Trimmigrants- Our adventure in Marijuana land

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Harvest season in Northern California is a hot destination for travelers looking to find work and make some cash in the ever-growing medical marijuana industry. After a long summer of outdoor growing, cannabis farmers have a large amount of product that needs to be trimmed and manicured before it can be sold. Most farmers hire trim crews to get the job done quickly and efficiently. This is the story of our highly irresponsible adventure in Marijuana land.

 

After working a summer season in Alaska, Gabby and I wanted to pad our wallets a bit before heading off to expensive Summit County, Colorado for the winter. We’d heard stories of a few friends and numerous friends-of-friends who’d made a quick stack of cash trimming marijuana in northern California at harvest time. So we packed up our car with everything we’d need for a winter in Colorado and headed south to Humboldt with the intention of becoming “trimmigrants”.

We made cardboard signs with pictures of scissors on them, hung signs with pull-off-tabs including our phone number, and talked to LOTS of other travelers out on the road. We camped our way south through Arcata, Eureka, and Fortuna before finally landing in Garberville on our 3rd day of looking for work. Our first evening in Garberville was a lot like the previous days; we’d hold our signs on the side of the road or on the freeway exit ramp and smile at the cars that drove by, wondering all the while what they were thinking of us as they passed.

 

That night, our 3rd evening with no work, we talked over our plan for the next day. Should we stay in Garberville for another day? Would we have better chances in the morning? Or should we head northwest out towards Grass Valley where we’d heard there was more work? We decided to stay in Garberville, at least for the first part of the day, and then regroup again around lunchtime.

 

The next morning we got up early and found a great spot. We held out our signs and smiled optimistically as the big trucks rolled by, hoping someone would stop and pick us up for work. After a few hours we decided to move to the center of town, across from the grocery store. Within a half hour, a big black truck pulled up and the driver flagged me over to the grocery store parking lot. He asked if we had supplies, previous experience, and if we were police officers “you have to tell me if you are,” he joked. I explained that we’d never trimmed before, but that we were eager to learn and had brand new scissors. I told him we had our own car and food and that we were willing to work for a couple of days or a couple of weeks depending on how things went. He said he’d bring us up to the farm for a few days and we could figure out how long we wanted to stay. We were thrilled.

He warned us that it was a bit of a drive to the farm, and told us to fill our gas tank. Soon we were following him out of town and up the mountain. As we tried to keep up with the big black truck, we talked about everything, including the possibility that we could be driving into a very dangerous situation. After 40 miles of carefully guiding our extremely full car up the narrow winding mountain road in the dark, we finally reached the farm.

The boss showed us where to set up our tent, introduced us to the trim crew manager, and brought us into the trim house for a quick tutorial on how to manicure buds. We were introduced to the crew, a friendly group of varied age and nationality. There were a few Europeans, two French Canadian boys from Quebec, a couple of punk rockers and their 2 dogs from Oakland, and two eighteen year old California flower children.

 

For the next 9 days, we spent 10 to 15 hours a day trimming a variety of strains from Blue Dream, to Sour Diesel to Green Crack. Each strain had its own characteristics; some batches were easier and faster to trim while others would require more precise, delicate, slow trimming. The trim house was a large four-stall garage, but during the daytime we’d sit outside in our chairs and trim in the sun. We would get started shortly after getting up and smoking breakfast, then trim until after midnight; taking breaks to eat, go to the bathroom, or smoke a doobie as needed. I even learned to juggle in the breaks I took from trimming.

We’d all hang out and listen to music together, we’d chat, or play games to pass the time while we trimmed in a circle. Someone would roll a joint and pass it around to anyone who felt like stopping for long enough to take a hit; others would just let it pass. By the fourth day on the farm we ran out of music; we found ourselves dusting off the files we could barely even remember syncing to our iPods.

Living on a pot farm was a totally new experience for both of us. We both have plenty of experience with marijuana, but never before on the scale we saw in Humboldt. We had no idea what to expect going into it, but we were surprised to find how normal the family who owned the farm was. Despite living 40 miles from the nearest one-stoplight-town, they were a regular family with kids and pets. Stephanie, the wife, was busy collecting eggs from the henhouse, baking (non-medicated) brownies for her son’s school bake sale, and managing a trim crew while her husband worked out in the fields all day managing the grow team. They would bring us a bowl of fresh eggs every morning, and, one night, even made us a family meal of chicken soup with “home grown” chicken.

