Breaking Into The Cannabis Industry - Grower
January 9th, 2018 photo/istock/piritPeaks
By Roger Malespin
One of the most popular searches for cannabis jobs is a grower. Having your own grow operation and making a legit business out of it seems like the best thing in the world for some folks, but it isn’t that easy to get into for a number of reasons. To even start a grow operation, you’d need to navigate the laws and politics of your state, and even if you do everything right there’s a good chance you won’t be granted one of the few licenses states hand out. Instead, we will focus on how to get a job as a grower at the ground level, which will require a lot of knowledge, determination, and some luck.
As with many jobs, there are preferred but not necessarily required qualifications. The most relevant thing you can have as a newcomer is a degree in botany or horticulture. Prior nursery, landscaping, and/or agricultural experience are also highly preferred. Additionally, you’ll likely need at least a HS diploma and have basic math skills. All cannabis workers in most states require some form of licensing, even if they are grow workers. You will have to pay for it but the fee isn't high. Those requirements might be out of reach for many, but the other side of that coin in that companies have to hire people without those degrees since they are hard to come by.
Previous experience in the industry is the next best thing. Many grow workers started out as budtenders or trimmers and either worked their way up or found a different company to move up in. If you don’t have experience in the industry, it is highly recommended that you equip yourself with 2 things - knowledge and connections.
Networking is essential to this process. Network with as many growers or budtenders as possible and attent cannabis conventions and events in your area. This is the easiest way for both the businesses and public to get to know each other and when companies are at their most open. It’s likely one will find something to get their foot in the door if done properly, though it can take months. There are a lot more job openings than there are people with degrees in botany, so the companies will be receptive to the right approach more often than not. This is the best way to get an interview, maybe even better than applying online in some cases. Knowing a local business and getting to know the budtenders can also be a successful avenue to an interview sometimes.
If you happen to land in an interview, you should know at least a little about the cultivation process. Books by Ed Rosenthal & Jorge Cervantes are industry standards and should be read. Even if you won’t be jumping right into growing your own crop, discussing the process with a manager and showing that you have the knowledge shows that you took the time to learn about the job you are interested in and will impress them invariably. The growing process for a company is often secretive, akin to chefs guarding their recipes, so they will be selective and will only trust people who are professional. Show passion and be humble, there are many budtenders and trimmers who would like to move up to grower, so make sure you hit all the right notes to make yourself stand out. Other things you can do to prepare for an interview include getting some experience by starting a small grow of your own, even if it’s only a few plants (only if it is legal to do so in your state, of course). If it isn’t other plants like tomatoes or peppers are good practice. You can learn the basics of growing and learn from early beginner mistakes, which will also serve you well on an interview. This can also teach you about the basics of plant care and especially proper environmental control and pest/plague control. Learn about these things any way you can, but first hand experience can’t be beat.
The duties of an entry level grower are essentially labor tasks. Sowing, thinning, weeding, transplanting, moving plants, watering, applications, potting, shipping, and loading will be the daily duties carried out. Depending on how well one does there, they will be shown hands on growing techniques, like germination, cloning, and transplantation. Following instructions and maintaining a clean work environment are absolutely necessary - failure to adhere to these can result in crop loss and/or health and safety violations. Like trimmers, grow workers should be comfortable working in repetition and highly focused.
Grower is not as easy to get into as a trimmer or budtender, but the chance is there if one prepares. You can get started on some of these precursors immediately, so make hay while the sun is still shining and make yourself valuable for a valued cannabis industry position.