California Marijuana farming
I had the chance to be around the Emerald Triangle on assignment when, in November 2016, voters in California approved a ballot measure known as Proposition 64, which legalized the adult recreational use of Marijuana.
This initiative made California the largest legal Marijuana market in the world and has transformed the way farms approach business. Trinity County is known as one of the largest cannabis producing regions in America. Its ancient redwoods conceal small towns that are home to many marijuana farms and a legion of migrant workers known as “trimmigrants”.
What is it like to be a trimmer?
Preparing marijuana for distribution can be grueling both physically and mentally.
First, the flowers must be harvested, dried, and reduced to a trimmable size. Then, with great finesse, trimmers snip stray leaves/stems, and carefully shape the bud. Experienced laborers can tactfully maneuver the bud with one hand, and then quickly snip in a way that is graceful and mesmerizing with the other.
Many spend 17 hours a day seated while working. A few short breaks are taken for meals, or to walk up the hill to find cell phone service. Some farms may have someone preparing family-style meals, and if you’re super lucky- wifi. Most trimmers would agree that a comfy chair, engaging podcast, and sharp pair of scissors, keep you sane.
Change is in the air
Before the legalisation proposition passed, labourers traveled from all over the world to work on these cannabis farms. In some cases the set-up was legal, and in many instances, the trimmers were working under the table, illegally. For those dedicated to the long hours and high-stakes, there was a lot of cash to be made.
The implementation of hourly wages, the use of machinery, and overhead costs of legalisation have cut into the funds once used to pay trimmers. Some trimmers have opted to get paid a daily rate, regardless of how many pounds they trim. Others have learned to operate equipment and participate in the actual farming for an hourly wage.
About the farm and their future
Most of the small-scale farms don’t use chemicals, pesticides or even liquid fertilisers. They try to go one step further than the trendy organic farming. They aim for long-term sustainability: focusing on the soil, and cultivating the living soil.
Even though hydroponic, aeroponic, vertical, and other such indoor cultivation techniques can, of course, produce some high-quality herb at commercial scale, it's the generational familiarity and craftsmanship of artisanal cultivators that makes their weed legendary.