 

We had to leave the farm a couple of times to go back into town to do laundry, get more food/supplies, and use the internet/cell phone reception. Our laundry was covered in tiny pieces of trimmed weed and hash and stunk up the whole laundromat. There was nothing we could do about it. The good news is that the smell eventually did fade. It was a great feeling to call our parents and let them know that we were doing well and vaguely explain our work. They were always happy to hear from us and were careful not to ask any questions they didn’t want the answers to.

The real problem we were beginning to face was our lack of living situation in Colorado. We’d been having a hard time finding a place that would offer us a six-month lease in the area we needed to live in. Being on the farm without internet or cell phone reception also made it extremely difficult to communicate with the potential landlords we were finding on craigslist. We actually missed out on two possible apartments because we were out of service. Eventually, we had to leave the farm in order to head out to Colorado and find an apartment.

On the last morning we packed up our things, said goodbye to our newly found friends, settled up and got paid, then headed down the mountain for the last time with huge smiles on our faces. We’d fulfilled our dream of heading out to Humboldt and becoming trimmigrants. The money we’d made was a huge help in financing the rest of our trip. When we got out to Colorado, we found a house within two days and started our jobs a few days later.

Although trimming marijuana isn’t a job for everyone, we had an amazing experience. If you’re not comfortable going without a shower or a proper toilet for a few days you might want to just stay home. What we did had the potential to be very dangerous; we paid close attention to the situations we were in, evaluated risks, and watched out for each other all the time. We learned a lot about the process of growing marijuana, about the life of a trimmigrant on the road, and about how much we could live without for a few weeks.

I know you have questions about this; I’ll do my best to answer them all in the comments. When I was looking into trimming, I read every blog I could find and each one only led me to more questions. Ask away.

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47 Responses

  1. Nayelli
    | Reply

    Hi! I’ve read this article, I want to get a job trimming marijuana. Do you have any contact? I think to go California in september this year.

    • admin
      | Reply

      Thanks for reading! Unfortunately, due to the nature of the business, I can’t freely give out contact information. If you want to work as a trimmer, I would greatly recommend reaching out to friends and friends of friends for contacts. You can also get creative and post your services on craigslist. 🙂 Good luck!

  2. Nathan
    | Reply

    Hey. Awesome story 🙂 can I ask the rate per pound? And how much you were able to trim per day?
    Thanks!

    • admin
      | Reply

      We were paid $200 per pound and I was able to trim about a pound a day with the weed we were working on. A lot of it depends on how that particular plant breaks down. Not all weed is created equal, sometimes it feels like you’re working forever and your bag just doesn’t fill.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Kay
    | Reply

    So how early should I start looking for trim work? Will there be any work before October? And any tips on where to go and who to talk to if I literally have zero connections?

    • admin
      | Reply

      The time to start looking is now!

      If you have zero connections you can always hit the highway and find some. Once you get to Humboldt you’re going to see a lot of other people holding signs and looking for work. I’m not going to recommend it, but it worked for me.

      Check out places like Arcada, Eureka, or Garberville. Try to think like a grower…growers drive a long way to get to town, once they get there they need to get supplies, do laundry, buy groceries…etc. Look for the big trucks with tanks and equipment in the back.

      Be safe, be resourceful, and invest in good karma.

  4. I’m glad you had great luck finding a gig in Humboldt. I lived in Arcata for years and definitely took advantage of the easy money you get from trimming, but I’m still on the fence about the entire industry. Over the years out there I witnessed ignorance, waste, and total disrespect for the environment from both farmers and “trimmigrants” alike. There are exceptions, of course, I’m not meaning to generalize, but it was far more often than I was comfortable with. I hope everyone in the industry can find a healthy (and legal) balance someday.

    It is a beautiful little corner of the country, though, huh?

    • admin
      | Reply

      I absolutely love Humboldt, and you’ve got a heck of a grocery store there in Arcata. Hopefully the industry improves over the next several years after some actual legislation happens.

      In terms of trimmigrants, there’s no need to feel like you’re generalizing. We’ve both seen first hand the various types of “trimmigrants” you run across. Unfortunately, the more unsightly ones tend to be the ones you notice.

      It’s definitely a unique place. The people there are such a trip.

  5. Briana and Kyle
    | Reply

    That is a pretty interesting experience!

