Quality over Quantity

Ridgeline Farms keeps it small

By Isabella Vanderheiden

Photos by Zach Lathouris

Nestled high in the hills of Southern Humboldt, overlooking the winding Eel River and groves of ancient redwoods, you will find Ridgeline Farms. Named for its panoramic view of the sprawling King Range, the award-winning farm is owned and operated by second-generation farmer Jason Gellman. “This is my home,” he says. “I love it more here than anywhere.”

Gellman grew up in Southern Humboldt and has witnessed the evolution of the cannabis industry. He recalls a time when farmers grew indoors or deep in the forest to hide their crop, followed by the Green Rush when the Emerald Triangle became saturated with out-of-staters moving in to make a quick buck. Then came legalization. “I was hesitant to jump into the legal side of it,” he says. “It was a scary time but it was the right decision in the long run. There’s been ups and down, but it’s been amazing.”

As a small farmer, Gellman believes it’s about quality over quantity. “I believe that’s why I win awards. I have such a small farm; I know my plants very well. I know what I feed them, I know every one of them.” Gellman says it’s important for consumers to know what kind of product they’re putting in their body but also where their money goes when they buy a product. “If one person owns a small farm that can take care of their family and help support the community, that’s amazing, but if one person owns acres and acres it doesn’t spread around as much. When they buy from a small farm, they’re not only getting quality, but they’re supporting the community.”

Perhaps this is the secret to winning first place for Best Licensed Sun Grown Flower at the Emerald Cup two years running. Gellman took first place in 2018 with Green Lantern and in 2019 took first place for Ridgeline Runtz, fifth place for Ice Cream Cake and ninth place for Green Lantern. “Green Lantern is what I’ve become known for. It’s a very potent strain with lots of crystals, kind of gassy in taste,” he says. Ridgeline Runtz has become a more popular strain among growers. “It tastes like grape candy. You can smoke it all the way to the end and it still tastes great.”

The Emerald Cup features cannabis products from across the state. With that in mind, Gellman says he was not anticipating a win in 2018, but when Ridgeline Farms was called up he was thrilled. “This is what I have done my whole life and to actually be recognized for it feels great. It makes my parents proud. A lot of parents maybe wouldn’t be proud that their son is growing marijuana but mine are. I learned from them, they are amazing growers.” Even so, as the cannabis industry has evolved, many small farmers are feeling left out. “We’ve been doing it our whole lives and all of a sudden someone is [considered a] professional who’s only been growing for three or four years.”

This year, Gellman is growing nine different strains in six greenhouses. “It’s kind of a pain in the ass to be honest,” he laughs. “It used to just be pot, then it was Trainwreck, and now there are millions of strains.” Having new strains can be risky but that’s what makes it exciting, he says. “Do they like cold or don’t they? If it doesn’t work, I try something else. Seeing new strains and [experiencing] new smells and tastes is so exciting. It revitalizes my enjoyment of growing.” 

Gellman says he isn’t looking to expand Ridgeline Farms. Instead, he would rather put his time and energy into growing quality cannabis and being with his family. “I’m able to have a good life and to spend time with my wife and kids — that’s most important right now. I’m working on the brand in general, staying small and keeping the quality high.” 

Many small farmers have been pushed out of the industry by state regulations or by corporations, but Gellman remains hopeful. “There are so many amazing small farmers in the area, I believe the best in the world. If we work together and donate to the community and all the local organizations, we can keep this going.”