By: Casey O’Neill

I remember very well when Tim Blake asked me if I wanted to judge the Emerald Cup.  This was in September of 2011, and it pretty well stunned me.  I was thrilled with the opportunity, and thoroughly enjoyed myself with the process.  This was when the Cup was still located at Area 101; after sampling away, I recognized the winning entry as Green Crack even though it was a blind entry.  It was a good feeling to have been able to distinguish the type of cannabis, and it provided reinforcement in my search to attain knowledge about the cannabis plant and its many cultivars.

I’ve served in different roles over the years for the Emerald Cup.  It has been an honor and a joy to judge the competition, watching it grow from Area 101 to the Mateel to the Santa Rosa Fair Grounds.  I’ve also been a contestant (in a non-judging year), a speaker, and a vendor.  Our farm made its public marketing debut at the Cup.  In short, the Emerald Cup has been an all-around cultural experience of growth, togetherness and solidarity for us at HappyDay Farms.

Judging the Cup is no joke.  People like to make cracks about what a “rough job” it must be to sample all the finest.  The honest truth of it though is that it takes a serious commitment; it requires smoking more cannabis than I would normally smoke in several months in the space of just a few weeks.  It requires that you quantify the experience, which tends to remove some of the natural enjoyment.  By the end, I’m so burnt out that I don’t really even want to smoke anymore.  It’s a hard job to consume that much cannabis and make a judgement about which entry should take home the Emerald Cup; much love and respect to this year’s judges, as I’ve chosen to sit this one out in favor of entering again.

Last year I had the honor of moderating a panel on cultivation methods; it was empowering to see how many people came to listen and learn about qualitative, regenerative practices.  We are learning to farm in a new manner, as small-scale operators seeking to produce high quality medicine in ways that create health landscapes and support the natural ecosystem.  It has been a joyful experience to connect with so many farmers and folks working in ancillary industries that support good farming practice.  The Cup serves as a gathering place for this exchange of information, tools and practices.  It is awesome to behold the growth of knowledge as we exit the shadows of Prohibition and gain the ability to speak and learn in public about cannabis cultivation.

2014 was the first year we went as vendors, and was also the first year that we entered the competition.  It was the second year after the transition to the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds.  I’ll never forget the excitement of wondering if we would win or not.  We didn’t, but we were not diminished.  It was a thrill to participate in the competition, but more-so to be able to have the interaction with patients/consumers of cannabis over the market table.

We farm vegetables for farmers markets, and we always used to dream about what it would be like to have the same types of interactions that we have with customers about vegetables but with cannabis instead.  It has turned out to be everything we could have hoped for, giving us the opportunity to meet patients face-to-face, to explain our cultivars and love for the plant.  To exchange knowledge, information, good energetics.  Cannabis is heart and soul for us, and to share that with folks along with the fruits of our labors has been a magical experience.

Whether at the Emerald Cup or at the Healing Harvest Farmers Markets, it has become a staple of our reality to be able to set up our table with vegetables and cannabis offerings for patients to sample.  We love sharing our products, and we love the positive interactions that occur over the market table.  There has been a genuine flowering of culture and togetherness as cannabis comes into the light, and we have been honored to participate in the process.

The Emerald Cup is a coming together of the people, an opportunity to catch up with friends and industry professionals (often one and the same).  We exchange genetics, flower, concentrates, knowledge, ideas and expectations for the future.  The Cup also serves as an industry trade show, where the latest technologies are available along with cutting-edge discussions/panels that provide information to many.