This article appears in Volume 9 – Issue 4 of SKUNK Magazine.
THE EMERALD CUP—you don’t really know what to expect before you get there and it’s easy to see why, there’s just no way to convey the magic via words alone.
No matter what anybody tells you, you’ll never be prepared for the feelings you will experience in the Mecca of the cannabis world.
It’s not just the Redwoods that grow high up in the Triangle, you are now in the land where yields in excess of 10lbs are common and each bud is a sun-kissed reward for those dedicated to producing the finest outdoor, organic medicine. The best, and grown just as nature intended, unadulterated and pure.
It’s also the place where past meets future, where generations of growers have honed their craft, so well, that the strains that make it here go on to capture the attention of growers and consumers throughout the world. Although the Girl Scouts might be an American institution, their cookies are making noise in some of the most exotic places around the globe, and that simply doesn’t happen without the Triangle and the event that celebrates their triumphs.
Initially the Emerald Cup’s founder, Tim Blake, intended the event as a celebration of another successful year of bringing in their crops safely, often a herculean feat with enemies such as weather, thieves and law enforcement a daily nuisance. But year after year, the crops come in, a testament to both the plant itself and more important to the farmers whose livelihoods depend on it. Maybe love is all you need for the person in your life but growing the best takes more than that, it takes a lot of hard work and a complete devotion.
Last year, the Emerald Cup moved from its Area 101 home to the Mateel Centre—there was just no way to accommodate the entries anymore, let alone the revelers. It was a great success with more people getting to enjoy the magic than ever before, myself included. This year is an even more ambitious undertaking with a move to Sonoma and a world-class venue, and with a lineup of participants that is second to none.
The location is not without a little controversy however, as some feel that the magic simply can’t be exported outside the Triangle. I say, magic can’t be contained, that is its nature but let’s hear from the man himself, the one who puts his life on hold every year to make this happen, founder, Tim Blake.
Tim, I know every year has its own unique set of challenges, but this year must be a doozy. Has it gone smoothly? With any move to a new place, you’re going to have bumps on the path. Overall though, it’s been a remarkably easy transition. Whereas the mainstream folks in Mendo and Humboldt didn’t embrace the Cup, everyone in Sonoma County has welcomed us with open arms. It’s sad that the people of Mendocino and Humboldt counties have been beaten up by the feds and local cops endlessly. The constant harassment has left so many of us paranoid and untrusting. Not so in Sonoma! From the welcome center to the local hotels, the whole community has accepted us and gone out of their way to ensure this years Cup will be successful. It has taken a while to get the lay-of-the-land; everything is new. After this year, we’ll know everyone, everyone will know us, it’ll be a breeze next year!
Something this big can’t be done by one man alone. Samantha, your partner in life has been vital for the growth. What does having her by your side mean for the Emerald Cup? I wouldn’t have made the choice to move to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds without Samantha by my side. This is Sam’s fourth Cup. She started out as my assistant and has grown into the role of co- producing this year’s Emerald Cup. What started out as a local celebration of the fall harvest with a wild all night party has evolved into a two-day affair, complete with panels and workshops, several times the size of our original event. Sam watched the semi organized previous Cups, saw what needed to be done, and took over the majority of the management responsibilities. She was the perfect choice for running an event of this size and scope. Having Sam by my side means I can concentrate on different aspects of the event. Knowing Sam is with me, making sure everything is in order and well produced is reassuring. She brings a wonderful woman’s touch to the Cup.
