Departing Berkeley, California on a foggy Wednesday morning, I was in for a treat. I knew I was headed to my favorite place and to what is, in my experience, the best cannabis farm in the world. On the drive north, everything got more beautiful, sunnier, golden, and green. I drove all the way to Dos Rios Farms in Dos Rios, California. This farm opens my heart. The locale and the people there are unparalleled and so is their herb.
Dos Rios is in northeastern Mendocino County on the way to Covelo. The road to Covelo has a complicated history. Covelo is the end of California’s Trail of Tears and Dos Rios is about halfway down that road. I came to visit Mark Thies and his wife Leslie Hines at their farm. They have one bustling little nursery and two 10,000-square-foot cultivation sites where they work to breed and grow some of the most unique and impeccable varieties of cannabis in the world. It’s the most beautiful of the hundreds of cannabis farms I’ve visited in my life. The location is unique; an overwhelming sense of peace and protection comes over you as soon as you arrive on the farm. Their land almost magically keeps freezing temperature snow off the plants and buffers against high temperatures and fire. The best vibes reflect directly in the herb grown at Dos Rios, which is cultivated by people who are truly committed to an organic lifestyle. They are my favorite for good reason; they cultivate and breed the best cannabis I’ve ever had the joy of discovering.
All the product from Dos Rios Farms is fantastic. Some of the most notable strains of theirs I’ve tried are Fruity Booty, Lemon Crème (which placed ninth in the flowers/mixed light category at the 2023 Emerald Cup), Dutch1 (which is T1 Purple Jasmine crossed with Dutch Treat), Cherry 1 (Cherry AK crossed with the T1 Purple Jasmine), and Hood Candyz. My honest favorite of theirs might be their family of OG Kushes; their Skywalker is one I remember as the pinnacle of a rich, piney, citrusy, petrol smoke.
“The Kush I like has that deep, deep oily flavor with a lemony paste on the back of your throat,” Thies says. “It’s a no-joke, couch locked time to eat or time to create, in any order, kind of deal, no more with bills, chores, etc.”
The flowers that Thies and Hines grow are universally sticky, powerful, and are always perfectly cured. Thies has been growing for 40 years (with 11 years spent at Dos Rios) and his breeding techniques have introduced countless incredible cultivars to the market and the people of California. The powerful terpenes and trichomes cultivated by the team at Dos Rios are no accident; they are the result of decades of dedication to the healing herb we all know and love.
The cannabis at Dos Rios is of the highest grade and the land where the farm is located has been totally organic since long before cannabis was cultivated there. With naturally occurring water sources like a pond that is always full and the perfect geography, Thies and Hines aren’t just lucky. They work hard to tend to the land, practicing regenerative farming techniques that work symbiotically with nature. Their farming techniques and practices create a truly sustainable environment. Everything farmed at Dos Rios is planted, fed, and harvested with regards to the moon, the stars, and the sun. They are Sun+Earth certified and have been contributing back to the soil and our planet by growing great cannabis for many years.
“I take the role of biodiversity seriously and I don’t want to pollute our cherished ground with salt-ladened animal nutrients,” Thies says. “That’s not to say you can’t pollute your soil with organic products. Secondly, I love the flavor and the high of timely harvested organic flower.”
The only things that aren’t sustainable are the prices and laws constraining our favorite cultivators and their successful operations. Since Proposition 64 passed, like many farmers, Thies and Hines have struggled to meet ends. They have, however, found solutions and support in their community through collaboration with neighbors and groups like the Round Valley Cannabis Co-Op, a community of small farmers that work in the pristine, remote beauty of the Covelo/Dos Rios Appellation. They have also partnered with retailers like Natural Cannabis Co. which consistently features Dos Rios’s cultivars in their shops and in their famed Best of Harvest boxes every year. The state of the market remains in flux but because Dos Rios Farms product is so incredible they maintain their presence on the top shelf and also in the hearts and lungs of all of us lucky enough to consume what they produce.
As I head back home into the fog bank, I contemplate the possibilities. There are many peaks and valleys, complicated by weather conditions, politics, finances, health, and reality. The one thing that I know for sure is Dos Rios Farms is the most special cannabis farm that has made it through the storm of legalization (so far) and I can assure you that you should seek out their product if you can. Thies and Hines are like my weed dad and cannabis mom; in my dream life they would adopt me, but at least I get to enjoy their herb and be friends with them.
The harsh reality of legal cannabis for small farmers is that for many the situation with licensing, fees, taxes, and regulations is not tenable or sustainable. It’s particularly tough for regenerative farms.
“Unfortunately, these last two years I’ve been chasing the highly marketable strains to keep our farm afloat,” Thies says. “Other than that I still grow for personal pleasure and attraction, I love the landrace, old school sativa strains so I’m always going to have those genetics in my cultivar designs.”
Luckily, Dos Rios Farms has so far continued to succeed, albeit not without a struggle. Thies regrets that they will “never again be growers; only farmers,” but finds it worthwhile to live for the cause of cultivating incredible cannabis for the people of California.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to know and love Thies and Hines and their herb. I’ve spoken out for years against big corporate cannabis and their lobby and it is my dearest hope that against all odds we will continue to enjoy their product and their presence for many years to come.
This story was originally published in the October 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.