What defines a ‘good grower’ and what makes a great one? None of us start out on top, and although a cruel reality, most don’t make it there, especially when it comes to growing cannabis. Despite talking to personal friends in the industry and lead growers in both the recreational and medical markets, I was unable to get a definitive answer. What they offered instead were their life stories, which revealed almost all of them shared some similar core experiences.
It would seem like a first time home grow is everyone’s first stepping stone, but in reality gardening and working with other plants is a great preparation. Planting flowers in Grandmother’s garden, or pruning the bushes, even mowing the grass, can teach unique lessons that apply to cannabis. My first pruning lessons were on a tomato plant, which allowed for mistakes without too much risk. How can we understand a specialized plant, or a plant we’re breeding to be specialized, if we don’t understand the broader scope of plant life? There is much to learn, not just water and nutrients, but airflow, growth structure, pest problems, and mold too.
Many of us are very comfortable in our perfectly controlled rooms, but what happens when the A/C fails, or a fan falls and crushes a plant, or the importance of controlling humidity is discovered the hard way? When these disasters reared their ugly heads, these experienced growers had already tackled these problems, but with plants one-tenth as expensive. A broken A/C, remedied with greenhouse-like airflow, the craziest shoestring-tied success plant I’ve ever seen a picture of, and the baking soda botrytis stopper – these may have been the inspiring successes that encouraged these growers to do it for one more day. How one responds to difficulty is as much a part of success as how things were planned it in the first place.
Ultimately, the largest common factor that rings true with successful growers is their determination to never miss an opportunity, and a will to always strive to be better. A friend of mine, who happens to be the head grower of one of the larger medical grows in WA, had never even grown cannabis when he was offered the job. On the other hand, he has a master’s degree in horticulture with a focus in closed-environment plant production. He couldn’t have been more suited for the job, and for him it was an opportunity to grow beyond what he had learned and experienced in school.
On the flipside, my former boss in Colorado, also a head grower for a large medical/recreational company, never even had interest in cannabis as a drug or medicine until later in life. Ironically, he started growing at way too young of an age because he saw it as a way to make money off his much older brother. As he got older, he worked at nurseries and completed an associate’s degree before landing his grand opportunity in the cannabis industry. By the time he was offered a job, he had been growing for ten years and was only in his early twenties.
Because the cannabis community is developing so quickly, everyone is always on their toes. It amazes me to watch self-educated growers conversing with mechanical engineers about lighting before turning around to give tips to professional horticulturalists on pest management. That’s the dedication and passion it takes to succeed. That’s the energy I am proud to be a part of.
Most people in the cannabis industry took a giant leap to get here. The more I get to know the people and the stories that brought them this far, the more I am encouraged to push myself. After visiting with and interviewing some of the people I respect most in the cannabis world, it became clear it wasn’t just their growing tips or perseverance I walked away with. From funding veteran rehabilitation to supporting autism awareness, every person was giving back in some form. The love for life that these people share is what I believe brought them this far, and will ensure their continued success in the future.