Harvest time in Humboldt County, CA, which some consider the mecca of marijuana production in the United States, is about finished for the year. During the fall season, enthusiastic individuals migrate to the area for the sole purpose of working the pot harvest. The majority of these people, dubbed “trimmigrants” by the locals, are young, 20-something pseudo-vagabonds who come to the area to trim buds for local growers to get weed ready for market.
The trimming of marijuana buds is one of the most crucial, yet tedious tasks required in order to prepare the product for sale to medical marijuana dispensaries. It’s a painstaking process of ridding the weed of stems and leaves, while shaping the buds to make them most attractive to buyers.
Traditionally, trimming jobs have been easy to come by, but some workers who have made the westbound journey for work complain that it has been difficult to find, according to a recent report from Youth Radio. “I heard you could get work pretty easy, and you can get a pretty good amount I guess,” said one man, who searched for work for over a month unsuccessfully. “The reality is that it’s taking a little bit longer than I expected.”
Workers who are hired stand to make a substantial amount of money during the months of September through November. Reports indicate that bud trimmers are paid by the pound, which allows an efficient worker to earn anywhere between $300-$500 per day, tax-free. Of course, since the majority of these grows are illegal, there is the risk of being thrown in jail if the operation is busted.
Some locals complain that this time of year is a burden on the community because so many migrant trimmers filter into the area without any leads on gainful employment. This creates problems for area businesses as well as causing damage to property, says Kristin Nevedal, co-founder of the Emerald Growers Association. “This is not the fun vacation thing to do, right? To show up in Garberville in the fall, and see if you can get a job. We cannot house these people; we don’t have any facilities for them. Don’t come unless you have a job.”
Most growers only hire workers they know, out of concern that strangers will rip them off, potentially costing them millions of dollars. However, that does not stop the unknown soldiers of the illegal weed trade from coming to town in hopes of earning enough money in three months to last them the rest of the year.
However, analysts say these bud trimmer positions are a dying breed—positions that will eventually no longer be needed as legalization and technological advancements in marijuana production become more prevalent.