Tina Gordon’s conversations are peppered with the energetic expression “c’mon” as she bounces around the arid hillsides of her mountain farm. We’re dropping into terraced cannabis gardens—the Homestead Garden, Serendipity, the Ancient Garden—in the afternoon heat of a late summer’s day baked in California sunshine. The full-sensory experience at Moon Made Farms begins with the sweeping views of the bullseye where Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties meet. This is the cradle of modern-day cannabis cultivation, the world-famous Emerald Triangle. Soon the fragrant aroma of lemon verbena and the bright sour citrus taste of purslane hit my senses as a cooling breeze picks up and shakes the branches of the 2023 cannabis harvest that’s growing directly off of Gordon’s back deck. The sharpness of wild arugula pulled straight from the garden beds is followed by a tropical puff of this year’s light deprivation-grown Hawaiian Fanta rolled into a joint. Moon Made Farms continues a longtime tradition of growing outdoor cannabis in a place cannabis culture calls “the hill.” Through cultivators and caretakers of the land like Gordon, the stories from this remote wilderness of Northern California continue to reverberate, beating like a drum for the few pot farmers who stick it out in southern Humboldt County in a now state-legal industry. Gordon—a transplant from San Francisco who found her way to Humboldt through a magical musical connection—joins farmers in the heartland of California cannabis who continue to write legendary tales of the Emerald Triangle through their passion for the plant and the fullness of their flowers.
Some Like it Hot
While technically in Garberville, Moon Made is located high into the hills about 45 minutes from the small town found on California’s Highway 101. Back in the 1970s and ’80s people came to this remote area to build homesteads, with many supporting their income via clandestine cannabis farming.
People like Joani Hannan and her partner Marion Cain cultivated cannabis plants here hidden under the shade of oak and fir trees, sometimes even growing plants in the tree canopy. The outsider environment was a good fit for Hannan, whose skill on the drums led to a lifetime spent in the entertainment industry. Hannan, who passed away in 2012, ran a nightclub in Garberville in the 1990s after having success in Hollywood both onscreen and off—she’s the jazz drummer in the all-women band featured in the Marilyn Monroe classic Some Like it Hot. Hannan was the owner of a lesbian bar Joani Presents in North Hollywood during the 1960s and 1970s and ran several other gay-friendly nightclubs in Southern California before purchasing the land where Moon Made Farms is now located. Gordon calls the spots on the farm where she’s found traces of Hannan and Cain’s cannabis grows “heritage gardens,” and evokes “Joani’s” memory often.
Gordon studied film at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is also a drummer. She first met Hannan on the farm when Gordon was working on a video piece about a motorcycle designer. The meeting was unforgettable. Gordon ended up making a short film about Hannan’s life, Joani: Queen of the Paradiddle.
Watching the film, the scenes that touched me most were the ones filmed in Gordon’s home where I’m staying overnight, sleeping in the jam room right next to the drum set. The film shows Hannan in the kitchen and in another room of the house wearing her pajamas playing the drums.
“Be proud, be strong, be good at what you do, you’ll get there,” Hannan says, reflecting back on a life where she was often forced to hide her true self.
That same weekend Gordon met Hannan, she was introduced to the people at Hannan’s neighboring farm, an encounter that started her journey in cannabis cultivation. Like Hannan, Gordon’s life path led her to march to the beat of her own drum. She stopped touring with bands and started farming.
“I was there for an entire year watching this plant grow from seed to full expression,” Gordon says. “I fell in love with this plant… When you grow up in San Francisco, weed is all around you and weed culture is all around you, but for me it’s really about counterculture. It’s about plant medicine, as it turns out. And it’s also about something totally different, it’s just more of a personal philosophy that is now being guided with this plant. This plant totally became my teacher, like for real.”
Over the course of two nights spent at Moon Made with Gordon and Chris Raven Begnoche, her partner in the sense of both business and love, Gordon never seems to slow down. As a part of my visit she takes me to visit Heartwood Mountain Sanctuary, an eco-retreat space that started as a school for healing arts, and the New Harris General Store, a community hub that provides all sorts of offerings including soil and vegetable starts. We also drop back into Garberville where Gordon joins in a meeting of cannabis farmers who are fighting together to preserve the livelihood of small farms in the area against the threat of an anti-cannabis initiative before attending a birthday party at Moon Made for one of the cultivators who works on the farm. The celebration includes Raven Begnoche’s unforgettable freshly baked farm-grown rhubarb pie and an orange moonset to end the evening shared with a cannabis breeder that Gordon frequently collaborates with, Jesse Dodd of Biovortex.
