Updated: Mar 3
There’s this French saying: “The better the soil, the more weeds grow.” The Humboldt version is more pithy: “Better soil, more weed!”
With a lot of attention turned to developing cannabis appellations, it’s a good time to go back to the notion of terroir, which means “soil” but also so much more. I went to the site of the French INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualite”), the organization within the French Dept of Agriculture charged with regulating appellations, and I looked up their definition of terroir. After all, they’ve been doing this for a century. Here’s how it would look if their concept of terroir were applied to cannabis, in five simple steps. This is a straight translation from the French, no addition or subtraction to the original text.
Terroir is a defined geographic area within which a human community develops a collective knowledge of production over time, based on interactions between human factors and the physical and biological environment. The technical know-how reveals a typicality and a reputation for a product that originates from that geographic area.
2. The geographic area
...is defined by a border that’s been negotiated based on natural, cultural, historical, economic and political factors.
3. A human community
... reveals the terroir in the sense of solidarity through history, an identity, and shared customs.
4. Collective craft know-how
Has developed over time and between members of the community
Is not innate but has evolved through individual and lasting shared experiences
Allows for adjustments and innovations that enrich existing knowledge
5. Interactions between human factors and the physical and biological environment
Terroir is the result of these interactions between the natural environment (soil, climate, etc), the biological ecosystem (plants, animals, micro-organisms) and human factors (history, culture, traditions, craft) within an area.
What does it mean for Humboldt?
Many cannabis areas grow good weed. Few are those that, like Humboldt and the larger Emerald Triangle, meet the five characteristics of terroir that justify an appellation, if we go by the world’s most respected and experienced body on the topic.
Nicole Riggs is the founder of Manifesto Synergies, an agency providing marketing services to the cannabis industry in Humboldt.
Photo credit: La-Osa. Ref: https://www.inao.gouv.fr/content/download/1387/14161/version/2/file/4-delimitation-typicit%C3%A9_V201611.pdf