Stephen Gieder — local cannabis event organizer and business visionary

Stephen Gieder

By Monica Robinson

Flapjack staff

After a troubling incident a year and a half ago Stephen Gieder intervened an unbalanced fight in the back alley of the Plaza in Arcata, California. While walking away, after believing he had verbally resolved the altercation, Gieder was attacked and struck down. He said there were at least 15 witnesses nearby and not one person checked in or offered to help.

Gieder was disturbed when he saw how disconnected people have become from one another and wanted to help elicit change. Gieder gave a good ol’ Facebook rant and set up a meeting at the Jambalaya in Arcata. To his surprise 35 people showed up.

“He wants everyone to be involved, keep people connected and rise the vibration,” says Sasha Miksis, 33, Gieder’s friend and co-worker.

The first two meetings identified problems and came up with solutions. The CPP started Street Clean Up on Fridays, which expanded to free yoga on the plaza Saturdays and the Plaza Play Group for kids on Sundays. The safety task force, created by the city of Arcata, deals with the same issues and works in conjunction with CPP.

Gieder was born on Oct. 27, 1976. and grew up in Pennsylvania, where he attended Williamson Trade School and studied horticulture and landscape design. After graduating and spending a year in Colorado, Gieder realized he wanted to be a part of the cannabis industry. Gieder drove across country towards Humboldt County and stopped near Lake Tahoe. While visiting Tahoe he went out for coffee and donuts and came back an hour and a half later with a job. Three years later, while walking his dog, he stumbled across Stan “the man” and Steve Muller opening a hydroponic shop in 1998.

As a graduate in Horticulture and Landscape design, Gieder would sit in the shop and consult the store owners when it first opened. At the time people didn’t really understand the science of it, but he had the knowledge and background to help people.

“Some people’s minds work scientifically; my mind works horticulturally,” Gieder says. This experience inspired Gieder to start his own horticulture supply store in Humboldt County.

Gieder started Northcoast Horticulture Supply in 2002. NHS sells cultivation supplies to indoor and outdoor farmers in Humboldt County at its four retail locations in Fortuna, Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville.

In order to get the best product and deliver it at the lowest possible price, Gieder started Humboldt Wholesale, a nationwide manufacturer and distributor of specialty garden supplies. This allowed him to import from Holland the finest production nutrient line in the world, House & Garden.

“Steve’s a doer,” Ken Hamik, 59, Gieder’s business partner, says. Hamik wants to write a book on him called “Gieder Done.” Gieder embodies visions more than most people.

“Steve is where the rubber meets the sky,” Hamik said. “He starts and finishes things.”

After nearly a decade of being the sole distributor of House and Garden in the United States, Gieder purchased the company and moved manufacturing of the nutrient line to Arcata, California.

Gieder has always taken pride in building the local economy and continues to do so by employing over 100 individuals. For the 15 year anniversary of NHS, Gieder hosted an employee party the Arcata Theatre Lounge with live music and free food.

“He really does care about all of them, their family life and what’s happening at home,” Miksis said.

“You know that saying Kevin Bacon is six degrees of separation from everyone? I call Steve one degree,” Hamik said. Gieder’s fundamental businesses in Humboldt have enabled him to meet so many people here.

“Everyone knows Steve and Steve knows everyone for the most part,” Hamik explains. As a creative yielding local entrepreneur and cannabis advocate, Gieder began the consulting firm Humboldt Green.

Hamik describes Humboldt Green as one the most unusual businesses he’s ever worked for. “It’s a very difficult animal to describe to somebody,” Hamik said. It’s an event producing and community organization; a type of economic ecosystem trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Everywhere from cannabis infused yoga, Humboldt’s Om lead by Miksis to the Hummingbird Healing Center a dispensary reopening in McKinleyville lead by Hamik and Gieder.

Gieder has put together a highly qualified consulting team developing a new standard for cultivation which exceeds anything that exists right now. Humboldt Green looks after the environment, livable wages and makes sure people have good jobs. In a way it is like an incubator for people who don’t know what they want to do but leave with a more crystallized vision for themselves or their business.

