I took the opportunity to learn how to trim cannabis up in Grass Valley, California last October. The word on the street is that you can score some quick dough with these trimming gigs. One thing I’ve learned in this industry is that people like to talk, so I wanted to find out what people were actually making. For me, it wasn’t about money, it was the experience I was seeking.
Welcome to Grass Valley
The first thing on my list was finding a good place to eat, which was easier said than done in the quaint podunk town. When dealing with the matters of food, the locals know best. I found two guys sitting in an old beat up van that blended in a Raley’s parking lot. There was a fat man wearing a plaid shirt with a trucker hat and a younger scrappy looking lad in a hoodie.
I pulled up next to them, got out of my whip and slapped my hand on the hood of the van. “What’s crack’n guys?”
They exchanged a grimacing glance, Fatty took a bite of his sandwich.
“I’m not from here and..”
They laughed, “Ya think.” Fatty blurted.
“I’m just looking for a good place to eat man,” they didn’t bother looking at me when I spoke.
“You standing right in front of one.” The kid in the hoodie barked.
“Yeah, I see that. I was just hoping for more of an organic kind of vibe” I emphasized.
Fatty spat out, “Sounds like you’re in line for a trip back to the big city,” with chunks of food spouting out all over himself.
I took a hard pause. I decided to be straightforward, he looked like the farmer type.“I came out for the harvest. You guys in the industry.” I countered.
They exchanged another look. Fatty finally looked me, eyes full of intimidation as he took another bite of his sandwich.
“I get it man. You’re not happy with the new blood.”
“Ya think” Fatty chortled.
“Well, that’s why I’m here. Am I wrong for assuming you’re the type that does some growing?”
“Not anymore. Good luck kid.” He rolled up his window and turned on the radio.
I headed into Raley’s and found a pre-packaged sub sandwich. Clearly, I was going to have to make some phone calls to find a place to learn about the business of trimming cannabis.
I called a friend, who knew a friend, who knew a friend and let them know that I was in the area and was willing to trim for free, I just wanted to learn how. I drove around the small red-blooded-hick town trying to find my crowd. I never did. I decided to get a motel, which proved to be difficult as all of California finest were flocking to the area for the great harvest.
The next day I got a call and was instructed to follow a pin drop and to call a guy named Holden when I was there. I was finally in the woods, my phone directions led me to one dirt road after another. I didn’t see any cabins, or any living quarters, just barbed wire fences on every plot of land with prominent NO TRESPASSING signs everywhere. I passed a couple of guys on ATVs who didn’t smile back. I knew these types of tough guys. I spent my high school years in Elko, Nevada, a small mining town, and they were the cut from the same thread. I got to the approximate pin drop but I didn’t have reception on my phone. I got out of the car, slipped through some barbed wire with a shot up NO TRESPASSING sign, and hiked to higher ground.
As I hiked, I came across valley full of mounds of dirt. These were the remains of the California Gold Rush from the 1850s. I found a nice log to sit on and had one bar to send the text that I was there. I sat in peace and reveled in the historical sentiment and the irony of the current Green Rush taking place on such historical grounds. Out of nowhere, I heard gunshots that were VERY close. I ran back to the car, using gulches and low terrain like a Coyote.
When I got back to the car I was met by a scruffy wild child on a motorcycle. It was Holden. He was shirtless and covered in tattoos that gave the impression he was a rebel.
“You here to trim?”
“And have a good time doing it,” I declared.
“Alright follow me,” he kick-started his bike and ripped down the dirt road.
We went through a gate, which he made sure to lock. Then another gate, which he made sure to lock. He instructed me where to park and showed me the lay of the land. This was my first visit to a farm and there was row after row of beautiful looking cannabis. I felt like Quagmire doing the Giggity Giggity Goo.
Holden showed me the shipping containers they used to hang the cannabis to cure. They had huge fans and dehumidifiers everywhere. There was a separate shipping container for living quarters. Next, we headed towards a makeshift outdoor family room which consisted of two couches cradled around a T.V. that sat on a coffee table all sheltered by a big blue tarp above. There sat Mike – the guy in charge. He was loading a Moke, a mix of marijuana and tobacco, in a bong and watching a Lakers game. Nothing was said. We sized each other up. Three is always an odd number. It felt like the Lord of the Flies biggest dick contest.
Mike took a rip from the bong, “You got snips?” he coughed out as he handed Holden the bong.
“Shit. I didn’t think to bring any.”
Holden interrupted with a laugh, “That’s it you’re fired” he screamed.
“Apologies for Holden. He forgot where he put his social skills.”
“Shit man. I’m sorry,” Holden coughs, “being out here for alone months,” he coughs again, “does something to you.”
Holden passed me the bong, “I better not” I stammered.
They both looked at me like the famous Scooby Doo “Huh?”
