiah, CA. They  recently announced a partnership with Cosmic Distribution in Santa Rosa, CA to get their dry flower brand professionally packaged and distributed to retail outlets in California. 

Herbanology reports they are “working on a project for this year’s harvest to use our prepackaged flower to bring attention to the cannabis breeders who do most of the work behind the scenes, getting us all the yummy flavors, genetics and seed stock from around the world, that allow us to do the work we do.”

Sun+Earth market specialist, Heather Dunbar, recently caught up with Herbanology Farmers Rachel Turiel and Gerasimos Christoforatos soon after they finished planting their cannabis crop for 2020. 

Heather: What does the cannabis plant mean to you?

Rachel: My personal journey with cannabis has been interesting. When I was in my 20s, I was an athlete and didn’t really engage in smoking. But, when I got out of that, I realized what a medicinal tool cannabis was for me. Sometimes I wish I had smoked back then because I realize now that I love nothing more than going snowboarding and having a couple of tokes, and I get in my own little world in nature. Maybe I would have been a better competitor. It’s a way for me to relax and I feel very grateful for it. One of my favorite things is, when I know I’m going to be out in the garden, I enjoy smoking and I find myself connecting more with the earth and the plants and it takes me on this journey that makes me feel so good. 

Gerasimos: Coming into this cannabis world with dreadlocks on my head, for a long time now I hear the rastaman say, “healing vibration”, cannabis has been a healing vibration for me. Not only for me, but also those we produce this flower for, who need it as medicine. So, for me it’s the healing vibration that emanates through this world.

Heather: What is Herbanology’s backstory and what led you to do the work you do today?

Rachel: It started right after 2016, when cannabis farming was going the legal route and it was looking like it was really going to be something that could turn into a way of living for us. I had this piece of land that I bought in 2009, but we had been living for 5 years on a really nice piece of land on a vineyard with PGE electricity and a nice house. Doing this [moving out to their land and transforming into the Herbanology farm required us to move to the land, redo everything. We had to fix the house up, revamp the solar power system, and I honestly had one foot in and one foot out. I was excited but we were moving to a piece of land that needed a lot of work and it was daunting. But we did it! The amazing part is that four months after we moved up here, the Redwood Valley fires came through and the house we had been living in for 5 years, and had just moved out of, burnt to the ground.

Gerasimos: Rachel was responsible for the land back in the day, caretaking and taking the lead role. For a woman in this industry, in a male-dominated environment, it was a powerful role. All you have to do is look at the strain names of these female flowers: Mr. Nice, Green Crack, and all these masculine names. I think there was this visual of bringing back the role of the feminine into this feminine plant and there was something magical there I thought.

Rachel: I gained a lot of knowledge from Gerasimos and his background. I had a crew of my brothers that I relied on, and learned a lot of my knowledge from hands-on experience and having a strong connection and intuition with the plant itself. I can look at a plant and can tell what the plant is needing and that comes from hands-on experience.

Gerasimos: I grew up in a pretty physically traumatic experience as a child where I had a very aggressive father. And there was a moment in time when cannabis came to me and, looking back now, I see how this plant was this entity, this being, this rescuer of sorts that pulled me in the direction of what I call ‘consciousness’. I started working with the medicinal cannabis world with [California] Prop. 215 and was highly involved growing and working with dispensaries and I got to see first-hand how cancer patients were benefiting. Running in that world, I was able to see the effects that cannabis has on the population. Seeing the true value of cannabis was like, yeah, I need to keep doing this.

Heather: Why did you choose to become a Sun+Earth Certified farmer? 

Gerasimos: Well, it’s really the standards it sets. We don’t really see organic standards as being this great thing that we thought it should be. In the beginning, we thought it was a great thing, but as we got older we saw the corporate hand reaching in and changing the regulations and preventing it from being a force for good. We could have taken it a step more. And, so, Sun+Earth showed up and said we are that step more. We wanted to respect the workers, the environment, the landscape, the people and everything that connects to the plant. 

Rachel: Going back to when we moved to this land back in 2017, we always practiced organic farming, but we were doing the bare minimum and it was a big drive for us, as we saw a chance to create something beautiful with this land and also realize that it’s a process.

Gerasimos: Sun+Earth pushes us to do more, especially because the community talks and we are all learning from each other. Having that community aspect and information-sharing is a powerful thing.   

Heather: What do you value about being a part of the Sun+Earth community?

Rachel: I think about becoming stewards of the lands. With everything going on with the world these days, having sovereignty, being dedicated to this land, learning how to do things in a more sustainable way, and treating the earth with more respect is amazing. We are doing something of real value. 

Gerasimos: Getting high-quality medicine to the people. We are doing this because there are people in need and we need to fill that space as best we can.

Rachel: I remember people coming up to us at the Emerald Cup and simply thanking us for our herb. Receiving that feedback from fellow farmers in the Sun+Earth community made me realize we are in the right place and we are doing the right thing.

Heather: Can you talk about your new relationship with Cosmic Distribution? 

Gerasimos: We are extremely excited to be working with Cosmic Distribution. Rachel and I have been working on this for close to two years, and it’s been a long stretch and a long process to align and fine-tune things. We are so happy to be in this moment where everything is getting tested and jarred up. In a few weeks, we will be releasing, with Cosmic, our branded flower. As a small farmer, we need to have people in a position to help us get our flower on the shelf and in front of as many eyes as possible. This is a collaboration of people coming together to build this beautiful picture. 

Heather: Why Cosmic Distribution?

Rachel: We started having conversations, we made a connection, and we bonded. They had everything we needed, and we just seemed aligned. 

Gerasimos: Initially, when we connected with them, they made clear that they are not in this to be the big boys. They want to teach people about the message of sungrown, the small farmer, and that message rang true to us. In the end, it’s about ‘who are we associating with, who are we standing side by side with, marching forward with in this newly-regulated market’. They are aligned with our ethics and values of helping small farmers have a place to stand.