Care & Love & Art
The next morning after the party I wake up and go straight out onto the back deck to catch the view of Island Mountain, a place where a cloud inversion creates an island of land surrounded by morning fog. Dodd slept under the stars and is already there, puffing clouds. On the previous day’s tour I saw several Biovortex cultivars growing on the farm including Sapphire Tsu, which is rich in the terpene terpinolene and CBD.
I ask Dodd what he likes about Moon Made.
“Well the view right off the bat, but Tina’s energy and the way they care for plants, the way they look integrated with the landscape,” he says. “They’re using [Moon Made] as a vehicle for kind of a rock and roll message too, but as somebody who breeds seeds it’s such a good place to get to see the work grown out.”
Dodd says at Moon Made the care the cannabis receives from the farmers, combined with the elevation and climate, allows the plants to “come to their potential.”
“Especially because they’re growing with polyculture too—lots of flowers and insects—there’s definitely care and love and art put into growing these plants,” he says.
Dodd and Gordon’s relationship was sparked with a type of cannabis that they respectively call “mixed-ratio” and “Type II.” Both of these designations refer to the cannabinoid content ratios present in certain types of cannabis. Three types of cannabis presented in an academic research paper published in 1973—Type I, II and III—offer an idea for categorizing different types of the plant by their content, or ratio, of THC and CBD in varying concentrations. Type I is THC-dominant. Type II is CBD-forward with some THC, and Type III is CBD-only.
As a part of their work together Dodd created Type II strains high in CBD versus THC in ratios such as 3:1 and 2:1.
The THC element in the Sapphire Tsu comes from Black Sapphire (Black Dog crossed with Sapphire Scout and Holy Crack, which is Big Sur Holy Weed x Green Crack). The plant’s CBD profile came when those heavy THC varieties were crossed with a 20:1 Harle-Tsu, a Harlequin x Sour Tsunami bred by the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective.
“Terpinolene is one of the terpenes with the most longevity I’ve seen,” Dodd says of Sapphire Tsu’s signature scent. “I’ve seen an Athena Tsu from like five years ago that sat in a jar completely open and you could still smell the terpinolene. It was bright, it didn’t really even age in the color.”
The one moment of my visit to Moon Made where I remember Gordon slowing down slightly was when we were sitting in the shade in a lower garden property called Lunar Landing. Up until then she’s been answering emails and taking phone calls while also coordinating with all the cultivators that we’ve come upon during our garden walks.
In front of us there’s a gray van parked on the edge of the garden with the words “The Rambler” painted on the side. The van was a mobile sound stage which Gordon created with a $10,000 grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission. It’s really a mobile composition, Gordon explains, that involved 27 musicians following the trajectory of the sun as expressed as beats per minute over the course of 12 hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“At the middle, so at noon on the autumnal equinox of 2006, we’re at Twin Peaks, which is the highest point in San Francisco, we started on the eastside at Tire Beach and then ended on the Great Highway at Noriega [street],” Gordon explains.
As an outdoor cultivator Gordon is still very much following the sun. But, even though it’s easy to focus on the light, the trigger for cannabis plants to flower is in the hours of uninterrupted darkness. The name of Gordon’s regenerative farm, Moon Made, outlines the power she also places in the impact of the moonlight.
Our moment of repose comes when I ask her to speak about the divine feminine energy of the cannabis plant.
“I truly believe this is the most powerful plant on the planet,” Gordon says. “And I believe that the most powerful plant on the planet expresses in a female form. And I truly believe, c’mon, that what this plant is teaching us—and here’s the consciousness shift part—it’s like how does this plant make you feel?
“Does it perhaps make you feel introspective? Does it help you engage all of your senses? Does it help you engage yourself in a tactile world, a tactile reality? Does it help you become a more considerate person and consider others and have a sensitivity towards others? Does it make you more aware of a life force?
“Does it make you more conscious of how you are engaging with the world? Does it make you more thoughtful about perhaps your responsibility in the world? Does it help you slow down a little bit sometimes? Does it open you to receiving so that you can function in the world in a way that you may never have even thought was possible? Is this plant perhaps all about creation and nurturing and life? And isn’t it life affirming? And so I feel that this plant is in its essence life affirming and will teach us how to live.”
This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.