“Fuck it. When in Rome.” I took a long hard rip.
“Welcome home buddy. Everything you need is there,” he said pointing to a white tent, “food and drinks are in the shed. I gotta get back to my game.” Mike concluded.
I wasn’t instantly Stoned.
When I reached the tent I was met by three fellow trimmers, two guys and a girl, with their heads down snipping away listening to “Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t” by Brand New. Somehow music can be the biggest icebreaker when people listen to the same stuff you loved in high school, the identity of it, the culture.
“Oh, my tongues the only muscle that works harder than my heart” I sang in a jovial introduction.
We clicked instantly. There was a twenty-something-year-old girl with dreads named Courtney – yes she was cute, Mitch who had a beard so it was tough to make his age but an indication could be the 311 sweatshirt he had on, and a husky brute named Tim in his thirties. I had a strange realization after meeting Tim, that I am subconsciously a Tim hater and usually keep my distance from guys named Tim.
I didn’t want everyone to know I was a noob, so I studied everyone’s trim technique. Everybody had a totally different approach. Mitch started from the top of the buds and was the only one wearing surgical gloves, Courtney the bottom and Tim did it different every time. I picked up some of the buds from Mitch’s bin.
“Lookin good man. What strain is she?” I asked giving her a smell.
“Miss America” Mitch replied.
“I’m getting cold,” Courtney moaned.
She got up and moved her station, which consisted of a Tupperware bin, a tray, and a red solo cup with scissors outside in the sun. I started to gather what I thought I would need; a bin, a tray, a big plastic bag, and a pair of scissors. I headed to the jumbo bin full of Miss America and grabbed a couple stalks.
I took a seat and started to strip the buds and cautiously snipped away. Nobody was watching. Nobody cared. It was cool. But then the paranoid Mr. Hyde set it. I felt them looking at me but every time I looked up they were not looking. I started to think they somehow anticipated my moves and just beat me to the punch and looked down before I could catch them.
I excused myself to the restroom. I took a little stroll and found a nice place to take a piss. Relieving myself in nature is one of my favorite things to do. Somehow that stream connecting to the mana of the earth makes me feel alive. I decided to take my time in the woods. It was nice to be in the great outdoors but I found the mountain range a bit lackluster. It lacked vegetation. It was just trees, pinecones, and dirt.
I approached Mike and Holden on the couch watching the Nuggets v.s. Lakers. “JAMES WITH THE SLAM!!!” Mike sprang from the couch clutching his fists, “ YEAH BABY WELCOME TO THE LAKERS!!!” he roars. I haven’t followed basketball for years as it can become a bit of a ritual time drain, but I was stoked to see Lebron in purple and gold. He only played 15 minutes and collected 13 points, three rebounds, three assists, and two seals. That’s quicker than it takes to get a #1 Delux with three Chick-Fil-A sauces and a Coke.
It was getting dark and the trim crew joined us on the coach to weigh the days trim. They used a scale that measures by the gram. I quickly googled how many grams are in a pound: 453.592.
“Ahhh Courtney so close. An eighth away. An eighth away,” I chimed in support.
Mike perked up, “Really dude? Is this your first rodeo?” he laughed.
All eyes came on me. The laughter was heavy.
“No, I’ve smoked forever. I used to smoke an ounce a week.”
“Well, how many grams were in those ounces?” Mike responded.
“Ah man, I don’t remember. I’d use a calculator. 36?” I guessed.
“28. And multiply that by 16, which is how many ounces are in a pound, and you get 448.” Mike concluded.
“What the fuck? That doesn’t make sense,” I was genuinely confused and too stoned to connect the dots.
“In this world, we round decimals. Makes it easier for everyone. ” He insisted.
“Thought we were weighing pounds by 450?” Mitch snapped.
“Yeah, I know. That’s how Mr. Fink wants to do it.” Mike stressed.
“Why 450?” I asked.
“Don’t ask me,” Mike spat.
“Who is Mr. Fink?” I asked.
Holden chimed in, “He’s the boss.”
“What’s his first name?” I added.
“Nobody knows man,” Holden declared.
“Sounds like a businessman to me. Those grams add up,” I joked.
“He’s a jew, right?” Courtney inquired.
“Aren’t you Jewish?” Mike countered.
“And proud of it,” She proclaimed.
Holden reached for Courtneys necklace and in a Cartman from South Park voice, “Give me your Jew gold.” Courtney gave Holden a good hard slap in the face.
Holden grabbed a shotgun from under the T.V. and in his Cartman voice screams, “OFF TO HUNT FOR THE JEWPACABRA!” and ran out into the woods.
“Kids..” Courtney hissed.
I made an attempt to clear the air, “Have you guys seen the latest South Park episode? It’s fucking great.”
