Fresh air, beautiful plants, and a relaxing atmosphere are all reasons someone might be attracted to finding work on a cannabis farm. However, while the thought of tending to the crops all day in a serene environment sounds great, the fantasy may not always match up to reality. Working on a large-scale commercial farm means tending to hundreds or maybe thousands of plants; a more challenging, vastly different experience from your regular home grow. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, rewarding, and lucrative work, but getting to that point takes a lot of effort and experience. Whether you’re looking to get into the industry or curious about the process, we’ve got the details on how to become a master grower below.
What Does a Master Grower Do?
The job title of “Master Grower” belongs to the individual or individuals at a cannabis farm who oversees the horticultural output of the company – Simply put, they are in charge of what the farm grows and how the farm grows it. The master grower understands the needs of the strains being grown at the farm; how much light they prefer, what sort of nutrients should be available in their soil, etc.
Master growers are also in a managerial position, meaning they are in charge of maintaining the farm’s quality in terms of both crops and personnel. Being a solid leadership figure is important for a potential master grower, and any candidate for the position must be comfortable with being at the top of the hire/fire food chain
What is Required to Become a Master Grower?
Finding a job as a master grower can be difficult, as it is a competitive field without a lot of turnover or openings available. Here are a few common requirements to help you decide if this position is right for you:
- An education in commercial farming or horticulture is usually required for any managerial position overseeing the growth of marijuana plants. If you want to be hired on as a master grower at any cannabis industry farm, your own general education is an excellent place to start.
- Be prepared to show experience. Most locations will require a minimum of five years experience working on a commercial farm (cannabis or otherwise) before considering hiring someone on as a master grower. There is the chance that some education can substitute as experience for some farms/positions but don’t expect to find a job as a master grower right out of school.
- Be professional, reliable and available. As the master grower you will be responsible for emergencies at the farm, and are the first point of contact if any temperature alarms or other warning systems get triggered. Demonstrate the ability to be punctual, work full days, and not be shy about overtime or coming in at odd hours. Living near the farm you’re applying to will definitely be considered a plus by your interviewer.
- Be completely familiar with the topic of cannabis cultivation, from seed (or clone) to harvest. You will need to understand the optimal environment for growing marijuana plants, from their potting soil to the ambient temperature/humidity to what sort of light cycles produce the best growth. Your knowledge on cannabis horticulture absolutely will be tested during your interview process.
- Be aware of local, state and federal laws on cannabis cultivation. Most states have vastly different rules and regulations when it comes to the growing of marijuana plants, and if you are moving from one state to the next expect to have to re-learn most of what you already knew on the topic. Following these laws is incredibly important for any farm with ties to the cannabis industry, and compliance for those laws will largely fall on the master grower’s shoulders.
Is there Training and Certification for Becoming a Master Grower?
The short answer: Yes and no. “Certification” in the medical marijuana industry can be a tricky topic, primarily because there is no nationally accepted standard for master grower certification or training, partly due to the aforementioned differences in cannabis regulation from state to state.
We go into detail on several different online schools that offer “certifications” for various jobs in the cannabis industry in our article on how to train to become a budtender, but we’ll echo here the same thing we say there: There is no national standard or requirement for training to work in the cannabis industry, and taking an online class does not ensure you a job (and depending on the course might even be detrimental to your application). The internet is filled with scam artists. The lack of United States federal regulation makes the already murky waters of the cannabis industry even more likely to be filled with predators – When it comes to master grower certification, do your research first; stay wary of being ripped off. There is no “golden ticket” that will guarantee you easily find a job in the cannabis industry.
If you’re just looking for some basic training and information, though, there are plenty of classes that cover fundamentals and give you a taste of what the field entails. It’s also worth looking into non-marijuana-specific classes on agriculture and horticulture, as most master growers will want to learn as much as they can about the caretaking of plants in general. Remember that a few night courses does not a master grower; if this is your first step into the marijuana industry, be prepared to start at the bottom, not the top.
How to Get Promoted to Master Grower
If you’re reading this article, the odds are you view learning how to become a master grower as your eventual goal and now understand that the position requires a great deal of knowledge and experience. Many master growers will have entered the field in an entry-level position and worked their way up. Common entry-level positions at a cannabis farm include Harvesters, Assistant Growers, and Laboratory/Technical Assistants.
As a Harvester, you are assigned the task of, well, harvesting the marijuana. This includes clipping the flowering buds from the plant, trimming away leaves and stems, and preparing the cannabis for packaging. While an important job, this is one of the lowest-ranking positions available in the industry, and anyone wanting to move up will need to show competence, knowledge, and enthusiasm.
Laboratory and Technical Assistants usually work away from the main horticulture area and in the industrial section of the farm. Here the cannabis product is tested for potency and quality, and on some farms, is processed further into extracts and/or edibles. These positions may not work with the plants directly but share a very similar knowledge base. Crossover between those working as an assistant grower and those working as a lab assistant is a fairly common lateral move.
Assistant Growers are the agricultural workforce directly underneath the master grower. While master growers must oversee the high-level perspective of the farm’s work, the assistant growers typically perform the day-to-day tasks involved with maintaining the crop: watering, pest inspection, reinforcing plant growth, and the like. Therefore, spending time as an assistant is usually a required step before becoming a master grower.
What Is a Master Grower’s Salary?
The answer to this is that it can depend on a lot of factors, notably location and experience – A master grower with 5+ years of experience in California may make a wildly different amount of pay from a new grower at a startup farm in, say, Oklahoma. Our article “How Much Does a master grower Make?” goes into the topic of master grower salary in more detail and talks about different pay expectations for various regions and skill levels.
Master Growers: In Conclusion
Breaking into the cannabis industry can be challenging no matter what sort of position you’re after – Getting to one of the top positions? Even trickier. But if you want to become a master grower, there are plenty of paths that can help lead you there. If, after reading all of this, you’re starting to have second thoughts about whether or not being a master grower is right for you, make sure to check out our article on How to Get a Job in the Medical Marijuana industry for information on other cannabis-related positions that may suit your interests a bit better. Best of luck and happy hunting!