- By: Philip Petrini
When I was new to the industry, I could not have imagined just how much work it was running a cannabis grow operation. My experience working hard and working long hours did bode well for me at least. The number of fires that arise on a sometimes-daily basis can make those of weak minds go insane. However, a grower builds resolve through the experience and knowledge gained from these situations. Late nights and long days are the norm. It’s not for everyone, but for those of us who enjoy that, it really is fun.
People Entering Cannabis Cultivation from Other Industries
Properly Classifying Cannabis Grow Operations
Those coming into cannabis from other industries tend to bring with them their own idea of how to classify cannabis grow operations. For most, it would be agriculture; for others, food manufacturing. But let us make a clear distinction here: it is 100% a Pharma-Ag Hybrid. There is a level of sanitation that MUST be maintained in your facility. Eventually, once federal legalization happens, those who cannot maintain those standards will cease to exist. You are growing living plants, not building or assembling them. Obviously.
Understanding Cannabis Cultivation
Of course, those making such claims have never stood in the trenches and grown these wonderful plants. They know not of the struggles and all the nuance that comes with cultivating cannabis. Being stewards of the land, soil, and plants is alien to these people coming from other industries. That is not to say that great ideas and experience cannot be adopted from their expertise and knowledge. Certainly, the industry can use things that have worked well in other industries. There is a lot of value in the experience of scaled operations regardless of the industry. I have personally learned a ton from some of these people in my time managing grow operations.
The Benefits of True Cannabis Grow Experience
Nothing beats hands-on grow experience. No amount of previous work in other industries can really compare to actually running, managing, and operating a cannabis grow. Some of the biggest challenges you face are the unexpected fires that pop off in and around a grow facility. If you’ve never faced these, you can’t really appreciate what it takes to handle these situations. An HVAC system going out, literal floods in a room, pest infestations… the list is endless. While juggling these issues, plants continue to mature and grow, and compliance with state regulatory bodies won’t cease regardless of the technological inefficiencies or difficulties one faces. Being prepared for these issues when they creep up comes with having been through the fire before.
Respecting Experienced Cannabis Cultivators
In the end, it comes down to respect. In my experience, people coming into cannabis from other industries and trying to run a cannabis grow operation tend to think they know better than those of us who have done it for years. It’s easy to Monday Morning Quarterback when you don’t have to be in the grow day in and day out, on-call 24/7. There’s no rest when you’re off-site. You are constantly monitoring environments and have to be ready to drive back to the facility at any hour. They get to sit back and critique the operation with a hands-off approach. If you have run a grow, you know you don’t have that luxury. It falls on you at the end of the day, good or bad. Common courtesy would suggest that if you are coming in blind to a cannabis operation, learn the ropes FIRST. Take time to be in the trenches and see what growers go through before inserting your expertise. Your expertise may not be relevant in a cannabis grow setting.
Manufacturing Food Products Vs. Growing Cannabis
Manufacturing food products and growing cannabis are two totally different worlds. This should be self-evident. The production itself for cannabis and manufactured food products is vastly different. However, the similarities lie in packaging and safety. But that is where the similarities end. Each strain, or in some cases, each plant requires a slightly different set of requirements for maximum yield. It’s agriculture. Plants are living, breathing beings. Manufactured food products are not. In many cases, you have unique variability in each strain, plant, room, or zones (if growing outdoors). This relationship to the plants and what they need can change over periods of time. It is not an assembly line where exact amounts of any given input are done to the decimal.
Valuing the People in a Grow Operation
The people in a grow are just as valuable a commodity as the plants we cultivate. This symbiotic relationship between human and plant are as old as agriculture itself. We learn from the plant, and in return, it gains from us. It can sense and feel—as any living thing can. One must come to understand this to truly produce the best product possible. I remember going into rooms and seeing what the plants were telling me. I gained this skill through time working on and with plants. A lot of time. It’s hard to plan for things like that. A team that loves the plants and respect each other will grow the best product.
Creating Strong Culture when Running a Cannabis Grow Operation
Showing those—who give it their all day in and day out—love and respect will create a lasting culture. At the end of the day, if they do not put in the work, you cannot produce the quality product needed to stand out in this industry. A lot of grows produce quality cannabis. Those who lift their people up and treat them right, produce the best. The proof is in the pudding. Job ambiguity is right at the top of the list of things that separate good producers from sub-par operations. Show them they matter and, in return, your product will reflect that.
Running a grow is a grind. It has good and bad days. Mostly good. This industry has given those in it so much. That is because of this wonderful plant. Cannabis is and will always be an amazing medicine. Plant, Harvest, Trim, Package, Smoke, Repeat. Happy Growing!