Mike replied in a Randy impression, “Tegridy Farms.” and takes a rip from the bong, “Yep, that’s some good shit.” he said in a Towelie voice.
A couple gunshots rang out in the distance. “God damn it, Holden,” Mike sneered.
“You guys have a campfire setup? Sounds about good right now” I asked.
Mike checked the skyline, “Yeah looks like we have enough cloud cover for one.”
I don’t know what cloud cover had to do with anything. Another gunshot goes off, this time much closer. Holden ran up holding a dead squirrel from its tail and took it to his RV.
We managed to get a good fire going. Holden pulled his truck up next to the fire and started throwing the remains of cannabis stalks after pruning on the fire. There were huge white styrofoam looking blocks in at the root base of every one of them. “What are those things? Can’t be good for us to be breathing in.” I commanded. “You’ll be okay boy scout,” Holden contended.
The fire got to be a little too big for my liking and the little-worried-bitch came out, “No more guys, it’s getting too close to the branches,” I pleaded as I pointed up.
Mike and Holden laughed and exchanged a glance. “Should I show him?” Holden asked Mike.
Mike shrugged. “Come see this,” Holden exclaimed.
He grabbed a spotlight and took me down the hill. He showed me a massive burn area. It was probably fifty yards in diameter. He lit up the sides of the nearby trees there were all dried up and scarred.
“See that. That’s a fire,” Holden proclaimed.
“Holy shit man. You guys are lucky this thing didn’t spread” I said.
“Fink had a bunch of shit to burn,” He replied.
Back at the fire, Mike pulled out a ladder and grabbed a huge makeshift swing, a skateboard base connected by rope to nearby trees, and climbed to the top. He proceeded to swing over the fire. He was good. When he built up enough momentum he would flip upside down over the fire. “SHOW OFF!” Holden barked. When the fire died down it was time to hit the sack.
“You are welcome to my tent,” Courtney offered.
I wasn’t sure if she was coming onto me, “Oh thanks, I got a spread set up in the Element.” I said.
“Suit yourself. There are blankets in there if you get cold” She emphasized.
She joined Holden in his little RV. Either they were an item or she just wanted to stay warm. I ended up freezing my ass off and couldn’t sleep. I helped myself to the blankets she offered. The next day was going all business. I was determined to become a pro trimmer overnight.
I woke up to the sound of a heard of deer running right past me. I gathered my trim supplies and headed out to the couch and sat next to Mike who was doing some trimming himself.
“We kind of have a rule that all trimming must be done in the tent,” he said.
“Oh shit, my bad,” I got up, “I was just wanting to learn from the best,” I replied.
“Sit down man. You’re good. Just make sure you’re in the tent when Fink gets here.” he picked up one of my buds, “this your first time trimming?”
“Why do you say that? I’d be stoked to get a huge bud like that!” I insisted.
“Well first off, Fink likes his shit tight. There is a leaf there. One there,” he took a fresh bud and showed me how tight was tight.
“Ah man you are cutting off the good shit, isn’t that where most of the THC is?” I maintained.
“But it looks good. I don’t necessarily agree but that’s how he wants it. If he saw a bag like that,” he said pointing to mine, “he would make you re-trim it all.”
“It’s a good thing I came to you,” I joked.
“And most importantly, it’s all about yielding the most flower weight,” he broke my huge prized bud in half.
“What the fuck man!” I exclaimed.
“I guarantee you that it would break apart in a bag. See that stem?” he pointed to a massive stem, “That’s undesired weight.”
“Well, guilty as charged. I’m a noob indeed,” I confessed.
“Jesus. Fink must be getting desperate finding trimmers.” He lamented.
“That doesn’t make sense. The town is full of potential trimmers” I noted.
“Do they look like people you can trust?” He said.
I shrugged, “Well at least you don’t have to pay me. I just want to learn.”
Mike laughed, “no wonder Fink likes you.”
“So you mind teaching me the proper trim technique?”
“Everybody has a different approach. But sure, I’ll show you how I do it,” He stated.
Cannabis Trimming Lingo
Mike proceeded to break down the basics and here is the lingo I learned:
Cherry Picking – selecting the fattest buds from the bin and that will make unpopular in the trim circles.
Bucking – bucking down, or removing the cannabis buds from the stalks. Also, a good time to remove remaining fan leaves. However, some people prefer not to buck as it can add more time to the equation. To buck or not to buck, that is the question.
Crows Feet – stems you must trim that can blend in among the flower nodes.
Turkey Bags – plastic trim bags used for storing cannabis and seals off odor and potential moisture.