With 11 years under its belt, Humboldt Green Week continues to bring people together for events that enrich the community. Thousands of dollars in donations continue to support local Non-Profit Organizations. The importance of education through art, music and gardening events is very important to Gieder and his crew.

Gieder stresses that Green Week gives people a moment to get away from daily distractions and enjoy doing good for the environment while having the chance to connect with the community they are helping build. Miksis explains that folks are riding this cannabis culture’s wave into mainstream living. Gieder wants everyone to come along and succeed rather than be on top.

“He genuinely cares,” she says.

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Arcata Marsh climate change talk by Patrick Carr promotes awareness, simple changes

By Matthew Hable|
Flapjack staff

Located at the north end of Humboldt Bay and along the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south flight path for migratory birds that expands from Alaska to Patagonia, situates The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, a 307-acre sanctuary that includes marshes, sloughs, uplands, mudflats, roughly five miles of trails and an Interpretive Center.

Patrick Carr, a psychologist with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and lecturer for the evening’s Climate Conversations, patiently waits for the last participant to arrive at the center five minutes pass the scheduled 7 p.m. start time. The Interpretive Center operates as an exhibit, bookstore and info center pertaining to the sanctuary. Seven of the eight folding chairs are occupied in the shape of a semicircle, which are facing a wide window that overlooks a spectacular view of the marsh—the sun begins to set beyond the marsh, adding to the overall visual splendor. The last participant arrives and the lecture begins.

Carr welcomes the discussion group to the event and proceeds to describe the sustainable implementations of the Interpretive Center.

“This building is equipped with a passive solar building design, high-efficiency LED lights and skylights,” said Carr.

Collectively, the Interpretive Center qualifies as a net-zero building, meaning that the amount of annual renewable energy consumed significantly outweighs the use of non-renewable energy, resulting in less production of greenhouse gasses.

Greenhouse gasses are essential to life on earth—without them our planet would be frozen and unsustainable. However, too much emission of greenhouse gases overheats the planet that threatens humanity. Moreover, global warming has had observable effects on the planet due to human activities—a century’s worth of burning fossil fuel, overpopulation and globalization. If sustainability practices are not implemented on a global scale and industrial activities continue to emit greenhouse gases at an exponential rate, future generations will struggle with sea level rises, ocean acidification, intense heat waves, longer periods of droughts and so on.

Next, Carr offers other options to reduce our inherited carbon footprint habits: transportation, dieting and consumerism. He suggests a collective vegan diet would effectively reduce carbon footprint. The global food production and consumption, namely beef, produce more greenhouse emissions than transportation combined; however, transporting meat overlaps with production. Additionally, a decrease or complete abstinence from consuming meat could reduce the risk of heart disease and other health-related issues.

“The internet globally consumes 10% of electricity,” said Carr.

Consumerism contributes to climate change. The internet is woven into our society—businesses rely on it to survive and people depend on it as a primary source of communication in the digital age. The demand for internet is spreading at an increasing rate as globalization develops across the world; as a result, companies supply the demand with devices, especially smart phones, laptops and accessories, such as external hard drives. Ultimately, the production and use of devices are the contributor to high emissions of greenhouse gasses. Also, the cost of fuel to transport goods also impacts the climate. The world constantly operates in this vicious cycle that intensifies global warming.

Needless to say, persuading an entire planet of people to change their lifestyle is no easy feet. There are many factors that circumscribe change towards consuming energy renewably.

Opposing views of climate change is “intensely emotional,” said Carr.

To evolve requires a deep, communal understanding of climate change before taking action, first and foremost. In a fragmented society that is mostly ignorant or indifferent about climate change, achieving a collectively sustainable movement seems merely impossible—it would take a global village to influence real change. Another major setback for change involves economic prosperity. In a world dependent on fossil fuels, leaders of renewable energy need to convince the government, parliaments, corporations, politicians and other globalized leaders that the transition would be greater than profits generated by fossil fuels.

