Employees at MOCA Humboldt harvest flower at the business’s Eureka-based facility. | Photos by Ryan Burns


In just the second year of the California State Fair’s annual cannabis competition, growers from Humboldt County nabbed a total of 18 awards, including three of the 11 Golden Bear trophies bestowed on the overall winners, aka the “Best of California.”

MOCA Humboldt, a Eureka-based micro-business that includes an indoor cultivation operation, commercial kitchen, distribution facilities and a dispensary, took home two Golden Bears for the second year in a row.

“It’s exciting,” said MOCA CEO Matt Engel. “This is a really cool competition because most competitions are based on judges’ experiences. … This one is specifically based on lab results, so it’s objective judging.”

The science-based contest includes awards in three divisions — indoor, outdoor and mixed light — and 11 categories per division, based on measured levels of various compounds: cannabinoids, individual terpenes and total terpene content. (You can read about what those are, and the difference between them, here. Engel offered this analogy: “If cannabinoids are the volume on your stereo, terpenes are kind of like the EQ.”)

MOCA’s Golden Bear trophies were awarded for the level of CBGa in their strain “Grape Cookies” and for the level of Limonene in their strain “Caffeine.” In total, MOCA walked away with four golds and three silvers.

Engel said these awards are different from other judged competitions such as the Emerald Cup not only because of the lab-testing-based criteria but also because of the reach and reputation of the California State Fair.

“It’s a different perspective, but it’s really cool because this is shared with the world and you get a much wider reach by putting [cannabis] next to wine and cheese and other craft things,” he said. “It’s very cool.” 

The other Humboldt County cultivator to land a Golden Bear was Talking Trees Farms, for the amount of Caryophyllene (a “spicy” terpene) in their outdoor strain “Rainbow Beltz.” The business also landed a gold medal for the level of Myrcene (a terpene also found in hops and lemongrass) in their mixed-light strain “Macalato.”

“We’re pretty stoked,” said Talking Trees Founder and CEO Craig Nejedly, who also highlighted the unique judging criteria of this contest.

“We just looked at what we had the highest terpenes in,” he said regarding the company’s decision to enter. “It was somewhat a gamble, but we knew we had a chance.”

Last year, Talking Trees took home one gold medal and three silvers, and Nejedly said he was excited to land two golds, including a Golden Bear, this year, though he noted that the influence of awards has diminished some in recent years.

“Like with the Emerald Cup, five years ago there was a lot more hoopla. It seems like awards are not as impactful [anymore].” But he was grateful that the State Fair focuses on terpenes rather than potency, or THC content, which has become a driver in the market. Connoisseurs, though, know the value of terpenes, he said.

Both Nejedly and Engel said they’ve had to make adjustments to stay afloat during the dramatic downturn in the cannabis industry over the past couple of years. Engel opened MOCA’s Eureka dispensary last year, and his operation includes production of bubble hash. Nejedly said he has adjusted to the market by slimming down operations and trying to be more strategic.

Several other Humboldt County growers landed awards as well:

  • SoHum’s Organic Medicinals took home a gold medal for the level of co-dominant terpene (MCL) in their outdoor strain “Jelmints.”
  • Savage Farms (Ettersburg) landed a silver in the same category for its strain “Slurty 3.”
  • Northern Emeralds (Arcata) took silver for the level of terpinolene in their indoor strain “Durban Poison” and another silver for the amount of limonene in their mixed-light strain “Legendary OMG.”
  • True Mom & Pop (Bridgeville) won silver for the level of co-dominant terpene (MCL) in mixed-light strain “Banana Pancakes.”

Click here for a full list of winners.

MOCA Humboldt’s 2022 awards.