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Emerald Ranch

This cannabis nursery deep in the Triangle is a site to behold: a verdant field displaying thousands of bright green marijuana plants in rows and sections, all labeled and ready to be bought by local backyard hobbyists, mom 'n pop 6-plant endeavors, reckless outlaws, and legal farms. Last year a worker said there were about 15,000 plants for sale, and this year I was told it's more like 25,000.

I drove out to Emerald Ranch to get a Wedding Cake plant to see what all the fuss was about that popular strain. The only “Cake” they had was a cross with Notorious THC called Pound Cake, so half Wedding Cake will have to do for this year's experiment in stony gardening. As I was waiting for a female to be identified in the Pound Cake section a young woman drove up looking to buy a couple Magic Melons for her mother. Someone had already given me a Blueberry Muffin and I returned the next day and bought one of the Magic Melons whose buds at harvest are supposed to smell like melon, we'll see.

On hand are forty different strains and the handout has elaborate descriptions of taste, smell, and varieties of inebriation, among other attributes.

The workers are friendly, helpful, attentive, accessible, vaccinated, and know the details pertaining to each strain, although I would be happy to never hear the word “trichome” again. (It's my suspicion that when people started talking about trichomes about twenty years ago the hippie dream of just putting a seed into the ground and watching it grow ended.)  

The most popular seller is All Gas OG I was told without hesitation. When I asked what strain a hypothetical person could grow to have the highest yield from their personal use six plants Vanilla Frosting, Nutter Butter, and Dream Queen were mentioned.

Can you imagine going to your neighborhood dealer and saying, “How much can I get for five pounds of Jelly Rancher?”

“What?” she might say. “You didn't grow any Bigfoot Glue, Caramel Cream, or Squirt? Sorry, no Chunkadelic Autoflower?”

All these names sound like cartoons but maybe I'm out of touch with the “dessert market” and this is normal now.

The plants pretty much all look alike at this stage and after my dismal attempt to start my own (maybe the potting soil was from a bad batch?) it's nice to have this beautiful healthy plant riding shotgun out of the nursery.

They cost fifty bucks each which seemed high but now I'm thinking is worth it. Will I go back a third straight day to get a Jelly Rancher? I have a couple Blueberry Muffin males and my diabolical plan is to pollinate some of these Emerald Ranch exotics, make seeds, and spread them far and wide to gardening friends in Mexico, Texas, and other locales.

The owner and creator of Emerald Ranch is an ex-nurse and yoga teacher named Josette Montague. She is a smart, astute businesswoman I first encountered in 1997 when she staged the planting of some of the first medical marijuana plants, after the passing of Proposition 215 the year before, complete with invited media and the patient, a disabled person who would grow, harvest, and consume the resulting buds for his medicine. This event took place in the field where the cannabis nursery now operates,

That piece of land was for sale for years with no takers even though it was flat, sunny, and had a creek going through it. No one wanted  to deal with the sketchy neighbors until the new owner took on the challenge and created a homestead for herself and family. Though she is very soft spoken she's a tough lady who took on the challenge, built a fence around the property, chased the trespassers away, and claimed her piece of paradise.

She has a variety of other interests including writing, dance, and social justice activism as well as a small house in Arizona just above the Mexican border where she spent time last winter handing out water to immigrants trying to survive the often deadly trek through the desert on their way north. (She also keeps a small boat anchored down in Marin as a crash pad for her city trips.)

She's a no-nonsense woman whose Facebook page was the most interesting and intelligent one around, spawning many vibrant discussions, until she got tired of dealing with the trolls and moved on to Twitter. She's one of those reality-based, down-to-earth persons who might not even know what her  rising sign is, or cares.

But something has to pay the bills and she is like the hardware store selling shovels to gold-rushers back in 1849: she gets paid up front and in cash.

When I was getting my Magic Melon plant yesterday I asked a worker, “How much do you think Josette earns after all expenses? Do you think she makes ten bucks per plant?” Although a little put off by my crass query she seemed to nod assent at my educated guess: 25,000 plants, ten per profit, you do the math. Well, whatever she takes home to her nearby hand-made house it's probably a very nice pile for six months work.

Another worker said that every plant will be gone by the end of the planting season sometime in late July. “Some grower who lost his crop will show up wanting to buy a couple thousand plants and that'll be it,” he said. “He'll buy us out and the season here will be over. It's too bad for me because then my job is over, but oh well...”

All these exotic strains at the nursery use a lot of water (harvested from rain catchment) and when they're sent home with gardeners large and small they'll use even more. With the drought it's a good question how much longer the springs, creeks, and rivers can support this industry.


  1. Kirk Vodopals June 22, 2021

    Might want to skip dessert this year due to the drought….

  2. Rye N Flint June 22, 2021

    “Scale up cannabis” 2021 = “We have to grow more to keep up with lower prices” 2011

    Growing more crap weed = Lower prices for everyone.

    I heard Sarah Bodner’s comment about her farmer associate that couldn’t make it with 4 employees and 1 acre of Cannabis? Huh?

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