Despite the tremendous challenges supporters of renewable energy face, there is hope in the long run. Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a non-profit joint powers authority (JPA) based in Humboldt County, received state approval in January to lead a new energy program that aims to “provide lower electric rates and local control of our energy sources” by implementing renewable energy practices. Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco opted into similar programs. If programs like these succeed, this could lead a path to saving society or at least reverse the effects of global warming.

Human beings are one with nature and each of us have a certain connection to it beyond biological reasons.

“I have a spiritual connection with nature,” said Valerie Carr, biologist and wife of Patrick Carr.

Humboldt transplant and auto racing enthusiast, Bob Friedman, also participated in the discussion. He is passionate about finding ways to incorporate renewable energy to the sport without compromising speed.

“I am from the dark side,” said Friedman. “I spent years driving race cars and working in factories that produced car batteries.”

After inhaling and observing the immense amount of pollution pumping into the air over a long period of time, Friedman decided to leave Florida and head west. He has been in Humboldt since 2016 and is currently pursuing entrepreneurial ways to produce his own brand of race car batteries.

Climate Conversations concluded with a reminder that change begins with awareness and an open discussion about the issue.

Another action we can take is “sacrificing vacation for renewable energy,” said Carr. “Instead of saving money for a long vacation, take a short one and invest your money into sustainable practices around the house.”

Ride your bicycle to work, switch to energy bulbs, grow your own food—a little goes a long way.

Living off the grid in the hills of Southern Humboldt

By Cody Centeno
Flapjack staff

In order to live off the grid – without PG&E, provided water, etc. – you have to be willing to put in a lot of work to get things that come easily when you are on the grid. For instance, instead of just turning on your electric heater, you might have to build a fire with wood that you had to gather and cut yourself. This article was written to help readers better understand what life is like when you are off the grid, and to help understand why people would want to live this way.

Charles Watson live in Piercy, California, a small town about 80 miles south of Arcata, with a population under 200. Piercy is smack dab in the middle of the Emerald Triangle, where Humboldt and Mendocino counties meet on Highway 101. Watson has lived off-the-grid in the area for over 40 years. He gets his water from a natural spring.

“First, you have to find a viable spring,” Watson said. “Then, I build a small dam that still allows the stream to continue flowing, but also catches enough water for me. I fill up the area where the water will be with small gravel, which will filter the water slightly.”

Once you have this small dam in place, he says that you run your water line from there to your water tanks, but it isn’t always so simple.

“If your spring is above your tanks, you will usually be able to benefit from the gravity flow,” Watson said. “But, if your tanks are above your spring, you will have to buy a water pump to get the water to it.”

From your tanks, you run your water through a pipeline to your house. Again, Watson said that the gravity flow aspect is important. He also talked about keeping a spare water tank.

“We have a spare tank on our property, just in case the spring slows down in the summer time,” Watson said. “If it does slow down, we can use a water pump to bring in water to the house from our spare tank while the primary tanks slowly fill up again.”

Piercy resident Patrick Landergen has owned his property since 2004. He heats his home with a wood stove in the winter.

“During the summertime, I have to cut wood for burning during the winter,” Landergen said. “When I’m out looking for wood, I try to take trees that are already fallen instead of killing a healthy tree.”

He must cut each tree in to “rounds” using his chainsaw, which are 12-14 inch long sections of the log, and then split them with a maul, which is a slightly dulled axe with a head that gets thicker from front to back.

“Once you find or cut a tree, you cut it in to rounds with your saw, and split it down small enough to fit in the woodstove with a maul,” Landergen said. “If the wood is wet, I let it dry out for the rest of the summer, and once it’s dry, I take it home and stack it until the winter.”

He also made it clear that he has a favorite kind of wood to burn.

“Madrone is all the I burn,” Landergen said. “Out of tanoak, fur, and everything else that I have tried, nothing burns as evenly or clean as the madrone does. When I burn tanoak, I have to clean my chimney out once every to weeks. With madrone, it is once per month.”

