For the vast majority of cannabis farmers in Humboldt County, California, family always comes first. Much of the fertile ground is tended by people whose parents and grandparents walked the same path. Honoring those who came before is a sentiment that spreads across the entire Emerald Triangle, with roots running deeper than the mighty redwoods dotting the horizon.
For Johnny Casali of Huckleberry Hill Farms, this notion is especially important. A second-generation cannabis cultivator, he understands all too well how precious time is with people you truly love.
Having lost his mother while in federal prison for cannabis-related charges, Johnny has devoted his life to commemorating her legacy. It turns out the plant itself is allowing her spirit to live on.
“It’s never going to be about one of us—it’s always going to be about all of us,” Johnny often says.
Johnny grew up walking alongside his mom, Marlene, in the garden. Together, they lived off the land. She taught him the true meaning of community.
When Johnny was 20 years old, federal agents raided the family farm. Although a lengthy sentence took Johnny away from his home and everyone he held dear, he still kept his neighbors in his heart.
“The prosecutor offered to give me no time at all if I would cooperate with them and give up somebody,” Johnny recalled, speaking to Ryan Harner of Boveda. “I think a person really has to evaluate who they are inside. For me, it was always about my friends.”
Stoically, Johnny refused the deal. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. When his beloved mother suddenly passed away during his incarceration, he was shaken to his core—but it was the people he loved back in the Emerald Triangle who inspired him to keep going.
“The support from them, the letters that I received, helped me keep a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Upon his release, Johnny returned to his home in Humboldt. He immediately sought a way to honor his mom so that she would never be forgotten.
“It was vitally important to make this farm reflect a little bit of her,” Johnny said. He decided to cultivate strains of cannabis bred from the same plants his mother had grown throughout his childhood.
Remarkably, Johnny’s best friend had preserved a sole male plant containing Marlene’s genetics. He returned it to Johnny, its rightful owner, upon his release.
“Every different strain, even though it may be crossed with an OG or a Skittlez, there’s a little piece of Mom and a little piece of her legacy here on this farm.”
Some of the cultivars Huckleberry Hill currently has in its catalog include Sweet Marlene (named for Johnny’s mother), Mom’s Weed, Whitethorn Rose and Amalfi. Johnny believes tender loving care for each individual plant is what sets his farm apart. He credits the Original Terpene Shield™ from Boveda with ensuring the consumers fully experience the flower he so passionately crafted.
Johnny also honors the Emerald Triangle community that has helped support him by setting aside an area of his property that he affectionately calls Farmer’s Mountain. There he invites other cultivators to share quotes and stories, many of which are emblazoned upon large boulders that are displayed throughout the land.
Johnny hopes this tribute will allow the farmers’ voices to reverberate throughout Humboldt County and beyond, as well as honor the memory of those who came before them.
“It’s never really been about making money for me,” Johnny admits. “It’s always been about making a difference in people’s lives.”