Higher Profile: Ingrid Hart & The Humboldt Honey

The iconic Humboldt Honey poster celebrates 40 years.
Courtesy of Ingrid Hart

When Humboldt State University journalism major, Ingrid Hart, created the Humboldt Honey in 1983, she had no idea the young woman pictured wearing the uniform we’ve all come to know as part of the culture of cannabis would cause such a stir, or continue to be relevant to this day.

In the early 80s, posters posing the questions “Are you a Nerd?” or “Are you a Valley Girl?” were doing the same thing, detailing the wardrobes of a nerd from the film Revenge of the Nerds, or Moon Unit Zappa’s one hit wonder, Valley Girl, inspiring Hart to bring the Humboldt Honey to life, posing the question, “Are you a Humboldt Honey?”

“I created the poster of the young woman for myself, and never planned on printing more than one for my own room,” she explained. “At that time I didn’t know about press runs and that one poster would cost as much to print as one thousand, so I had the minimum printed at a thousand copies.”

While most in the community understood the uniform, the conservative faction of Humboldt County, comprised of the lumber and fishing industries, were appalled. How could someone glorify a character from the drug community? Everything they fought against and hated about the cannabis community was represented in this one photo of a hippie girl, and they were not happy about it.

On April 17, 1983, Humboldt’s daily newspaper, the Times-Standard, put the poster on the front page above the fold, helping it to sell out in less than two months. Hart had distributed it to about 15 shops around the county at four dollars each, with the intention of making it affordable for students.

“Sam Blackwell did a story for the Times-Standard,” she continued. “When the story ran my vibration was so high the posters ran out quickly and everyone wanted more. Then the nasty grams started and I received lots of hate mail. I’m an intuitive, sensitive person and it really affected me.”

She agreed to an interview on a radio station she was unaware leaned conservative, and was bullied live on air by callers hating on her Honey.

In those days there weren’t any cell phones, with phone number listings published in a physical phone book given free to every household with a landline. Hart said she ended up having to disconnect her phone to stop the calls.

“I shut the whole thing down,” she said. “I just couldn’t deal with the negative energy surrounding her. It was just too much for me. In my mind, she was a positive force to be reckoned with, not something to be hating on.”

In the 40 years since the first printing, Hart said she’s barely earned a penny from the Humboldt Honey, who she has never marketed or merchandised since she arrived on the scene in 1983. Albeit, except for one shop in Humboldt who has sat on a stack of posters for years, selling a few here and there as a novelty for tourists.

“After 40 years, this is a gift I’m giving back,” she surmised. “I never wanted to make money off of her, that would go against everything she represents and that I believe in. You can see it in her garb—she’s not a sell-out.”

Courtesy of Ingrid Hart

The Subject

As a journalism major at Humboldt State University, Hart’s Honey reflected much of herself and her values, shared by what the young woman was holding, reading, and subsequently advocating. 

Hart had studied each and every piece on the young woman, creating a prototype with her roommate first, then seeking out someone in the community to feature in the poster.

Her subject, Leoni Nicol, was found in front of the old quonset hut that was the first Arcata Co-op, in the Humboldt city known as 60s by the Sea. The photo was shot by local photographer, Patrick Cudahy, as technically his first commercial shoot.

Nicol was from Scotland and was just passing through town. We could assume she may have been a Trimmagrant, one of the thousands of young people who follow the growing season, trimming cannabis flower for money as they travel through the Emerald Triangle.

She wasn’t dressed as a Humboldt Honey when Hart found her. As an aside, Nicol had been part of British punk band, The Molesters. According to an article penned by Kevin Hoover, of the weekly, the band’s single can still be heard online at Rhapsody.com/themolesters.

“What she’s wearing represents what we all believe in, and what I believed in at the time and still do,” Hart said. “She even has Liberty Caps in a velvet pouch her bag, because I too was experimenting with psilocybin mushrooms at the time.”

As another reflection of the times, the hits of mushrooms were dubbed Liberty Caps, as they were said to liberate your mind. How ironic that the psychoactive mushrooms are now being widely accepted in the U.S. and around the world as medicine, used as a reset for a bevy of mental disorders, including depression. Proving further that our Humboldt Honey is still relevant today.

The Anatomy of the Humboldt Honey

You can still find the Humboldt Honey in the hills of Humboldt County, but her presence isn’t limited or confined to tending weed within the fertile redwood soil in Northern California. 

Around the world there are progressive communities who still aspire to the norms and beliefs of the 1960s, in which she was spawned. 

