This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
I’m feeling deep gratitude for community, for the sharing and gathering that weaves the tapestry of our lives. It’s easy to just hunker down and work all the time, and I’m glad for the opportunity to get out and see folks, to go to market or festival or other get-togethers. Sometimes it’s hard to balance it all and I feel stress between my efforts on the farm and the many social gatherings that happen in the summer, but once I’m there I’m always happy about it.
This past weekend we attended the final Kate Wolf Festival at Black Oak Ranch. I’ve been going to festivals there since I was a small child, and there are so many beautiful memories wrapped up in the experience that past and present blend together into a special kaleidoscope of good times.
As I walk the grounds I see folks I know and love, some of whom I don’t get to see except at festival. I have time to stop and catch up, to drink a cider and talk and laugh. I’m not rushing around, don’t have anywhere I need to be (unless there is music coming on I want to see) and am free from the constant work of the farm. It is a welcome respite.
After 25 years of Kate Wolf, it’s a bittersweet feeling to look forward into a future without it. I will miss this iteration, but I’m excited for the blossoming of new endeavors at the Ranch. With the Hog Farm Hideaway already behind us and the upcoming Days Between on August 6th-7th, it is clear that the strong tradition of festivals at Black Oak will continue.
Gathering in celebration is one of the fundamental things that makes us human, a deep consonance that rings down through the ages. To hold space and foster a coming-together for community is a powerful undertaking, one that carries a profound responsibility to show up, for self and for others. I’ve been to lots of events in my life, and the many people who share the effort of producing events at Black Oak Ranch create the most special, safest, memorable spaces I have ever had the pleasure to attend.
When I was a kid it was the Rock and Roll Pignic, and our little mountain-school nonprofit used to sell pizza bread and snow cones. Having the booth as a base of operations and food source, us little ruffians would scamper all over the festival grounds, seeing the sights, hanging with old friends and making new ones. It was such a wild experience, the feeling of freedom and newness coupled with the safety that true community provides.
It takes a village, and the way events are done at the Ranch is a prime example. So many willing hands and spirits pitching in to foster a basket to contain unique and special experiences for the broader community. That sense of safety is such a key part of the journey, a combination of freedom and support that feels like family. The benevolent onlooking of the many folks working to maintain the flow, keeping an eye on security, tending booths, hauling in goods and people and hauling out waste is done in such orderly fashion and with such flair that the festival proceeds without a hitch so far as the participant can tell.
Event production always has hiccups, but the sign of a well-run scene is that the average ticket-holder has no idea of any issues and proceeds with smooth enjoyment through the weekend. This is always the case in my many visits to the Ranch, and from my limited and hectic experiences at even small-scale event production, is something I admire.
Though I’m sad to see the end of the Kate Wolf era, I also remember the end of the Pignic era, and I see the blossoming of a new era of Hog Farm festivals. So many beautiful memories over the years, with a future of so many more to go. To all the folks who help make it happen, a hearty THANK YOU for being such a meaningful and joyful part of my life and the lives of so many! As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!