Growing a Farm: From Mountains to Mushrooms

Updated: May 13, 2019

Geraldine and Pancho happy to be back in Southern California
The Farmers

My partner and I have begun our newest endeavor, and on the recommendation of quite a few friends and acquaintances, we have decided to begin the documentation of this exciting and ambitious journey. We are starting up a mushroom farm.

Mind you, my name is Geraldine Ramirez and my partner is Francisco Gutierrez, and prior to 3 years ago, we didn't have any real farming experience. Neither one of us is a trust-fund baby nor do we have an investor handing us a check. We are starting this from scratch and we are doing so from the heart.

My mother has been a successful real estate agent for over 25 years now, and ever since I was a young girl, I have been learning the ways of the savage broker. I learned much more during my office days than I realized I had, and for that I owe my mother. The skills and discipline that I acquired while growing up have translated into better organizational, documentation and research skills. I am also much more of a go-getter than I dare give myself credit for.

Francisco (who would much rather be called Pancho) landed a warehouse job in the Inland Empire as a young adult. He worked his way up the company ladder for over 10 years. From starting on the warehouse floor and ending his career as an Implementation Analyst, co-managing a one-million-square-foot warehouse along with 30-60 employees depending on which state he was transferred to; Francisco has more drive than most. When this man sets his mind to something, that thing is about to be transformed into the best version of itself. He will not just quadruple the efficiency of any team or project that you put in front of him, but he will do it in a fraction of the time anyone thought possible.

The farm that brought us together

The two of us quit our jobs, at different times, while in different states and without knowing of each other, in order to head to Northern California to farm cannabis on the same guerilla grow. If you've ever heard horror stories of some of the happenings in this type of operation, I can safely tell you that, unfortunately, the majority of them are true.

Although I have been asked numerous times to tell of my experiences in the Emerald Triangle, I will leave those stories for another day. As a summary, in order for you, the reader, to gain a bit of perspective regarding our current endeavor, I will let it be known that at the end of the growing season, after all the work had been done and the cannabis had been grown, Pancho and I were kicked off of the farm. If it weren't for some good people that we met who had some pull, we would not have received any compensation that season. I had personally been on that farm for over one year, growing plants, living in sub-poverty conditions, and lying to my friends and family about how incredibly bad the conditions really were; all of this I did because I believed that this grow would be my ticket to starting up Homes Of Mother Earth; my brain-child which I will write more about in the future.

Directly following this incident, we trusted a group of people in Los Angeles who convinced Pancho to invest over $50,000 in an indoor cannabis cultivation site. The plan, or so we thought, was to legalize the site. Without going into detail, I'll let it be known that these guys were not truly interested in exiting the black market, and in the end, Pancho's investment, as well as my own, were a complete financial loss.

I specify that it was strictly a financial loss because that which we did gain is completely invaluable. We gained first-hand experiences in running a farm, in off-grid living (the comfortable and uncomfortable ways) and even in what it will take to sit in front of the Planning Director of a major commercial city in Los Angeles County and have our project Approved. I learned how to plan a build-out, how to estimate costs of a complete commercial venture, and to be careful with the deposit of my trust.

Whihskeytown Lake, Trinity County

       It has been a little over a year and a half since our escape from Trinity County. I say escape because the place literally felt like a black hole. Please, let me clarify that the Emerald Triangle is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. The Redwoods move me every time I see them. I feel my body tremble with humility when I am in the forests of Humboldt County, or swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Mendocino County. Gorgeous, breathtaking views from every hill, every town, and every curvy road. But the situation that we were in, as well as the situation that thousands of "trimmigrants" (as the locals call us) find themselves in every season, was not dreamy and community-based as I once believed the cannabis culture to be.

The legalization of marijuana in California sent the old-school farmers running from the hills. Millions of dollars have been invested and lost in attempted legalization, and many a desperate farmer took advantage of newbie stoners who were merely excited to be getting their foot in the cannabis door. I can't tell you, reader, how many farmers I personally met that promised their new-hires that their farm would be conforming to the new laws, only to turn around and either not give the promised pay, or not pay them at all. It was almost as if the older generation of pot-growers blamed the newer generation of pot-growers for the legalization. It wasn't necessarily that the old-timers didn't want to legalize: it was that many of them couldn't. The new laws and regulations automatically disqualified a tremendous amount of Emerald Triangle farms.

Having survived some crappy living conditions and deeply painful betrayals, Pancho and I have been together for close to 2 years now, and our bond only keeps growing stronger. One would think that having such bad experiences with farming would cause people to lose their taste for it, but that just wasn't the case for either of us. Deeply embedded now are the habits that come from farming: waking up with the sun, treating plants as one of the family, and dedicating the majority of our days to tedious tasks that are going to benefit the living beings that depend on us for their well-being.

Not much has changed with us since the mountain days, except for what we farm and who we farm with. Nowadays, we dedicate our time to growing these small, oxygen-breathing, half-human, half-plant creatures called mushrooms. They're freakishly fascinating. They breathe and reproduce like humans, but with growth patterns and required conditions that resemble those of plants. They have been used as medicine for millennia, even scratched into the walls of caves and spoken of in ancient and religious texts. Indeed, the more I learn about mushrooms, the more I wonder why they are not a part of most of our meals and medicines.

Now back on our feet, Pancho and I have been on the hunt for a parcel of land to call our own; a piece of Earth that will accept our dream of starting a gourmet mushroom farm and providing fresh, love-grown mushrooms to as many people as we can reach. Our sights are currently set on Joshua Tree and the Coachella Valley; my hometown. We have seen a handful of properties already, but none have felt as good as the last location that we visited.

Joshua Tree National Park

We will be uploading a video of the parcel soon. The only reason that I don't include the video in this article is because we need to save up for the down-payment on the land. I don't want to publish the property that we fell in love with, only to find out that the parcel gets bought before we get a chance. We are pulling out all the stops right now in order to save up the funds for the groundbreaking investment.

We are so excited about the path that we have chosen to take together. It took grinding through a lot of tough situations in order for us to break down all previous ideas of what we thought we were and what we thought we wanted. It took tearing away at layers of conditioning and habit in order to find what seeds lay deep within us; to find out what really drove us. Now that we can clearly see what we are made of, we invite you to join us as we tread on roads unknown and create paths that have only ever been concepts to us. We will be sharing pictures, videos and blogs covering the project, and you will be included in every bit of progress that we make. There really is no other reason that I am writing this article other than because almost every person that we talk to tells us that we should document this journey and assures us of their support. And to be honest, it feels good to believe that we will have a real support system this time around...

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