How to Become a Master Grower

Fresh air, beautiful plants, and a relaxing atmosphere are all reasons someone might be attracted to finding work on a cannabis farm, and while the thought of tending to the crops all day in a serene environment sounds lovely the fantasy may not always match up to the reality. Working on a large scale commercial marijuana farm tending to hundreds, or maybe thousands of plants is a vastly different experience from your regular home grow, and if there’s any illusion that it’s easy work then we can shatter that right here and now: It isn’t. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun work, or rewarding, and given the typical master grower salary rate it can certainly be lucrative… but getting to that point can take a lot more effort than some may think. Let’s get into the details of how to become a master grower below.

master grower inspecting plants

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 strains being grown at the farm and their needs; how much light they prefer, what sort of nutrients should be available in their soil, the challenges of growing indoors vs. outdoors, and the like.

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 any potential master grower, and any candidate for the position must be comfortable with being at the top of the hire/fire food chain.

cannabis greenhouse

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 at 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.
  • Knowledge 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; part of this is due to what we mentioned a moment ago, about how each legalized state has vastly different laws and regulations regarding the cultivation & sale of cannabis.

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, and 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 and stay wary of being ripped off. There is no magic piece of paper that will guarantee you easily finding a job in the cannabis industry.

If you’re just looking for some basic training and information, though, there are a wide number of companies that can offer classes that will certainly give you a solid basis on which to grow and eventually become a master from. It’s also worth looking into non-marijuana-related classes on agriculture and horticulture, which may be available at your local garden supply/nursery store, as most master growers will want to learn as much as they can about the care taking of plants in general. Just know and understand that a few night courses online does not a master grower make; if this is your first step into the marijuana industry be prepared to start at the bottom of the ladder, not the top.

master grower with plants

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 ultimate goal, but as mentioned a moment ago most master growers get where they are with a combination of both education and experience, and simply being an excellent home cannabis grower won’t quite cut it. 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 in a clean, safe-for-the-plant manner, trimming away leaves and stems, and preparing the cannabis for packaging. While an important job this is very much one of the lowest-ranking positions available in the industry, and anyone wanting to move upward will need to show competence, knowledge and plenty of outward 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 as they grow but must share quite a bit of the same knowledge base, and crossover between those working in an assistant grower position and those working as assistants in the lab 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 are typically performing the day-to-day tasks involved with maintaining the crop: Watering, pest inspection, reinforcing plant growth and the like. Spending time as an assistant is usually a required step before someone can become 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 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 tricky 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, and we hope our article has given you the opportunity to learn some of the various options available. 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. We hope to see you there!

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