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Interesting to say the least…So many stories from this trip!

  6. Becki Zu
    | Reply

    Hey LocalNomads,I actually pictured the story and felt like I was there (LOL), wow amazing! what do you think about trimmigrants from other countries, I am from Costa Rica and I am so interested in going to Humboldt, we are 6 people that want to go and see if there is any luck, do you think we all can get a job easily? do you think the growers will look at us as potential trimmers? we have no contacts in US at all, all what we know is that some guy tried it and it worked for him,but we can’t find the guy! (lol) anyways, thanks so much for sharing and I hope you and your friend have a lot more of these adventures.. Pura vida 😀

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Thanks so much for your comment, Becki! You might be surprised to hear this, but actually about 50% of the trimmers we’ve worked with were not americans. We’ve met people from Brazil, Thailand, France, Canada, Mexico, Chile…the list goes on and on! The hardest part is finding a job though. It can be very difficult to find work if you don’t have any connections. We’ve met other trimmers who have waited on the side of the road for 2 weeks before they found work. I would recommend that you try to find connections through craigslist ahead of time so you don’t end up wasting your money traveling to California just to end up broke at the end of the season. On the other hand, there’s a lot of work to be done and trimmers are in high demand so anything can happen. Good luck and Pura Vida!

    • Mr reynolds
      | Reply

      I’m really excited about all this story I was on the USA like 2 times whit jobs opportunity but was only summer job I’ve never had idea about this IN CA I’m going back again this year whit a new job offer but this time I will make that travel to CA and see if I have some luck

  7. lindapowell09@gmail.com
    | Reply

    Hi, I found your experience reasurring, as an open minded mother of a son working in eureka trimming. But I am worried the first two weeks I heard from him late both weekends, but another two weeks later, I have not heard from him. How is easy is it to get hold of a mobile phone there, as he is Irish but was in Australia and traveled from Melbourne to California and only has an Aus phone. Not overly alarmed, but the mammy in me has concerns. Glad you had a great time, thanks for any help u can give me.

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      I’m sure he is doing just fine! It’s great that he found some work, that’s the hardest part. Once you get up to the farm though, it can be difficult to get back into town to make phone calls…days away from the farm equals money not earned. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Jose
    | Reply

    Hey thanks for writing this piece. It is definitely the best I’ve read so far. My brother and I are looking to go in this crazy adventure. We are from Venezuela, he’s living in Costa Rica and I’m living in Montreal. For what I’ve read it seems like we are close to this years season. So I was wondering if you have any suggestions or any tips or maybe little details that you want to share. Thanks in advance.

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Jose! There will definitely be plenty of work starting within the next few weeks and continuing through November! My advice is always to keep a clean appearance, buy drinks for locals in small town bars, and keep positive thoughts! I would recommend towns like Redway, or Willow Creek, the smaller the better.

  9. Lisa
    | Reply

    Enjoyed your story, am thinking of giving it try with my hubby. Lifes an adventure!

    Happy to hear it all worked out for you.

    Peace

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Lisa! Glad you enjoyed our story. I hope everything works out well for you. Not every story in Humboldt county is a good one, but if you’re smart, and careful you will be just fine! Good luck on your trip 🙂

  10. Holly
    | Reply

    Love all of these comments and questions!! We can make a difference with this amazing plant!

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Thanks Holly! You’re so right, this plant has the ability to change the minds and lives of so many people. If we’re open about cannabis in public forums more people will have the opportunity to have their own minds opened as well.

  11. akon
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for the story!
    I’m from Asia and I heard about the trimming job thing from some fellow travelers during my last central america trip, so I decided to go California this season to give it a try!
    Now that I’ve already book the fly ticket to SF in this month I start to worry a little bit about the hard part: getting the job with out connections. And that’s why I start to check online and reached your post 🙂
    Have you met solo female trimmers or can you give me some suggestion on getting the job as a solo female traveler?
    Also I’m wondering from SF hitchhike all the way to around Arcata and wait or start to try from around Ukiah….

    Any info will be appreciated! Thanks again for sharing!

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Hi there Akon! As far as getting up to Arcata from SF, i would highly recommend checking out the ride share section on Craigslist. Hitch hiking is not too difficult either though. Once you get there try to find some other trimmers to join up with in the search for work, lots of times the farms need more than one person. Buying drinks for locals in bars can help a lot, i recommend the smallest towns. Places like Willow Creek, Redway, and Weaverville are all great. Route 299 is well known for its farms. Good luck on your trip, send me an email if you have any more questions I can answer for you.

