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by Amanda Bushwacker
It’s that time of year again, when migrant farm workers everywhere prepare for the annual marijuana harvest.
You may think of us day-laborers as hippies, entitled rich kids who gave up on college sophomore year to slum around the Emerald Triangle trying to earn cash to supply our nag champa and organic cheese addictions. Frankly, that’s not the reality anymore.
We are the girl with the headphones reading a magazine on the bus, your waitress at lunch or even the girl a cubicle over at your desk job. We are clean cut, some of us live “grown up” lives and are just trying to earn a little cash to send little Jimmy away to summer camp this year so mommy and daddy can have a little hard-earned “grown up” time.
I started trimming a couple years after finishing my bachelor’s degree. I was in a moderate-pay intern type job but desperately needed cash to make my monthly student loan payment.
But, being a budding and over-educated entrepreneur, I quickly recognized the flaws in the trim world.
Hippies would hitchhike the 101, a heavily trafficked federal highway, begging for trim work. People were carelessly open in an industry that still very much needed, and still needs, to operate underground to protect the crops from the strong arm of a misguided law. And because there is no legal recourse, many trimmers steal weed and many growers don’t pay.
But, just because the work is still black market, doesn’t mean a little corporate structure wouldn’t hurt! The growers at the time, all men, would neglect to mention they didn’t have cash up front to pay, they wouldn’t provide food for workers or a place to sleep and shower, their crops got stolen right out from under their noses and everyone left disgruntled.
It’s fair to say the guys who weren’t paying were the guys who weren’t going to be getting paid. Ever since Prop 215, the price per pound in NorCal has plummeted, sometimes you can’t even give it away.
So I set up an offer that couldn’t be refused: you pay cash up front, we show up with tarps, groceries, toiletries and a round-the-clock team that works in shifts with the exception of short food, yoga and bathroom and sleep breaks.
We come in, beautifully manicure every bud, big or small, separating bags of trim and finished product neatly by quality. We feed ourselves, we leave the place cleaner than it was when we got there, and half the trim time of a normal operation.
What’s our secret? Common sense.
We split the pay equally. If you pay a worker by weight trimmed, which many growers do, a situation is created where trimmers work for themselves and only themselves. There is always a rotten bud in the bunch that stashes away bigger buds, the easier ones to trim. Somehow someone always works five hours less than everyone else but makes twice as much. We share all profits evenly, incentivizing my girls to work like a team. No one feels jilted.
We use only women. Now, for whatever reason, male growers usually exclusively want female trimmers. They say it’s because they feel they can trust them more not to steal, which may or may not be a reflection of reality.
My girls don’t steal because they know it hurts the entire team. When the finished weight is low, no one gets asked back. This is also a broad generalization, but basically all the men I have trimmed alongside take too many breaks. It’s the kind of job that just needs to get done, we don’t stop to “chill”. We talk and trim.
We are good house guests. We cook and clean. We do this both as a necessity (a girl needs to eat and get caffeinated and maybe sip a little wine) and as a security measure. So many growers have stopped feeding trimmers that trimmers often go out to pick up food (or, gasp! order it to the home) when they get hungry. We know that we smell like sticky greens so we come prepared not to leave or invite strangers to the home.
We clean. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Even if you aren’t running a professional crew like me, you can’t have your workers driving along highways with buds in their dreads or stuck under their shoes. When you get near someone who has just been trimming for three days, it’s like shoving your face into a moist freshly-picked bud and rubbing all that hashy goodness into your nostrils.
That’s always how we end the transaction– we pass along the bag of perfection, sweep away the leaves, oil the hash off our hands and the doorknobs, shower and change our clothes. The dirty trim outfits live in a turkey bag in the trunk. Then we turn up the music and surf back down the 101 to our lives in the City.
It’s not all business, it’s really about camaraderie. We forge friendships in all of the most beautiful corners of this beautiful state, we listen to good music and talk about life. We philosophize with a joint in our mouths and scissors in our hands. Within the confines of our trim circle we turn off all the other noise, we ask about each other’s lives with genuine interest, the work makes us forget about life’s challenges.
We come back to the world clear-headed, proud to have earned some cash and providing a much-needed service to fun-loving and sick people, regardless of the disapproving eye of the law. We build bonds that transcend the superficial, we are scissor sisters.
Next time you pick apart that fresh bud and put it in your pipe and smoke it, think of us, the women who prepared that happy little flower for you.