Jahlibyrd, the Northern California cannabis product brand, goes hand in hand with music and community, and they want to keep it that way. Founded in Nevada County with a focus on sustainability and a proud connection with reggae culture, Jahlibyrd has been partnering for several years now on the California Roots music festival in Monterey — and the collaboration includes both sponsorship and the official marijuana strain of the festival, Cali Roots by Jahlibyrd.
As part of this week’s May Flowers promotion of Jahlibyrd’s fine products, SPARC spoke to founder and lead cultivator Chris Anderson and self-titled company “Samurai” Nick Findley about their vision for the brand, its connection to cannabis culture, and how they’re looking ahead to a very strange year.
SPARC: Tell us how you got started in the cannabis industry.
Chris Anderson: I’d been in real estate for a number of years, and I’d gotten into cannabis in high school. I’d always had a love for the plant. Then the mortgage crisis came and I saw an opportunity around 2009 to take my mind off of real estate and start looking at cannabis again. I started a collective and started growing medical cannabis, beginning in my garage with an indoor operation. I loved tinkering around with all different styles of growing — aeroponics, hydroponics, soil, cocoa, vertical farming — you name it, I tried it. I made all kinds of contraptions. Then I went to Nevada County and doing some greenhouse growing with light deprivation and light supplementation, so I’ve done the spectrum of all types of growing styles.
What sets the Jahlibyrd brand apart?
Chris: We’re looking at being a sustainable Northern California farm that’s based on community. We’ve got a lot of roots in music and yoga.
Nick Findley: We’re one of the few brands that has done almost everything on our own. We have a lot in common with SPARC that way in that we’re fully self-funded. We’ve never taken an investment dollar. Everything we’ve done we did ourselves. We’ve cultivated our own job titles and grown into our own roles, and we each wear 17 different hats. The base team we started with is still the team we have today — we treat everybody as family, and we extend invitations to the music and the reggae festival that we’ve created out to all the dispensaries. The difference between us and other brands is that we want to build community with everyone, we want everyone we work with to come and enjoy the music together with us. We’re trying to create a brand image that is a lifestyle brand and we want everybody to be able to come be a part of it and not feel left out. We aren’t in this for the corporate greed. We are in it for a love of community and the love of this industry.
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Where does the name Jahlibyrd come from?
Chris: There’s a mythological creature Jali featured on temples in Southern India, kind of like Ganesh, and it’s on the doors of temples, kind of like a protector of temples. It has the head of an elephant, the body of a lion, the wings of a gryffon, and the tail of a serpent. We took that creature and using the idea that it is a protector, and I feel like that’s what Jahlibyrd is about — protecting this lifestyle, and the culture. And we started doing some wordplay with it, referring to Jah, which is the word for God in reggae/Rastafari culture.
Tell me about your products. What sets your products apart and what do you specialize in?
Chris: We’re focusing on sustainability. The main farm we have is an organic, solar, off-grid farm in Nevada County. We’re trying to perfect the use of very low amounts of energy on the farm. We have self-designed, light-deprivation greenhouses that we’re using. And we’re constantly doing new R&D on processes and systems that will let you do larger-scale production with very low amounts of energy input.
What do you look for in terms of flowers that you like to grow?
Chris: I like terpene-rich, I like different characteristics in the high — whether it be energizing and creative, or more sedative couch-lock… picking characteristics within certain guidelines. I wish that the consumers wouldn’t be so centered around high THC and that they would understand a little bit more about terpenes and different properties of the plant. It’s not all about THC levels. I try to help the consumer start to understand that aspect.
What’s your favorite part about the cultivation process?
Chris: Getting out there, getting out into the sun, watching the plants grow, being one with them. They’re responsive, you know, so you can really see what results you get by the amount of attention and energy you give them. The more energy the better, the better the results.
What does your day consist of?
Chris: Wake up in the morning, grab a cup of tea. A little meditation and then walk out in the garden and check on things, talk to the crew. Make sure everything is looking good for the game plan for the day. We’ve got transplanting, harvesting, checking on building new areas for future grows. Doing some research on new products and new ideas.
What was a highlight for you of the most recent harvest?
Chris: This year I started to flower earlier than I ever have before, with our very low-power greenhouses. I’m used to also growing in light-supplementation greenhouses that are automated with LED lighting, dehumidification, heat, and so on. One thing I was excited about this season was starting to flower earlier and that was at the end of February in one of these rudimentary greenhouses. And what we got out of it, the quality of the product was far better than what I was expecting.
Was there a particular varietal that came out of that that was your highlight?
Chris: They all did pretty well. We’re drying it all right now. But I was overall surprised. The Rock Star did really well, and the Slurricane did well. I was really impressed. Usually I would be starting months later, but we had the opportunity so we went with it.
Looking ahead to this year and the pandemic, do you have anything to say to the cannabis consumer in terms of the role that cannabis may play in this changed world we’re living in?
Chris: I think there are going to be a lot of changes in the world with COVID and the economy. There’s going to be an opportunity for people to come together, and people are going to have to come together to get through this. And I think cannabis is a part of that. We’re having to gather around and come together — there is going to be a lot of coming together and uniting.
Nick: I would say to any consumer look, we’ve got your back. We’re in this with you. We are right here, right beside you, going through this with you. We’re in this together.
Chris: One thing Jahlibyrd is doing is we donated 10,000 square feet of warehouse space to the food bank here in Nevada County. We’re working on donating face masks and hand sanitizer. We worked with a local distillery on creating hand sanitizer and donating that to first responders and businesses in need, as well as dispensaries.
We’re working with the community right now to create a fire break for Nevada City because it’s going to be a big fire year up here. A lot of the residents here are very concerned about that so we created an acre fire break between us and the town. And one of the big things we’re working on right now is a processing facility where we’re going to be able to process cannabis for small farmers so that they don’t have to go through a very expensive buildout for themselves. That will mean that many more small farmers can get licensed and get into the legal market, and they don’t have to be the winery and the vineyard at the same time, so to speak.
Nick: One of Chris’s big tasks and passions is helping the small local farmers get up and running and getting their products to the consumer in an independent fashion — letting the small farmers have a voice. That’s always been a big passion for Chris and in turn has become one of the focuses of Jahlibyrd.