You’ll find the Humboldt Honey and her counterparts at The Farm in Tennessee; in Austin, Texas with its patch of blue in a sea of red; in the State of Vermont—said to be the Humboldt County of the east coast; in the south of France in Marseille, where they grow some of the finest weed in the country (turned into the finest hash); and in Amsterdam, where the High Times Cup was launched in 1988, just five years after the Humboldt Honey made her debut.

“She’s really about comfort and the farming life,” Hart said. “You wake up in the morning and it’s cold, so you layer. As the sun comes up, you peel off the layers. This look is all about practicality. But, she’s also making political statements of the times.”

Her layers are made of hemp and cotton. Her No Nukes t-shirt is part of her personal belief system. On her head is Bobby McGee’s dirty red bandana, made famous by the song, “Me & Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin. The button on her fringed hippy vest warns, Question Authority—something we are still doing today where cannabis is concerned.

High Times would have rather she hold a copy of its iconic magazine, but this honey is reading Rolling Stone, Mother Earth News, Mother Jones, and the book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by author Tom Wolfe; wherein he details his acid-laden, cross-country ride in the infamous converted school bus, Further, with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

And, of course, she’s holding a joint filled with Humboldt’s finest weed.

“Beloved plant medicine opens our Sixth Chakra and fills our minds and hearts with ideas and potential possibilities,” Hart surmised. “I probably wouldn’t have created this iconic being if a veil hadn’t have been lifted from my consciousness while in Humboldt. Because my life before Humboldt was completely different from the life I found to the north.”

Hart’s Humboldt Calling

Hart was born in Brazil, but the family moved to the United States and the conservative enclave of Orange County, California, when she was just seven years old.

“I loved the beach, but my third eye wasn’t opened up in Southern California,” she laughed. “I grew up in the 80s, in the time of Reagan—it was called the me generation—with an attachment to designer labels; the importance of what kind of car you drove, how big was your house, and what neighborhood you lived in. I grew up in a materialistic society in SoCal.”

After high school she first studied at Orange Coast Community College (OCCC), writing for the college paper, as a features writer, penning human interest stories.

“I first smoked cannabis in college—actually, after I met Sailene Ossman,” she explained. “We both worked at Hamburger Hamlet and we’ve been friends ever since. We did a lot of magic mushrooms together, made leis for our hair with flowers, wore dayglow colors and listened to Jefferson Airplane. She came up to Humboldt with me to check out the university, and we both fell in love with its alternative lifestyle. It felt like we came home for the first time being there.”

Ingrid and Sailene Ossman “tripping the lights fantastic” on Liberty Caps (psilocybin mushrooms) circa 1981 / Courtesy of Ingrid Hart

The two ended up attending the iconic North Country Fair on the Plaza in Arcata, still run by the “Same Old People,” founded in 1974, and still continuing today on the third weekend in September. There they purchased two old-school, cannabis-laden chocolate brownies out in the open in the middle of the event.

“There was food, music, and everyone was dancing,” she recalled. “It was a magical place and still is today. We were amazed that we could buy a pot brownie like that. It was a different world, but one we were anxious to be a part of.”

Ossman would go on to establish Venice Beach, California’s first cannabis delivery service. Today, she owns the Brewja Elixir in Joshua Tree, California, serving up CBD and herbal elixirs. Ossman has also penned a book on CBD Cocktails (Cider Mill Press, April 2020).

“I knew I would fall in love with the rivers, the ocean, and the redwoods,” Hart added. “But, I was also excited about living in a place that had a higher vibration with the plant, grown with love. And one thing I remember is, I never had to buy weed in Humboldt, because it was everywhere.”

Aside from a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University, Hart would go on to obtain a master’s degree in cultural spirituality from Holy Names University in Oakland, California. She’s also certified as a Conscious Aging Facilitator from the Institute of Noetic Sciences. 

As an author, Hart won an award for penning the book, My Year in California: A Journey Toward Midlife Renewal, detailing one year spent in California City, an experimental development from the 1970s, that Hart called, “a life affirming journey.”

The Humboldt Honey commemorative poster will be available January 1, 2023, sold at $25 each, still keeping it affordable, as the Honey would have wanted.

“Humboldt was a happy and carefree time for me,” she concluded. “The Humboldt Honey was a defining moment among many moments in Humboldt that would define my life, and still influences my life today. Many people say they left their heart in San Francisco, but I left my heart firmly planted five hours north of the city by the bay in Humboldt, where the spirit of the Humboldt Honey still lives today.”

For more information on the Humboldt Honey, or to pre-order the poster visit, www.thehumboldthoney.com.

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