Trimmigrants headed to the Emerald Triangle for harvest season

Editor’s Note: Marijuana Empire is a Press Democrat blog about the booming business opportunities and evolving medical marijuana culture in Northern California. PD Staff writer Julie Johnson covers evolving laws, policies and business ventures, while blogger Chris Hanson takes a look at the weekly news, people and culture of medical marijuana. 

Have you’ve noticed an influx of hitchhikers heading along 101 lately—the ones with frame backpacks, dreads and cardboard signs that say “North” or “Mendocino”? Let us put the pieces together, in case you haven’t: It’s trimming season.

Between mid-October and late November, mostly 20-somethings from all over the country flock to Northern California in hopes of getting a job trimming recently-harvested marijuana plants.

Most are headed into the Emerald Triangle, considered the largest marijuana-growing region in the world. Made up of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity County, it’s more than 10 thousand square miles of sparsely populated forests and hills with an estimated annual cash crop of $1 billion.

It isn’t quite as easy as just showing up. This is a word of mouth type of job as most growers are weary of strangers, and 215 (medical marijuana card) is also required to get on the property—let alone  trim on any legitimate grow. Being a trimmigrant means weeks of manicuring marijuana buds to eliminate leaves and stems with hand clippers. The prettier the buds, the better they sell to dispensaries, who will purchase bulk to last as much of the year as possible.

So what is it like trimming on a remote mountain somewhere in Northern California? We talked with a few career trimmers to give you an idea of what it can be like…

The money: Going rate for trimming is usually by the pound, which ranges from around $100-150 per pounds for finished product that has been pre-manicured by a machine (more or less depending on amount of pre-trim) to $200 per pound for all hand-trimmed work.  An experienced and fast trimmer can trim up to two pounds a day (10+hrs.), doing it all by hand. it works out to be the same money for pre-manicured. Depending on the size of the farm and the size of the trimming crew, some trimmers will have work until late December.

The accommodations:  It really varies quite a bit from place to place. Some have cabins, RV’s or houses, some you bring your own tent.  Some you get fed 2-3 meals a day and some places you are responsible to bring  food and cook for yourself.  The worst experience a buddy told me about was working 11 hour days, living in a tent rain or shine, and eating a lot of nutritional bars, hot dogs and ramen. Usually it’s not that bad. Sleeping arrangements are usually a blow up mattress in a bedroom with a few others, or you throw a blow up mattress in the back of your car if you are easily bothered by others. 

The food: Most farmers like quality food and they feel their workers work better with good food and a good night’s rest. Usually meals are simple but good, Mate and coffee are also occasionally supplied.

The hours: Be ready to sit for a long, long time. Trimmers do repetitive cutting for 8-11 (sometimes more) hours a day, in a room full of people doing hte same thing. Not everyone smells great (showers are a luxury), and inhaling weed trim isn’t as fun as it sounds. Sure you can sample the product, just don’t let it affect your work or you won’t be asked back.

The paranoia: Laws vary from county to county on how much can be grown legally, and there are still a lot of grey areas, so you may or may not be on a property that is covered under the law (here is some good info about that). That, and growers protect their property. This isn’t for the faint of heart.

Is a trimming job all it is glorified to be? Not hardly. Yes, if you are good at it you could make a decent living doing that, but be prepared to spend a lot of time away from home, in remote areas, doing a really repetitive job.

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  • Roberty Dreyer

    Oh boy. This blog is hilarious. When I was in college a long time ago I knew a few guys who did this. They were dirtbags who eventually dropped out of school.
    Although it does explain a few of the hitchhikers I’ve seen lately.


    “This is a word of mouth type of job as most growers are weary of strangers, and 215 (medical marijuana card) is also required to get on the property—let alone trim on any legitimate grow”

    You must be joking this is the most foolish statment ive heard. DO you really think that people two hours away from the nearest police station care if a trimmer bum from Ohio has a card or not? Get real…

    “The nicer the bud, more the dispensary will pay”
    You mean the drug dealer in New York

    Quit glorifying Marijuana it is not cool.

  • Adam

    A pothead by any other other name is still a pothead! Potheads are losers! Bottom line.

  • Jeff DiCello

    This job is ideal for those folks who are in home caregivers. Just put on a video for gramps and trim away.

  • Kneejerk

    Chris must of smoked a big fat one before writing this dribble! How about we encourage our youth to take legitimate jobs not these illegal jobs that contribute zero to society our the economy.

  • guessed

    Chris Hanson, the one who covered the child porn stings?
    Is that you?
    “Trimmigrants” is cute but perpetuates an untruth. We no longer have seasonal immigrants who return to Mexico after the harvest is done.
    Just call them trimmers please.

  • Will

    Yea, not sure this is such a great idea.

    I don’t have any objection to legalized marijuana or medical marijuana but placing an article such as this on the front page could possibly introduce this “work” to people outside the counties mentioned.

    Why would these counties need people from out of state to help with the harvests? It would seem there would be plenty of local people that would want to do this work for $200-$300 a day.

    Who would hire total strangers from out of state to trim their harvest ? It seems that would be an invitation to get ripped off.

  • Logic

    Highly inaccurate

  • Westender

    Yeah, so who’s paying income tax, Social Security, Medicare on these employees? Or are the farmers filling out 10-99’s?

    There’s a long list of problems that the growers need to address before any of us can take them seriously. I think it should be legalized, but it seems like these folks want to have it both ways. Wait till they find out how expensive it is to actually have employees?

  • toxic bob

    Medical.. yeah that’s it. Medical.

  • irwin

    This is an industry just emerging from the shadows, and I think we’re about to see some massive changes in everything from growing and harvesting to sales and usage beyond medical.

    Tech is showing a huge interest in marijuana, because they see the revenue opportunities in disruption of a broken system.

    This is a big reason why we are starting the discussion about the future of marijuana in this billion dollar marijuana-growing region. There’s a lot about to happen in our backyards, and pretending it isn’t there is pretty small-minded.

    From the New West Summit website — happening in SF in November…

    Legal cannabis has an estimated $10 billion annual economic impact, and the sector is rapidly professionalizing. More than one thousand entrepreneurs and investors will gather to forecast trends in today’s fragmented regulatory landscape, where the arrival of mainstream capital is obliterating past models.

  • Casper Weinstein

    One question: do you get a W-2 form or a 1099? I ask because with a 1099 you can deduct a bunch of expenses.

  • Frank

    Adam likes dick in his mouth

  • indigenous american

    Lazy ass white folks. Beg for money and hitch hike…and yet they have SSN. You do t see any illegals standing on a corner street asking for money do you? Prime example, go stroll through Berkeley.

  • Yep

    Don’t come here for work you will be highly disappointed and won’t be paid. No one wants you here… Ever

  • local

    Humm..this article reminds me of the other mono-culture crops that are grown here in Napa and Sonoma County.
    Let’s get real and start collecting taxes from this ag crop.

  • Tim Sores

    Please stop with this sort of coverage. We want out community back NOW! ‘So tired of the Garberville/Redway downtown embarrassment, the sky-rocketing crime, the trash, and all the drifters who care nothing for our community except how much their greed cup is filled. I foresee worse days ahead ’til legalization is implemented and prices drop to the floor. Please stop publishing stories like this. It is ruining our community! Do you want them in your backyard? We are fed up!