When it comes to powering your home, one common option in the hills of Humboldt is a diesel generator. That’s what Dan Bittick, a Southern Humboldt resident since the 1980s by his account, uses.

“Installing and running a generator is not necessarily easy,” Bittick said. ” You have the cost of the generator, the batteries and the inverter.My current power system cost me over $12,000 and many hours of labor, but that’s still cheaper than having PG&E run power lines up here.”

Aside from the initial setup, which is a lot of work wiring things in, burying wire, and doing other things, you have to maintain the generator throughout its life as well.

“I change my oil every month, and I also have to keep an eye on things like the fuel filter, solenoids, and diodes. How often you maintain your generator usually depends on how many hours you run it for per day,” Bittick said. “I run mine for eight hours per day, and oil changes every month have kept my generator running for over 10 years now. With the right care, you can make these things last decades.”

Those who live off-the-grid agreed that it is very rewarding to be able to produce for yourself with little to no help from the outside world.

Deadly chemicals found in “organic” products

By Stephanie McGeary
Flapjack staff

Shoppers are usually willing to pay the extra price for organic foods, assuming that they are lessening their exposure to harmful pesticides. But consumers may be paying in more ways than one. By trusting that their food is chemical-free, people may be risking their health by unknowingly ingesting potentially dangerous chemicals.  Even with the certified “USDA Organic” label, foods, including chia seeds can contain the dangerous herbicide paraquat.

Arcata resident and North Coast Food Co-op shopper, Karen Shepherd, always buys organic when possible. Shepherd, a 63-year-old child care provider, said that she doesn’t want to expose herself, or the children she takes care of, to pesticides. However, she does not necessarily believe that buying organic groceries is fool-proof.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that there would still be some pesticides in organic food. That’s why I grow a lot of my food myself. I know I can trust it,” Shepherd said. “But I still think organic is better than the alternative.”

So, what exactly does “organic” mean? According to the USDA website, organic labeling indicates that the product has been produced through approved methods which “integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used.”

That all sounds pretty good. But there are a few exceptions to the USDA labeling standards that are not keeping labeled “organic” products in the clear. For one thing, to be labelled “organic” a product must only contain 95% organic ingredients. Only if a product is labelled as “100% Certified Organic” does it contain no non-organic products. Many consumers are unaware of this difference.

Another issue is that there are many synthetic pesticides allowed in organic crop production, according to the USDA standards. Whats even worse is that many dangerous synthetic substances, although not specifically allowed, can be acceptable if they are under the tolerances as set by the EPA.

Local chemist for North Coast Laboratories Bradley Thompson said that he believes certain chemicals, such as paraquat, aren’t being tested for at all. Some samples being brought to his lab, including water, soil and “organic” chia seeds, have been testing positive for the presence of paraquat.

“The frequency of paraquat has been increasing,” Thompson said. “Hits were rare and now it’s in every run. About two-thirds of my samples come up hot.”

One product that Thompson has tested in his laboratory is a popular brand of chia seeds, Nutiva. Stamped on the front of Nutiva’s bags is that trusted label “USDA Organic.” But in his testing, Thompson has been finding a presence of paraquat in the seeds.

Paraquat, or bipyridinium dichloride, is a toxic chemical which is often used as an herbicide to control weeds in farming. It is deadly to humans if ingested in large amounts and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure in small amounts can result in heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure and scarring of the lungs.

Thompson says he believes the chia manufacturers use paraquat to whither off the leaves of their plants in order to make the seeds easier to harvest.

“Of course, the manufacturers claim it doesn’t get in the seeds,” Thompson said. “They say they’ve got the studies to prove it. But obviously it’s not true.”

With all of these confusing standards and misleading labels, it can be difficult for a person who wants to eat organic to feel safe about what they are buying. In order to be sure about what you are getting, Thompson suggests buying local over simply buying organic.

“Go to the farmer’s market. Know your farmers,” said Thompson. “Or here’s a suggestion: grow your own food!”