In summary, I learned that it is all about optimizing time when trimming cannabis. For example, you want to have a few pairs of trimming scissors and it’s a good idea to keep them on rotation in rubbing alcohol because they cake up with resin very quickly. Latex gloves are nice if you want to keep your hands clean, plus the bonus of scoring the resin that sticks. If you are trimming really good bud you have to change them a few times a day. After I learned the art trimming cannabis like a pro, I made my way back to the trim tent and joined the others. Bending over the Miss America I made an effort to mask the fact that I was indeed cherry picking. I had some weight to make up for. Yes, I am competitive.
I found my groove and within a few hours, I had what looked like a pound to me. I weighed it on the scale, 101 grams, I wondered how much longer it would take to reach a pound. I got back to trimming.
I found a seed and held it up, “Hey guys have you ran into any seeds?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s what happens when a male gets too close to a female,” Courtney said.
“They call em’ hermaphrodites,” Mitch added.
“Is there something I should do?” I replied.
Courtney smiled, “Just keep trimming darling,” she insisted.
“So how much are you guys getting paid? Is it by weight or by the hour?” I inquired.
Mitch sighed, “$100 a pound.”
“Is that good?” I added.
“Last year I made $225 per pound,” he hinted.
“It started dropping everywhere since legalization,” Courtney pointed out.
I ended up finding a few more seeds – five in total. Holden brought in a fresh bin, “next up Strawberry Banana,” he proclaimed.
“So in terms of size, are these buds below average, average, or above?” I asked holding up a stalk.
Holden balked a bit, “Borderline average,” he shrugged.
“Borderline above or below?” Mitch cut in.
“Below,” Holden said as he exited.
Mitch seemed relieved, “I am so glad you asked him that. The only reason I made the drive from Los Angeles for $100 per pound was that I was promised all tops with huge colas.”
“colas? What’s that?” I queried.
“The flowering top part of the female cannabis plant,” Mitch held up a stalk, “the top buds.”
“Shit man that’s a bummer,” I took a hit of a joint that was being passed around, “how many days have you been out here?”
“Today is my fourth day. I need to make rent,” he groaned.
“How many pounds have you trimmed?” I asked.
“Probably a little over four. The colas were shit,” he raised a bud and rolled it between his fingers “and it doesn’t help when it’s this dry,” the bud crumbled apart.
Courtney started to laugh, “how about the private chef that Fink said would be here. That’s why I came,” she spouted.
“Hah! You mean Mr. Boyardee” Mitch teased.
“How many hours a day have you been trimming?” I asked.
“A minimum of eight but closer to twelve,” Mitch said.
“Well, at least you get to keep the trim right?” I replied.
Courtney let out a long depressing sigh, “Usually you do. But no. Not here.” Mitch lamented.
Tim didn’t join in the campsite gossip. He kept his head down and continued trimming away. Again, another reason you can’t trust him. The atmosphere was in desperate need of a morale boost and Nickelback’s “Photograph” filling the silence didn’t help.
“Can we listen to something a little more upbeat guys?” I suggested.
“I second the motion,” Mitch confirmed.
“Me too,” Courtney added.
Finally, Tim had something to say, “You guys know the rule,” he asserted.
“Come on man. This shit is driving me insane,” I barked.
“After this album. That’s the rule. We are listening to full albums,” Tim proclaimed.
“Fuck that, this album should come with a razor blade,” I tied up my turkey bag, “I’m done.”
“Don’t forget to weigh it and tag your name on it,” Courtney urged.
I tagged my goods and headed to the couch to play some PUBG mobile on my iPhone – it’s a first-person shooter that is more addicting than crack. I started feeling guilty for the time wasted and the weight of my “to do list” back home was looming. The sun was dropping over the horizon, casting a golden hue over the treeline. I thought of heading back to Los Angeles, I liked the idea of driving at night.
I found Mike and thanked him for teaching me how to trim. I let him know that I was taking off.
“I love cannabis. But trimming just isn’t for me man,” I said.
“It’s all good. At least you didn’t come from another country,” Mike joked.
I said my goodbyes to the crew. I ended up giving my weight to Mitch since he seemed to need it the most. I estimated the profits for Mitch, it was extremely depressing. He was making approximately $12 an hour. However, if he left today, there is about $200 in gas to be accounted for and 12 hours (two days) of unpaid drive time. With that said, he was looking at $4 an hour or $33.33 of profit per day. And that was the best case scenario, as he was trimming more than eight hours per day.
In conclusion, if you are looking to make a quick buck by trimming some cannabis it would probably be best to look into other options, especially if there are travel expenses involved. Moreover, like the rest of the industry ask to see photos if you are promised tops with huge colas. From my experience, which yes is very limited, I would like to suggest that trimmers begin unionizing.
I hit the road. I put on “Welcome Home” by Coheed and Cambria, fuck the whole album shit I was in the mood for a fucking metal orchestra. I felt a relief when I reached the freeway. I couldn’t wait to get back to the organic Matcha sipping non-binary city I love – Los Angeles.