The cannabis industry is growing and is expected to expand at an annual rate of around 17.8% between 2020-2027. In Maryland specifically, that growth translates to millions in tax revenue and thousands of jobs, If you’re interested in carving out a career for yourself in the Maryland cannabis industry, becoming a Master Grower is one way to do so. Here’s what you need to know about the position, from educational requirements and preferred job skills to career outlook.
First, what’s a Master Grower?
A Master Grower, sometimes called a Head Grower, is someone who has the experience and education necessary to cultivate cannabis on an industrial scale. They have in-depth knowledge of the entire life cycle of the cannabis plant, and the light, water, and nutrients various strains require to grow. They can grow both hydroponically and in soil, indoors and outdoors.
A good Head Grower has perfected the art of cloning, and some even know how to breed. They’re instrumental to the success of any grow operation, and need to know how to manage a team, maintain compliance and, above all, grow healthy cannabis on a mass scale.
What’s the training look like?
Since cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, nobody is expecting you to walk into a job interview with a master’s degree in cannabis cultivation. Instead, most Master Growers have a bachelor’s degree or higher in horticulture, agriculture, agronomy, or some other related field. Some colleges and universities, like the University of Maryland Baltimore, offer certificate programs in cannabis science or medicine, which might cover topics like production. States that are further ahead in legalization, like California, Oregon, and Colorado, tend to have more courses available to choose from.
Many Master Growers get their experience on the job. Still, it is important to have the basics down: you need to know everything about nutrient levels, pest control solutions, pH levels, ventilation, vegetative growth, and flowering periods, among other important topics.
What do Master Growers do all day?
A good Master Grower does a little bit of everything and a whole lot of certain things. Cannabis growers can have various levels of education (most have a bachelor’s degree, but some may only have a high school diploma), but regardless of education, most growers have at least five years of experience managing a commercial cannabis growing operation before being promoted to the Master position.
Here is what’s often included in a Master Grower’s day-to-day responsibilities:
- Manage and maintain cannabis grow facility protocols
- Meet production goals
- Hire and train a team of employees
- Analyze and track each strain from seed to harvest
- Document expenses, plant nutrition, and other operations
- Remain compliant with state regulations
- Maintain farm’s quality in terms of crops and personnel
As you can see, Master Growers are expected to perform a variety of tasks and be well-rounded individuals who can work alone and as part of a team.
What skills should a Master Grower have?
As mentioned above, a Master Grower’s skill set is vast. They not only need to understand the ins and outs of a cannabis plant but should also have excellent management, delegation, and conflict-resolution skills. They should be effective communicators and be able to interact with investors, staff, and media.
In terms of physical demands, Master Growers must be physically fit, as they’ll be enduring long periods of sitting, standing, walking, and moving around the facility. Since most production facilities are indoors, Master Growers should have experience working at a greenhouse or indoor farm. They must be able to perform repetitive motions during trimming and harvesting and should be able to lift to 50 pounds.
How much does a Master Grower make?
The answer to this depends on a ton of factors, notably location and experience. For example, a Master Grower with 20+ years of experience who works for a major dispensary in California will make significantly more than an entry-level grower for a start-up in North Dakota. The highest-earning Master Growers can make up to $300,000 a year, while entry-level growers can earn between $60,000 - $90,000 a year. Again, it’s difficult to state a range since so many factors influence an individual grower’s salary.
Unlike other careers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have career outlook projections specific to Master Growers. But, with so much growth anticipated in the industry, we anticipate that the career outlook for Master Growers will remain positive for the time being.
How to find a Master Grower position
The best way to find a cannabis cultivation position near you is to do as much research on the industry as possible, paying special attention to cultivation. Get educated, get certified, and get experience any way you can. If you do get offered a position, you’ll likely need to get licensed in the state in which you work, and your employer may want you to get additional training or certification.
Just remember: a Master Grower’s job is essential to the fabric of the company, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Most Master Growers have decades of experience and still have a willingness to learn. Keep an open mind and happy hunting!