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From Humboldt, With Love

Local Scott Vasterling's cannabis brand solidifies a longstanding tradition of growing weed up north and selling it in San Diego
Humboldt Family Farms

Humboldt Family Farms

“Humboldt cannabis has been brought down the state to San Diego for generations,” says Scott Vasterling, founder and owner of direct-to-consumer cannabis company Humboldt Family Farms.

He’s right. Anyone who has sparked up long enough in this town is well acquainted with the San Diego-Emerald Triangle pipeline, which finds weed grown up there later sold and smoked down here. There was even a documentary about a murder within that subculture, Murder Mountain, which detailed the story of an OB grower and seller in Humboldt County who met a tragic end.

But things have changed, especially since Prop 64 became the effective law of the land in 2018. The weed trail downstate has become more legit. Scott Vasterling, who grew up in San Diego and graduated from Poway High School, had been living in Humboldt since 2001, when he met his now-wife, Alice, who’s from a family of second-generation cannabis growers.

Humboldt Family Farms, weed

Humboldt Family Farms focuses on lower-THC, legacy cannabis varieties that offer a more balanced high.

The couple eventually opened a coffee and community spot in Trinidad called Beachcomber Café. Soon after, Vasterling ditched his career working for health and wellness companies and became “heavily involved” in the cannabis side of the family business when they married in 2007. Back then, weed was only legal for medical cultivation and sales in California.

Today, he runs the newly operational Humboldt Family Farms, which, true to its name, is a family affair—Alice’s brother is their business partner on their small farm, which also supplies food for the café in addition to its just-under-5,000-square-foot cannabis grow. Bucking the storefront retail sales model, the company sells most of its sun-grown weed legally through a delivery service covering most of the state, including San Diego (some dispensaries across California carry the brand, too).

Humboldt Family Farms_Scott

Scott Vasterling of Humboldt Family Farms clutches a fresh chop of cannabis leaves on his small family farm.

All its partner growers are small farms in Humboldt County, including the legendary Amaranth Farms (whose seeds were brought to California from Afghanistan by its founders in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and Arcata Fire, which produces high-quality cannabis concentrates. In other words: This herb is the real deal.

Part of the brand’s allure includes Humboldt Family Farms’ focus on so-called legacy cannabis varieties—cultivars like Maui Waui, OG, Train Wreck, and Blue Dream, which have been grown and sold for decades before cannabis became legal even for medical use. Thanks to its relationships with deep-rooted local growers, Humboldt Family Farms sells those strains today as whole cannabis flowers, pre-rolled joints, and vape cartridges.

Humboldt Family Farms, 1975 photo

A 1975 photo of Amaranth Farms’ Karen Hessler and children, Nya and Elan. “This is the land that they homesteaded on in southern Humboldt,” Vasterling says of the farm, which sells its bud via Humboldt Family Farms.

A nice antidote to the high-THC “dessert strains,” like Ice Cream Cake or Gelato, dominating the market today, these legacy cultivars tend to clock in lower in THC. But they often contain higher percentages of other cannabinoids, like CBD, and more terpenes, which give cannabis varieties unique tastes and smells to offer a more balanced, multifaceted high.

Would-be tokers can mosey over to Humboldt Family Farms’ website to order. In San Diego, the company has partnered with delivery service Grassdoor to get the weed to local doorsteps. For Vasterling, building and maintaining a presence in town isn’t just a good business idea; it’s personal, too. “I love San Diego. I still have family in San Diego,” he says. “And so it makes sense for us to have a heavy focus down [here].”

By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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