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What It's Really Like to Farm Cannabis Legally, in Oregon.

by Aaron Herlocker 4 years ago in industry / culture / growing

Behind the scenes: Recreational Marijuana, Regulations, and Craft Cannabis.

Sun grown cannabis can be harvested out of season using Light Deprivation. 

Oregon is known for some pretty amazing things. Its mountains, coast, and culture combine to make magic happen for those who venture her land. That land, it seems, is being hailed as some of the best for sun grown ganja, and with nearly 1 in 5 Oregonians consuming cannabis regularly; all that herb has got to grow somewhere!

The Sacred Herb Can Grow Nearly All Over the World,

but if you want organic sun grown herb in the US, the Pacific Northwest, in particular, Southern Oregon is the place to be. Thankfully, that's where I am currently! I work on a legal recreational cannabis farm in Oregon. I come here seasonally to work in the fall for harvest, but this year I was called a little early to help with the light deprivation harvest.

How did I land a job on a pot farm in Oregon?

Truth be told, it may have been destiny, perhaps some combination of serendipitous luck and self-drive. I responded to a job listing on Craigslist... Yeah. I sent my résumé with necessary credentials, had an interview, and was hired. Now, that being said. Being in the right place in the right time is crucial, especially for seasonal work, and how I got to be in the right place at the right time is a whole other article.

Beyond the Red Tape of Growing Legal Ganja,

becoming a legal grower, and the technical aspects of licensing, I want to share an insight of what it is really like to work on a legal cannabis farm. I work for a craft cannabis producer. Currently, grassroots efforts are underway to solidify a niche market for craft cannabis producers in Oregon. The idea being that it's only a matter of time before legal marijuana is taken over by big money and the pitfalls of capitalism and industry. The Craft Cannabis Alliance is an Oregon initiative aiming to get a solid footing under the idea that it is important to value the small batch farmers of Oregon. Thinking about joining forces with other craft cannabis producers to protect your market from the big green wave coming, or being passive about it is a complex decision for small scale grower. Cannabis is a sacred herb and a healing medicine and let us hope that energy will translate into how the industry dynamics unfold as the terrain is always changing. Oregon is all about local and organic, and it's no different with bud.

Before I got this job, I was in awe of the stories from my friends about how they had spent the fall trimming cannabis on the West coast, made thousands of dollars in cash in just a month or two, and financed many adventures from their profits. Usually the setup went something like this. "Yeah man, we camped on the property and worked long hours. They fed us some food and brought supplies every now and then. It was great dude, I got $200 a pound!" The idea of camping under the stars on a cannabis farm, to work with the sacred herb and earn lots of tax free money and get fed while not having to pay rent was a mouthwatering cannabis adventure that I had to pursue. You may find this sweet setup still today, an illegal farm that will host you and feed you, but it's not what I found. My dream of a cannabis camping, trim binge, with no rent was soon met with the real opportunity of getting hired to work at a legal grow for $15/hr. To do so though meant to find housing and transportation in the area, because you know... you can't just camp at the farm. Now, what I am looking at is a real job. A clock in, clock out, paid on Friday gig. The type of gig I managed to escape for many years. However, when life gives you lemons. I love lemonade, I really do. Make some juice! Housing during my stay is a challenge, as there is hardly affordable housing near to where I work. However, I did get a motorcycle to get around on for now. Cannabis farming, motorcycle driving, musician on a mission. Yeah, something like that.

Did you know?

  • All recreational cannabis grown in Oregon must remain in Oregon. This is mainly due to the continue federal prohibition of marijuana. Crossing state lines makes you a trafficker.
  • All rec plants are tagged with an rfid code. The OLCC oversees the regulations of cannabis farms and they mean business about keeping track of every plant you grow.
  • Most places on your facility need to be on camera. Yes. You're on camera and the pot plants are all tagged. I would like to ponder how the plants feel about it, but I will save that for another time.
  • Every individual bud you get has been trimmed by hand. Every single one. For the most part, this agricultural industry is still mainly accomplished with manual labor. For now, everything is still done by hand, which is what inspires tens of thousands of trimmigrants every year. How long until automation and AI are able to take over the farm, who knows.
  • Working at a legal rec grow is pretty much the same as any other legit job. Considering your job is to grow weed. I clock in. I clock out. I get paid every other week by direct deposit. I have a schedule and a boss. I have a lunch break, and now they even take state taxes from my income. Great.

Many people, when I tell them I work on a pot farm, they imagine a group of hippies, stoned all day, playing with dirt and fertilizer throwing Frisbee and singing folk songs until the communal soup is ready. Although this might happen, my job is pretty ordinary farm work. At least until harvest. I move a lot of dirt and pots with shovels and wheelbarrows. I water and feed. I dig in the ground I construct greenhouses. I harvest. I harvest pounds and pounds of beautiful colas. Yes, I enjoy that part. I enjoy my job. I am so very grateful that I can finally work in an area that I am passionate about legally. I am outside in nature, and using organic methods to produce sun grown cannabis at nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. They pay isn't too bad either, I got a $2/hr. raise. Although, there is a downside to the glamorous life of a migrant cannabis worker. I have to leave my home for months at a time to pursue these opportunities. I miss my wife. My cat. My home. Until harvest comes and goes though, I am here. Wearing my badge, transplanting, pruning, bucking, and trimming my time away. When the last bud is trimmed, I'll take home my earnings and maybe record an album or take my wife to Paris. She'd like that.

Recreational Marijuana Laws and Rules in Oregon

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Bucking is the term used to describe taking the dried flowers from the stems.

Bucket of bucked buds from 2016.


Aaron Herlocker

I'm on a journey on Earth to create. I'm an artist, musician, and enjoy freelance writing about my experience and perspective on humanity and culture.

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