Trimmigrants Return for the 2016 Harvest Season

Even in many of the largest-scale commercial cannabis cultivation operations, finished bud must be trimmed by hand by a human being. Trimming involves the delicate process of snipping the excess leaves off of buds that requires the human touch. The bud is too far valuable to be wasted inside a mechanism.

Beginning in June and running throughout November, harvest season means big business for those living in the Emerald Triangle. The Emerald Triangle consists of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties in Northern California- the nation’s largest marijuana growing industry. The area hits peak season this year, with an influx of eager trimming migrant workers, called trimmigrants. Most agree that the Emerald Triangle is the world’s best-known marijuana cultivation region.

Ever wonder where your cannabis comes from? As part of the finishing process, every bud must be manicured by hand by an annual flow of migrant workers. Trimming is not for everyone. Trimmigrants can hope to earn $150 to $300 per day, working grueling 10-15 hour shifts. Fast trimmers can expect more, up to $300-500 per day. Trimmigrants work on commission and get paid by the pound. You can expect calloused working hands and an aching back after trimming overtime. Predictably, marijuana use and alcohol use on the clock are not unheard of in the trim camps in Northern California. Despite all of the negative aspects, trimming pays much more than traditional migrant farmer jobs.

The remote geography of the Emerald Triangle provides sufficient stealth for large-scale marijuana crops. Harvest season attracts those who vie for the coveted position as a trimmer.

The job requires nothing more than a pair of scissors, and diligent patience and stamina. They say you move the bud, not the scissors. The trimmings and most other parts of the plants are saved for processing into edibles and extracts.

California’s gold rush has been replaced with the green rush. Some property values in Humboldt and Mendocino counties have tripled. Garberville, a small town of 900, thousands of trimmigrants converge each harvest season. Garberville is considered the gateway to the Emerald Triangle, or at least one of the main entrances. The local communities of Arcata and Eureka are also synonymous with marijuana cultivation, and see the annual flow of migrant workers.

It’s hard to calculate exactly how many trimmigrants make the migration each year, but one estimate puts the number at 150,000, with half of them coming from other countries. The Emerald Triangle supplies a great deal of the illegal marijuana circulating throughout the United States. It’s Mexican counterpart, The Golden Triangle, is composed of the states of Durango, Sinaloa, and Chihuahua. The Golden Triangle, like the Emerald Triangle, supplies massive amounts of marijuana to the surrounding areas.

Some locals have deemed trimmigrants a nuisance, thanks to unwelcome squatter camps and sketchy trim camp set-ups. The Emerald Growers Association is not a fan of unwanted trimmigrants, either. Reveal News recently released an investigative report highlighting tales of abuse that women endured while attempting to work as a migrant trimmer. Locals have said that trimming is a job best reserved for local women. Many single mothers that live in the area depend on trimming to survive. Despite all the negative stories, few trimmers have ever filed to press charges. One should never travel alone into unknown or undocumented marijuana camps.

According to reports, growers openly advertise trimming positions via Craigslist to enlist new trimmigrants. Beware, however, because The Eureka Police Department poses as growers for fake Craigslist ads offering jobs to would-be trimmers. The story is the same on Facebook.

Others have argued that trimmigrants provide a crucial labor force, without which, commercial cannabis cannot exist. Since quality marijuana must be manicured by hand, trimmers are essential to the operation. Trimming is definitely no dream job, and requires the same skills you’d need in any other similar agricultural position.

With new automated trimming machines being developed, trimming could eventually   become a thing of the past. Rotary trimmers and hand held trimmers are making an entrance. Time will tell if hand-trimming will last another generation. This November is different, because California will vote on recreational marijuana which will drastically change the way of life for grow operations in Northern California.