Ridgeline Lights the Way

Southern Humboldt cultivator continues to give shine to the Emerald Triangle.
Photo by Phil Emerson

As Ridgeline Farms returned to the podium this year at The Emerald Cup, who could have imagined that they’d find their way to a Zalympix win a month later? They did.

In entering Zalympix—California’s fastest-growing elite indoor contest, and now one of its largest—Ridgeline’s founder Jason Gellman showed his faith in what they are producing under the sun of Southern Humboldt. Imagine being one of the 120-plus indoor cultivators that didn’t make it to the podium and then seeing the guy that won first place with Lantz in the “Mixed Light Flower” category at The Emerald Cup also win third place at Zalympix for “Best Tasting” with the same strain. It must have been wild!

These recent wins are the most special to Ridgeline given the effort they’ve put into Lantz over the years. Previous Emerald Cup victories with Green Lantern in 2018 and Ridgeline Runtz in 2019 felt great, but to do it all again after a time away from the winner’s circle with their own creation might be something hard to describe, given how many people have spent their adult lives on a quest for just one Emerald Cup trophy.

Gellman explained that Lantz is a cross between Ridgeline Runtz x Green Lantern. He estimates that the Ice Cream Cake he has used over the years makes up about 10% of the traits in Lantz.

We started our chat with Gellman’s return to victory at The Emerald Cup this spring.

“I mean, it’s an honor, The Emerald Cup, to me, is definitely the one,” Gellman told High Times. “I feel like there are so many different contests these days. That one truly means the most. It’s done the most for my brand, for me. So yeah. Very special. And to do it with the strain that I created with my dad? Extra special.”

Photo by Phil Emerson

Gellman described the compounding layers of gratification and pride as he stacked each thing about Lantz that made the whole experience such a personal effort over four years. He kept combing the killer genetics he amassed. Every now and then one would turn out fire and make it into the next generation. Eventually, he had reached the generation he would take to the cup.

“The one I picked out of the six was just a phenomenal plant,” Gellman said. “I knew it was a good one. I didn’t know it would be such a hit in this day’s market which is so hard to break through. This is a very special treat to me. I’m actually doing a lot more crosses with it right now this year.”

Lantz/Photo by Phil Emerson

Winning The Emerald Cup’s Breeder’s Cup award was one of the few prizes Gellman had left to collect for sungrown cannabis. This year Ridgeline’s Lantz did just that. It’s easy to understand the pride that must come with earning that recognition in addition to top honors with the new line

Gellman argued that Lantz tastes exceptionally wild, but also checked all the other boxes too. It’s cool if something looks nice or smells pretty but it has to hit too—and Lantz definitely comes through in that regard. About 25-30% of Gellman’s first run of 2023 is now dedicated to finding Ridgeline’s next winner and working with different strains.

“It’s a time-consuming, expensive way to grow weed at a time where you’re paying for your square footage,” Gellman said. “You’re getting a lot of partials that are gonna be good or bad. And, you know, a lot of it doesn’t turn out great.”

Lantz/Photo by Phil Emerson

Gellman emphasized the reality of cultivating award-winning cannabis is that about 80-90% of the time it’s just not the one. So it’s a high risk proposition, but also a high reward. If you take a look at his trophy collection it’s easier to understand why he is taking the chance.

Time is essential to producing a quality product. While Gellman could see himself releasing concentrates in the future, that’s about it. As he once put it to me a few years ago, if he ain’t doing it, he ain’t doing it. Every plant at Ridgeline lives under his watchful eye, as he prepares to strike at a moment’s notice should any issues arise with the award-winning crops. Gellman isn’t concerned with scaling up, just producing the best cannabis possible off of two runs a year.

Gellman argued that quality doesn’t come from a giant field of weed.

“Twenty acres of weed? Good luck with that,” he laughed. “I look at every single plant and I see what they do. I see how they respond, how they grow, and what they’ve become. And so I feel like that is where I get the high-quality weed.”

In the not-too-distant future, there will be legal global demand for farms like Ridgeline that have done well in the California market. We asked Gellman how he will feed that demand if he doesn’t want to scale up.

He believes there is enough weed being grown right now to feed the demand. He plans to use the Ridgeline brand to help his peers in southern Humboldt distribute all over. There are so many farmers he trusts and knows personally in the Emerald Triangle that he feels the need to help. All these wins weren’t just pats on the back after a hard summer. In the process he built a platform from scratch that he’ll be able to use to uplift others.

Photo by Phil Emerson

The weather last year was generally awesome and Northern California only had to deal with small, localized fires. A relief in comparison to the kinds of hazards that wipe out counties of product, like the wildfires across Santa Rosa and Mendocino did in recent years. We asked what that solid season of weather meant to him in regards to his wins last year.

“When you’re a farmer, I mean it’s everything,” Gellman said. “It was a decent year last year, but we had a five- or six-day rain period, which I think was about the end of August. It really created a lot of mold in the Emerald Triangle. And, you know, at the end of the day we can do what we can do, but we can’t control the climate. It’s all about timing with the weather and it’s all about the climate and it’s constantly changing.”

Gellman noted that some strains didn’t get to go as long as people would have liked with the change in weather right before the harvest. But the flower that was able to go full term came out awesome. He emphasized that many farmers up north spend their whole lives working around the weather.

Photo by Phil Emerson

One of the biggest parts of the recent victories for Gellman is the recognition he is able to give Southern Humboldt through his own efforts. Every accolade he earns helps the surviving growers stay afloat after years of price drops that devastated people out of the market. Gellman said the area feels like a ghost town in many places in the region. It makes any praise that he receives hit that much harder in support of the craft farmers Gellman counts himself among.

“That recognition is so important. So much more important than any one farmer,” Gellman said. “It’s about everybody, it’s not just about one of us. It always means a lot, any recognition. Anytime I can scream out Southern Humboldt’s name.”

Photo by Phil Emerson

This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

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