This post contains excerpts from an article that originally appeared on leafly.com, a link to the article can be found following this blog post.
Cannabis has been stigmatized and criminalized for decades, and throughout prohibition the farmers who grow it have often faced the largest risk. Historically, most growers have remained underground, operating in the shadows, and often hiding their passion from even those closest to them. With local legalization efforts comes the opportunity for them to openly put their skills to work, but still there are stereotypes of how a cannabis grower looks and acts.
We’ll spare you some of the descriptors, but most of these stereotypes do not shed light on the technical skill, passion, and dedication to the craft that is necessary to produce high-quality flower or breed exotic varieties. Longtime growers are the ones responsible for passing down their knowledge of the plant and evolving the various cultivation techniques into how we currently farm cannabis today.
The reality is that it’s not uncommon for the modern cannabis grower to have an extensive background in horticulture, commercial farming, or a formal degree in plant science. Many others start as hobbyists and let their passion for the plant guide their growing efforts. To paint a more genuine picture of the present-day grower and share their own stories, we’ve profiled five growers from legal markets across the country.
Sierra McDonald, The Giving Tree Wellness Center
“It’s so great when you hear patient success stories where cannabis was able to alleviate them of their chronic pain or addiction.”
Sierra McDonald, 29, grows cannabis for The Giving Tree Wellness Center in Phoenix, Arizona where they grow most of their crop hydroponically using a coconut coir medium. The exception being their CBD strains, which they grow using a no-till, living soil method. Before she started cultivating for The Giving Tree one year ago, she was putting her horticulture degree from the University of Georgia to use as a farmhand and research assistant at the university’s organic agriculture research farm.
Cannabis piqued Sierra’s interest as she was looking for jobs in the commercial greenhouse industry. Once she overcame the misconception that she wasn’t qualified enough, she leapt into the industry head first. She’s learned to follow her curiosities and question everything. “There are no real standards in this industry yet and different methods work for different environments,” she explains.
For Sierra, the most challenging part of growing cannabis so far has been the limited scholarly resources at her disposal. That has challenged her to do her own research which has helped her gain a deeper understanding of cannabis’ resilience. Apart from simply loving the plant, the most exciting part of being a cannabis grower is the opportunity to take the world of holistic and conventional medicine to a whole new level.
Katariina Lindholm, The Giving Tree Wellness Center
“No one grower knows everything about growing but every grower has something they can teach you.”
Katariina Lindholm, 27, of Phoenix, Arizona has been growing commercial cannabis for The Giving Tree Wellness Center for over a year and a half. She has a Master’s degree in Plant Breeding and wanted to find a career where she could leverage her knowledge of plant science and pursue something that she loves. She grows indoors using a coco coir growing medium.
Katariina’s academic background posed a new challenge when she quickly realized the lack of reliable cannabis research that made finding solutions to grow-related issues nearly impossible. However, being surrounded by a community of passionate growers has taught her that work doesn’t really feel like work when everyone loves what they are doing. Growing cannabis can teach you so much more than just plant science. It can teach you a lot about yourself. Katariina explains, “the more you learn, the more you grow.”
Looking forward, Katariina envisions a dichotomy in the cultivation landscape. Similar to what we see in grocery stores today, she believes a pronounced divide will separate the organic, no-till grows and the major commercial production facilities built off efficiencies, and that there is room for both to coexist in the marketplace.