  12. josue
    | Reply

    is good idea to gon on your own car?

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Definitely! Although it’s not absolutely critical, having a car will make the entire trip easier. A 4 wheel drive vehicle would be best, but also, not entirely necessary. Good luck!

  13. Valeria
    | Reply

    Hello! Your post really helped me to open my mind about the trimming idea.. my boyfriend is very excited about going to california, but im worried about the security, how safe it is? We’re from mexico and we have visas, but not the permission to work in the usa.. i dont know if is very necessary to have it.. And i was worried about how the enviroment was, and what type of people are normally working in this type of work! Thanks for the post

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      There are many varied experiences in this area. Most people have a wonderful time, although some will not. Northern California is a generally safe place, despite what you may have read; and you’ll find many other kind travelers doing the same thing as you. We’ve met so many beautiful people while doing this kind of work. Good Luck!

  14. Sandra
    | Reply

    Ehi good post !!!
    But is not dangerous for self safety?
    What are dangerous problem we can met?
    Sandra

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Sandra, there are plenty of other blog posts out there that discuss the safety issues of this type of work. If you’re not prepared to take some risks then maybe this isn’t the job for you. I’d encourage you to do a lot of research before attempting to do anything like this and certainly don’t base your decision on this blog post alone. Maybe find someone you know who’s done this before and ask them about their experience.

  15. josue
    | Reply

    I read your whole article I found very interesting and informative, I will travel to California on my car and would like to know where I should start ,I am very sociable.does really work susing signs? or talk to the local of the area Ive been using craiglist ro contact people does it work? any idea of how to recognize a potential employee?

    your experience has been very useful for my many thanks

  16. ozil
    | Reply

    I read your whole article I found very interesting and informative, I will travel to California on my car and would like to know where I should start ,I am very sociable.does really work susing signs? or talk to the local of the area Ive been using craiglist ro contact people does it work? any idea of how to recognize a potential employee?

    your experience has been very useful for my many thanks

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      I wish you good luck on your adventure! We had good luck with signs in Garberville 3 years ago, but these days Garberville is very crowded. I think that Route 299 is better now. Smaller towns are better! You can also try buying drinks for locals at the bars and making conversation. Someone will probably help you out, especially if you have a clean appearance and seem trustworthy. Craigslist can be dangerous because police may use it to target trimmigrants. See this article: http://www.northcoastjournal.com/humboldt/trimmigration-sting/Content?oid=3787355

  17. Jon
    | Reply

    Hi there! Thx for all the information! I was wondering if it could help to get a bicycle to look for work around towns. We were planning to buy a cheap car but I got my driving license stolen si this is no more an option…

    Thank you!

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      I would highly recommend you check out route 299, the smaller the town the better off you will be. You might have some luck teaming up with other people who are trying to do the same as you, that way if one person makes a connection they can share it with you. Try buying drinks for people in the small local bars, the odds are in your favor of finding someone in the industry. Also, try to keep a clean appearance, it’ll set you apart from the others, you can find shower facilities at the campgrounds along the way 🙂

  18. Marc
    | Reply

    Hi guys

    Im a ozzie travelling and obviously want to make some money. My question is about season. I planning on flying start of november and leave end of december. Do you think that its a ok time to do this or a bit late since i have no contacts. Also i will fly into sanfansico so i assume this would be the best place to arrive? I understand you cant give me a contact but does craiglist really work if i post a ad??? Your help is appricated and you can find my ig under marc_vecchio which i been doing alot of travelling!

  19. Kamara
    | Reply

    Hi Gabby and Adam and thanks for your story! VEry helpful.
    I found out about these jobs only a month ago and want to try it too. I’m in Sweden and searching for some sort of contact. I’ve traveled a lot and now I’m turning 61 this autumn, I’ve become a bit more … how hmm shall I say, wanting just a little bit more comfort and structure and peace and quiet than before, but still on a low budget.
    Wonder if it will be too late to go this year, I can’t leave for some weeks. Someone told me the season actually goes on past November, practically all winterapparently… in some places. Maybe in other states…? Is this true?

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      If you ask me, I would say it’s a bit too late for this year. As far as I’ve seen in my limited scope, things are usually wrapping up by the end of November and farms typically have their crews locked down by then. It’s a big risk to take.

