Photography by Amber Lokatys, Devyn Lodge, Tory Baxter, and Rachel Daugherty
It began with the smell of burning wood and heavy smoke wafting through the fresh mountain air. By the end of the weekend, the Kincade wildfires would grow to seismic proportions, causing widespread evacuations across Sonoma Valley and Blue Lake, clocking in as one of the largest wildfires on record for the region. But at the picturesque Lodge at Blue Lakes, culture curators, Humble Bloom, created an oasis of community and cannabis amidst the chaos.
Forty individuals traveled from across the country for Humble Bloom’s annual Field Trip, an inclusive weekend retreat aimed to forge community between cannabis leaders and enthusiasts. Through thoughtful workshops, engaging panel discussions, cannabis farm tours, and wellness explorations, the Humble Bloom team aimed to forge bonds and build community through cannabis education.
The attending group was an eclectic assembly of industry influencers, activists, farmers, artists, and cannabis lovers; some identifying as queer, gender nonconforming; some Black, White, Native, Asian and Latinx; ages ranging in their early 20s to late 40s. Some had traveled as far as New York and Minnesota to partake in a weekend of healing, exploration and community building. And of course, enjoying the spoils of the cannabis plant.
For the Humble Bloom team, co-founders Solonje Burnett and Danniel Swatosh, the retreat was the culmination of a year of careful planning and curation to create a safe space where the seeds of healing earth and community could take root. Guests were invited to open themselves up to learning from each other, knowing that through knowledge sharing, communities thrive.
With the smoldering hills of the Kincade Fire as the backdrop, guests participated in panel discussions and workshops, learned about sustainable farming, the power of terpenes, social justice and local and indigenous history. Others created floral mandalas and explored personal growth through journaling, guided meditations, and powerful breathwork sessions that brought some to tears.
But outside their blissful cocoon at Blue Lake, environmental trauma raged. “We witnessed the PTSD of the Aster Farms team,” recalls Solonje Burnett from Humble Blom, “wondering which way the wind would blow, and if Kincade would mirror the Mendocino Complex.” Every autumn, seasonal dryness and windy conditions create a tinderbox in cannabis country, putting farmers and their livelihoods at risk. The 2018 Mendocino fire destroyed over 459k acres of land, dubbed the largest in California history, and occurred not far from Blue Lakes.
By day two, guests began to feel the impacts of the wildfires, proving even the most carefully laid plans can be disrupted by mother nature. On Saturday, the lodge lost power as staff worked to conserve the generator. Sunday’s Flow Cannabis Institute Tour was cancelled due to highway closures, while other workshops were forced to relocate to evacuation shelters. Meanwhile, facilitators, many who are local to the region with businesses and homes in the evacuation zone, managed to power through personal and emotional strain to continue to deliver valuable content to eager participants.
By the end of the weekend, participants were anxious to reunite with loved ones or catch flights home as the Kincade fires intensified. But leaving the haven of Blue Lakes proved difficult.
“Due to the roadblocks and the power outages, I ended up running out of gas in Hopland around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, “ recounts attendee Devyn Lodge. “I stayed in my car for about 11 hours in a town without power before some of my family members finally got to me. I was fortunate that I brought my dab rig. I sat in the passenger seat of my car and took dabs until I was finally able to convoy home with some of my family…around four a.m. the next day.”
Many were unprepared for the impact the fire had on their travel plans. “The HB Field Trip was an oasis compared to what was happening around us, “ says attendee Yognandani Maharaj. “My car was at a quarter tank when I left, and I figured I’d make it to Petaluma to fill up. I ended up stranded in Cloverdale with no gas stations in service because the electricity was shut down. I spent the night in my car. It was Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and I couldn’t make it home to mom. As fate would have it, my car gave up just outside the Cloverdale Community Center, where they offered food, portable lights and chargers. I was thankful for the gift of light, so I decorated the inside of my car with some of the flowers I was gifted at the HB Field Trip and celebrated Diwali in my car, blazing beside the fire-lit mountains.”
After an impactful weekend bonding with cannabis business owners and farmers, many attendees felt personally connected to the impacts wildfires like Kincaide have on the regional cannabis community. “The weekend was already intense and connective,” explains Rachel Daughtery, founder of Fine Healing Goods, “but having the farms we were visiting and residents of California all threatened by the fires while we were celebrating the plant, was harrowing. We felt the enormity of the situation and it made for a bit more emotional ride, for sure.”
In the end, Humble Bloom created a connective, emotional, and educational experience at Blue Lake, where cannabis lovers came together to for one blissful and harrowing weekend. Despite the fires that raged around them, guests forged community and acceptance, bridging the gap between consumers and providers, through education and friendship.
Back in a wintery New York City, the Humble Bloom co-founders feel grateful for the weekend’s successes and the safety of guests and facilitators. “From our sponsors (Aster Farms, Fine Healing Goods, Flow Kana, Shade, and Tree Femme Collective) to the other knowledge sharers, to our new friends at the Lodge at Blue Lakes and our sister Chelsea Vaughn who PA’d her butt off – Thank you. Your support is invaluable. Shout out to Beverly and the crew at HB West HQ. Couldn’t have done this without you.” Learn more about Humble Bloom: FB, Instagram, LinkedIn, and check out their field trip recap on Vimeo.