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400 strains, 3 weeks, and they live to talk about it! Behind the scenes with the judges at The Emerald Cup, as they choose the best strain of the year.

For those who don’t know, the Emerald Cup is most exciting Must See (and must-sample) cannabis festival in the world. It’s held every December after the harvest with the aim of crowning the finest sun-grown craft cannabis and products of the year. It’s a mash-up of a science convention, 4H Club gathering and biker convention, all taking place under a sweet cloud of cannabis. It’s where the best and the brightest in the California scene gather to celebrate everything from beautiful flowers to concentrates, to most innovative packaging, to the most delectable edibles, both sweet and savory. The list of categories goes on and on and the innovation and dedication to craft is often mind-boggling and always impressive.
The inaugural Cup was held in 2003 on “Area 101,” the land owned by visionary Mendocino farmer and former event producer Tim Blake. It was, according to one early attendee, “like Woodstock without the mud,” a place where the area’s growers, musicians, and cooks gathered to celebrate the fruits of their labors. Today’s event is a long way away from those humble, homegrown beginnings. Some 30,000 celebrants gather on the sprawling Santa Rosa Fairgrounds. While the vibe is more regulated and less freewheeling -- gone are the pound bags being sold under the table --there are also a good deal of high-minded activities, such as seminars on regenerative agriculture and criminal justice.
I’ve always wondered how any group of judges, no matter their dedication and experience, can sample so many strains and still live to talk about it. For the answer, I got Swami Chaitanya and Nikki Lastreto, self-described as “friends, spouses, spiritual brethren and business and land partners,  to join us on this week’s podcast. Swami and Nikki grow and harvest their own Swami’s Select flowers on their Ganja Ma farm in Bell Springs, one of the premier cannabis appellations in Mendocino Country. For years they have been leaders in the sun grown, organic cannabis movement, bringing the idea of premium cannabis into the wider world. In this conversation they explain the intricacies of selecting this year’s Emerald Cup winner.

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