  20. Kamara
    | Reply

    Thanks for another helpful answer, that’s more or less what I thought. Great photo of you with the horses! Wish you luck on your next adventure! 🙂

  21. Whitethorn Resident
    | Reply

    Hi All, As a Humboldt County resident and property owner for over 20 years I am very worried about the many seasonal travelers who come to our area looking for work completely unprepared. This is a very remote area and the weather is often harsh and unpredictable. There are no legal camp grounds in Garberville itself and the illegal campgrounds have lots of problems and are not safe. People actually disappear here all the time! Articles like this one are dangerous because they make it seems so easy to find work. There is work but come prepared, I’ve rescued several unprepared people this season already. Also there are not many stores here, don’t expect to buy all your camping gear here, it’s very expensive. And be safe.

  22. Anthony M
    | Reply

    Hi there! So I am a little apprehensive about posing my information on craigslist up on craigslist. Is there a safer route for a guy with no connections at all? I loved your article BTW. I’m on a fishing boat in Alaska and I absolutely want to go. My contract ends in June.

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Thanks for reaching out, Anthony! You should definitely go! I would definitely recommend against posting your information on craigslist. We had no contacts our first year, and we were able to find work by rolling up to town with our car and all of our gear. We found a conspicuous spot that was out of the way and waited. The smaller the town the better. There are some good small towns along highway 299 between Arcata and Redding. Be prepared for it to take a few days. It’s cool to hear you’re in Alaska. Gabby and I spent 2 summers working in Skagway! There’s also a lot of work in Skagway around that time too. Feel free to contact us through the contact page if you have any other questions. You can also check out this blog post for more information on the type of gear you’ll need. 🙂

  23. Kevin
    | Reply

    Hi, I’m very interested in going this season of Trimming but I do not know when it starts? And how long before you recommend me to arrive? My idea was to arrive at the beginning of July to Ukiah or Willits, to be an American citizen? Thank you

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Hi Kevin, There’s really no need to be an american citizen for this work. Nobody will be interested in your paperwork 🙂 July is a good time to arrive. I would recommend you read through the comments on this post to see some of the other questions I’ve answered. I also have another post that might be helpful for you here I wish you the best of luck. Have fun, be prepared, be safe!

  24. Anthony C
    | Reply

    Uoah!! Thank you very much for sharing your experience!! I think it’s very important to keep in mind where, why and with who you are. Of course, if you’re not in home it must be an adaptation process, without that it’s going to be impossible to feel good wherever you are! But if you have motivation, energy and clear ideas… my friend, no one can stop you! I’m planning to cross Atlantic to put myself there in CA, and discover the New World!!! And for sure trimming is a really good chance to finance it. But would be great to have some references before departing, it would make it much easier. Do you know if there are some kind of associations or cooperatives of farmers, to directly get in contact with them?

    Again, thank you very much for sharing such an experience!!!

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      This industry has been searching for a way to organize trustworthy professional trimmers to make the whole thing safer for everyone. But to my knowledge, no such organization exists at this point. The best thing you can do is find a friend who has connections on a farm, or simply show up to california and start meeting people on your own. Location is the biggest thing. For finding trimming jobs you want to find the smallest towns possible. When you arrive you need to start meeting and having conversations with as many people as possible. If you’re in the right places, like Willow Creek for instance, you’ll have no trouble finding marijuana workers. Exchange contact information with people so if their farm has any openings they can contact you. I would recommend taking a read through the other comments on this thread as there are some useful tips about choosing a location and finding work in there. Thanks for reaching out, it seems like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. With the right attitude nothing can stop you! Go for it, and keep us posted on your progress. Best of luck, Anthony!

  25. Stuart Clayton
    | Reply

    Hello. Thank you for the excellent information here and on your other posts. My plan is to get to Willow Creek and explore route 299 to find a farm to work at. Can you give me some advise about the best time to arrive there. I was thinking around September 25th. Would earlier be better? Many thanks, Stuart

    • LocalNomads
      | Reply

      Hey Stuart!
      Sept. 25th is probably a pretty good time to show up. Maybe a week before, or a week after. The best thing I can tell you to do is keep an eye on the weather. They tend to harvest as soon as the rain hits around that time. It’s like one last boost of growth from the rain and then they chop em down. Good Luck and Happy Harvest!

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