A man attempts to limbo during a bustling day at the Arcata Farmer's Market on September 18, 2015.

Oh the times, they are a-changin’


Many a blue moon hath passed since the old days of HSU students coexisting with millionaire weed criminals and attending psychedelic-themed harvest parties in the forest on the full moon.

The Arcata plaza, once a bustling mecca of culture and community, is now a shadowy remnant of its former self. Whether from COVID-19, cannabis legalization, changing of the tides or a hellish concoction of all three, the Humboldt County community has regressed from happy hippie haven to sullen farm town and in not much more time than it just took me to describe.

I began attending Humboldt State University in the fall of 2015, about a year before marijuana was legalized for recreational use in California. When I arrived in town for the first time, it filled me with the warmest feeling of togetherness and glee, comparable only to falling head over heels in love.

My first time attending the Arcata Farmers Market, I witnessed children laughing and playing in the sunshine, street performers and fire spinners entertaining the crowds with a huge smile on their face. There were vagabond travelers smoking six-inch-long joints right in the middle of the square. Live music and block parties could be found in every neighborhood on every weekend. Obama was president. Nobody had a care in the world.

“If I’m ever describing Arcata I say it’s like a golden vein. A little golden vein of music right in the middle of California,” said Nick Flores in a 2015 interview. At the time, Flores was in a popular local band called the Smooth Weirdos with two HSU students. All three have since left the area.

Fast-forward 2016 California legalized cannabis for recreational use. About two years later the price of a pound of weed plummeted overnight. Generally speaking, a large portion of Humboldt County’s population had their income cut in half. People got desperate. A lot of people got robbed or killed. That did not just apply to farmers either. Trimmers making $200 per pound one day made $100 per pound the next day, which made several of them hang up their scissors.

Many trimmers and farm hands were from other countries, colloquially referred to as “trimmigrants,” and were deterred from ever returning once the jobs did not pay as well. Suddenly, there were no more foreigners coming into town on the weekends with five grand in cash in their pocket to blow at the local shops, bars and restaurants.

All the people holding cardboard signs with crude drawings of scissors on them could no longer be seen lining Highway 299 near Willow Creek. Barkeeps and smoke shop owners could be seen for miles around scratching their heads, wondering when, if ever, their customers would return.

At that point, it was starting to become pretty clear the economy was struggling. Even with legal marijuana companies popping up, the jobs were not nearly as available and the ones that were usually paid no more than a restaurant job. Processing cannabis is, unfortunately, not difficult enough to justify the exorbitant salaries people were getting during the heyday of cannabis illegality.

Fast-forward to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the students were gone too. This is one of the few college towns rural enough that even one semester of remote learning sending students back to their family homes was enough to cause irrevocable damage in a community that is already half-impossible to access, lacking terribly in basic infrastructure and severely inundated with homeless students.

HSU’s enrollment was in steep decline even before the pandemic, down almost 50% since 2016 according to data recently released by the school. I have to wonder if those numbers will ever reverse even with a polytechnic designation, which the school has predicted will double the student population in seven years. Even if the school’s prediction is correct, there is not enough housing for the students we already have.

Maybe I was just a bit more of an idealist in 2015. Maybe I’m too old and too grouchy. Maybe Humboldt used to be a mecca for illegal activity and these are all just necessary growing pains on the way to a healthier community. Or maybe the magic is just kind of gone. It seems like people are not quite as happy as they used to be.

I know COVID-19 made everybody anti-social, but I would challenge everybody to just be a little more kind. Let’s bring back a little bit of that classic, happy-go-lucky hippie vibe that Humboldt was built on. Otherwise, I cannot envision a future that does not end in the locals getting priced out of living here when the area becomes nothing more than a small-town tourist destination filled with vacation homes and cannabis-themed gift shops.

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination

Major League Marijuana

Why I don’t think marijuana is everything it’s cracked up to be in baseball

Pigs Compost on Campus

CCAT tries to reduce HSU’s food waste footprint through new pig program