Scott Vasterling’s wife and sister-in-law have operated the Beachcomber Café, a farm-to-table restaurant in Trinidad, Calif., for two decades.
As the family looked to source fruits and vegetables from local farmers for the café, Vasterling thought, why not curate cannabis products from some of those same farms to create a Humboldt County-based cannabis brand for direct-to-home delivery?
The idea for Humboldt Family Farms was born.
The company, which launched its e-commerce platform in November, sells a selection of sungrown cannabis products produced by Humboldt County farmers under the Humboldt Family Farms brand, which includes flower, prerolls, and vape cartridges.
Humboldt Family Farms also has a license to grow cannabis on less than 5,000 square feet of canopy space, but its main business is selling other farms’ products.
Vasterling says that about 80% of the cannabis products made in Humboldt County last year did not have a brand name, even though the area is known all over the world for its high-quality cannabis.
“Humboldt obviously has a legacy of small farmers in our area,” he says. “We wanted to curate products from those farmers.” “If they don’t have a branded product that we could put on the market, then we can do it under our Humboldt Family Farms house brand, but then we’re also doing some curating of other branded products… onto our platform as well.”
The company’s direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform currently delivers to about 80% of the people in California, and all orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery.
“We do have a retail strategy going into 2023, looking at some select retail partners, but right now, what we decided to do is tell our story directly to consumers,” Vasterling says. “The supply chain in California has been challenging, and so, I think, if we take it directly from farms and directly from Humboldt and deliver it discretely to consumers, then we can tell the story directly to them.” “I think that was really attractive to us, so that’s how we launched.”
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Even though Vasterling started the brand with the cannabis farmers he already works with through his family’s Beachcomber Café, he plans to add more growers as Humboldt Family Farms grows.
“We’re looking to provide the highest quality with a nice diversity of strain selection and products,” he says. “However, we don’t want to overpromise the farmers… We’re building the demand first before we make commitments to a whole variety of farmers and then have those obligations. “We’re trying to really prove this algorithm for moving products through the supply chain to consumers before we really commit to a variety of other farms and brands.”
The Humboldt Family Farms team has created Spotify playlists that pair with each of the brand’s products.
“Clearly, it’s pretty reggae-heavy at this point, but it goes hand-in-hand with cannabis,” Vasterling says. “We selected a lot of those playlists and artists because they’re ones that we like.” The sativa blend has a little bit more of an upbeat feel, and the indicas have more of a mellow tone to them. We tried to pair them, and we’re continuing to do that with the additional products that we launch. “Music and cannabis have always gone hand in hand for generations, so I think adding some flavor to cannabis with music was just a natural blend, a natural partnership.”
The team also hands out guitar picks with QR codes on them instead of business cards.
“We’re getting a lot of high passthrough on those guitar picks,” Vasterling says. “People throw them in their pockets and tend not to throw them away.” They either share or use them.”
Customer feedback on Humboldt Family Farms has been positive so far, he says, and the company has largely relied on word-of-mouth to market its business since launching just before Thanksgiving.
“Probably our biggest challenge is getting the word out,” Vasterling says. “I think Humboldt has a world-renowned brand reputation for high-quality cannabis, and I think bringing it through the supply chain directly to consumers… “And letting people know that they can go to Humboldt Family Farms and have some of the highest quality curated products delivered discretely and directly to their door [is important].”
Looking ahead, Humboldt Family Farms plans to launch a Private Reserve VIP List, which Vasterling compares to a wine club. Those on the list will receive exclusive access to small-batch flowers that growers have limited quantities of.
“Typically, in cultivation, there are certain strains that farmers will run every year that they have smaller quantities of,,” Vasterling says. “I’ll give you an example on our farm, where we have our standard strains that we typically run in certain areas of our farm every year, but we always add some test strains to see how they work. And some of those test strains are phenomenal, but they’re typically on a smaller scale because you don’t invest two entire greenhouses into a strain you’ve never grown before and don’t know how it’ll react in that specific environment and elevation, for example. So, we collaborated with farmers to select some of the fun strains that performed exceptionally well on the farms, but there is a very limited supply.
When a customer joins the Private Reserve VIP list, they are not required to buy these products. Instead, they are given the chance to decide whether or not to order these products as they become available.
“We’re really excited about that concept of getting people involved and helping them understand how things work on the cultivation side at the farms, and then [they can] take advantage of these amazing, unique strains that may or may not be something that’s available again,” Vasterling says.
While Humboldt Family Farms’ current focus is on the California market, expanding its supply chain and educating consumers about its products, Vasterling says he hopes to expand to other states once interstate commerce becomes a reality.
The team also plans to add to its own product line with more cannabis varieties and a wider selection of prerolls, which Vasterling says has been a popular product category.
“We’re doing three half-gram prerolls in each package currently,” he says. “The demand has been pretty positive for those, so we’ll likely have a larger bulk package of prerolls for those folks who have an affinity for them.”