Some people are questioning the move outside the Triangle, suggesting it won’t be the same. Why the move? We wanted to keep The Emerald Cup in the Emerald Triangle. We tried hard to do so. After being turned down by several venues, we took a flyer on Sonoma County, figuring they’d be a good back up. People in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties consider themselves the heart and soul of outdoor growing. They take pride in being outlaws and living alternative lifestyles. Most of us, in the triangle, are transplants from other places. The folks in Sonoma have been there awhile, are much more ingrained in the everyday politics and life of the area. It’s been much easier for them to embrace The Cup without all the old baggage of the past we carry with us up North. Sonoma County has overtaken Napa as the leading destination for wine tourism, taken the lead in bike racing, and sees the potential future for cannabis business in their community. We do too! There were never enough hotel rooms up north, it was freezing, the roads were dangerous, The Cup was really challenging to pull off. Now we have access to millions of patients and growers. We now have better access to speakers, there are thousands of hotel rooms, and the fairgrounds is dialed in as far as warm space, bathrooms, kitchens. I’ll miss the wild and crazy days of previous Cups, but will gladly exchange them for the comfort of Santa Rosa.
The Emerald Cup is more than a cannabis competition, you only have to look at the panels and workshops to understand that this is a teaching and sharing event. Was it always intended this way or has this facet grown along with the Cup? The Emerald Cup has evolved tremendously over the years. What started out as an all night party and celebration has morphed into panels, workshops, and a gathering of our culture. It really changed two years ago, when the feds were kicking our asses at the end of summer, into the fall. We almost cancelled the Cup, were talked into doing it by everyone who didn’t want to see it go. No one wanted to see us cave into the federal pressure. I decided we’d do it, no matter what, everyone rallied around us. It was an incredible experience. Many activists and speakers who wouldn’t drive up to previous Cups, made the trek out of solidarity. It worked, growers, patients, city folks, all came together, realizing we were in this together. We’ve never looked back, and we’re on the road to a complete meshing of the different aspects of our culture with this year’s Cup and the move down south. Outdoor growers have been marginalized over the years, overlooked by dispensaries and patients, who for the most part, jumped all over the perfect looking indoor that was hitting them from all sides. It’s only been the last couple of years that we’re finally getting our due. Full-sun grown cannabis is the best, period. I have nothing against indoor, it has a place at the table; always will. But when you get a chance to grow in the full sun, indoor no longer has an advantage. What we need to do now is, teach folks how to do it right. Outdoors, organically, sustainably is the method to providing the best possible medicine to the patients. In the process leaving as little trace on the forest, watersheds and your neighbors is crucial. We’ve taken some flak for the environmental damage we’re doing. We need to take responsibility for policing ourselves. It can and will be done if we’re legally allowed to regulate. We’re being judged quite harshly. If the wine industry were as scrutinized as us, how many vineyards would be viewed as unsustainable, inorganic, water hogging systems? Many of our panels are about making organic fertilizers, making your own compost teas, and following best management practices. Every grower has things to learn. “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” I for one, am not. I admit there are many new aspects to growing I need to learn and embrace. We’re all in this together. It’s time for us to take our rightful place at the table. It’s time to show off our industry in the proper light. We look forward to everyone’s help in doing so!
Your event will also be the first in which European breeders exhibit side-by-side with their American counterparts on American soil. What do you hope arises from this meeting of the leading minds in the industry? The Europeans have a great deal to teach us and also much to learn from us. We’re going to be a worldwide industry in the coming years, just like it is with every other agricultural product. It’s time we come together to figure out how to work together. John, you saw this a long time before most of us, have been talking about it since I met you. You deserve the credit for guiding us all on this path we’re taking, at least in regards to integrating the Europeans. Their work with auto-flowering, feminized seeds, while controversial, is quite remarkable, our strains kick ass, a merging is already taking place between breeders and companies. Hopefully next year we can make a place for feminized and auto flower in the competition.
What do you hope attendees take away from this year’s event? I would love to see the attendees walk away inspired, full of hope that a new day and era is upon us. I hope that they gained a fresh outlook on outdoor cannabis, that growers everywhere realized they can still get their weight by growing organically and at the same time deliver a far better product to their patients. I want everyone to feel like they got to be part of something magical. When an event is magical, everyone feels it.
Finally, it’s December 16th, what is Tim Blake doing on that day? On December 16th I’ll be at the fairgrounds early, cleaning up, taking care of business, riding the high of the weekend, already planning next years Cup!