Redheaded Blackbelt site founder talks about journalistic alternatives

By Cody Centeno
Flapjack staff

Kym Kemp is a 57-year old reporter here in Humboldt County who has seen and reported on it all, from happy moments, to diesel spills from marijuana grows, to murders. Kemp was born in Eureka, moved away for several years, but later came back, and moved to Southern Humboldt. She graduated from South Fork High in Miranda, and later went on to attend Santa Rosa JC, College of the Redwoods, UC Berkeley, and finally Humboldt State.

The start of Kemp’s writing career came in the form of an online blog, which she started in 2007.

“I just wanted to practice for a fiction book I had hoped to write,” she said.

However, in 2008, an indoor marijuana grow spilled diesel in the creek near her home, and thus her journalism career was born.

“I began covering that story for my website, then Hank Sims at the North Coast Journal asked me to do a couple of stories for that paper,” said Kemp, “I began to do more reporting and less magazine type pieces.”

From there, Kemp went on to report for the Lost Coast Outpost, and then in 2015, she moved back to her current website, Redheaded Blackbelt, where she currently reports from.

Kemp has always been a “curious cat”, according to her, so she is interested in what is currently going on locally at any given time. She says that her favorite part of being a reporter is getting information, and relaying it in a timely fashion to people who need it.

“Like when the roads are closing because of storms, or fires are threatening people’s homes,” Kemp said. “I hate that people are suffering, but I love getting them the information that they need.”

The most memorable story to Kemp is when a man accused of murder saved her from being charged in court. To make the story short, the man called her while on the run to say that it was self-defense, and that his wife was innocent. She wrote a story about it, and was later subpoenaed to testify. When asked to testify about information that was not already public — the defendant’s e-mail address, Kemp refused to comply. After refusing several times, the defendant directed his attorney to state that it was indeed his e-mail address, saving her from getting in to trouble.

“So that is how the gentleman killer saved me from jail,” she said.

As with every job, there is a least favorite part, and for Kemp, that is the threats that she receives.

“Sometimes it’s scary, but mostly it just makes me sick that there is so much anger and ugliness in the world,” Kemp stated.

Running an online site where the public can post their input is very difficult, and Kemp has to constantly stay close to her computer. She says that this makes the normal things in life, like a trip to the grocery store, difficult to do.

“I make all of those things happen still, but not near as often as I would like,” said Kemp of the normal things in life.

She has seen people post racial and sexual slurs, accuse others of crimes without any real proof, and many other things of that nature on her comment section, and tries to delete those as fast as she can. This is the primary reason for her having to be so close to the computer all the time.

Many people within the Southern Humboldt, and even the Northern Mendocino communities hold Kemp in high regard. Bunny Wilder, who used to own Blue Moon in Garberville, and knows Kemp, says that she is very happy that she has her website.

“She delivers news when we need it, and we always need it,” said Wilder, “We would hear nothing of the cannabis industry if not from her pages.”

Like it or not, the locals in this area do like to keep informed on the subject. Wilder also appreciates Kemp’s availability and attentiveness to her readers.

“If I have an issue about something she wrote, I can e-mail her and iron it out. She is a receptive person, and one who I can trust,” she said.

Another Garberville resident, Electra Richard, also had good things to say of Kemp.

“Kym is an asset to our community,” she said, “Her online paper is truthful, and she works very hard to keep all of us informed.”

Delving in to Northern Mendocino County, which Kemp also covers some news for, Leggett resident Pam Braham says that she is a rock of the local communities.

“She is out there on it when anything happens. She is down to earth with her reporting, and if there is ever a mistake made, she is quick to correct it,” said Braham.

Braham also had some positive things to say about Kemp as a person,

“Kym is very compassionate, and as far as I know, she is highly respected by all. I don’t know when she sleeps, I give her both thumbs up,” she said.

Most of these opinions seem to be fairly consistent with one another, which speaks to Kemp’s character.

Kemp says that she never wants to stop reporting, and shared what she hopes to be remembered for.

“I don’t want to retire, I hope I am still typing on my death bed,” she said, “But, when I die, I hope that people remember me as someone who tried to help her community.”