Growing Professionally: Life At The Pot Factory
Do you know what it’s like to grow cannabis professionally? Growing cannabis isn’t as easy as smoking a bowl and watering the plants in your underwear; professional cannabis growers are held hostage to their crops and their plants day and night, monitoring and inspecting and measuring, on constant alert for anything that might threaten their crop or their next harvest. Sound terrifying? It’s not. It is a lot of responsibility though.
I chatted to Jordan and JZ from The Pot Factory in Bellingham, Washington about their lives as professional recreational cannabis growers and got a rundown of what the day of a grower looks like—for these guys, it’s all about the plants!
How many full time growers are currently on your team?
Two full time growers; one person is owner/operator/grower, the other is nursery supervisor/janitor.
What time does your day as a legal cannabis grower typically start and finish?
Because BioTrack (BioTrackTHC, the inventory program used) can be accessed from home, we start at dawn and go till dusk. But generally, we start at the Factory at 7:30am and go till 6:00pm.
What does a ‘typical’ day in The Pot Factory look like to you? What tasks need to be taken care of to ensure the cannabis plants stay alive and hardy?
There is a lot to do on the computer: logging into Biotrak and creating manifests, samples, weights. There is always cleaning and maintaining of equipment and constant watering, harvesting, trimming and pruning of the plants. Meetings and phone conversations take up a lot of time as well.
When you walk into The Pot Factory every morning, what do you need to take care of first?
First, we inspect the flower room to make sure everything is functioning properly. Are the lights on? A bulb may have burnt out and that would require our attention. Have any plants fallen over? Despite all the trellis we use, some of our strains grow so tall that some branches may just break off. Are there any water leaks? Is there anything that requires immediate attention? Next we check the veg room. We have 15 mother plants that can get quite large and may fall over night. Again, I’ll check that there are no puddles and that everything is still standing.
When you leave each day, what do you need to ensure is taken care of?
We have to empty the dehumidifiers in drying room, weigh the daily waste (that consists of wet leaves), print labels for waste, turn off all pumps, secure all interior doors, turn on any fans that were not used during the day, secure the exterior doors and set the alarm system.
What are your responsibilities each day? What do you need to do daily to keep the cannabis plants happy and healthy?
Of course watering with our special recipe of nutrients is really important and is a priority. We refill and mix water daily. We inspect all of the carts in flower room to check for any pests, over or under watering, and for downed plants. The veg room plants need constant pruning and attention. They go from clones, which we make ourselves from the large mother plants, into four inch pots, to 4×8 carts over the course of two months, so there is transplanting going on daily.
What is your schedule like to get all your tasks completed?
We have a weekly schedule. Monday is catching up on the computer work and turning over carts (remixing the soil) that have been harvested and need to be prepared for another batch of plants.
Tuesday we prune four carts in veg and four carts in flower. We also trellis any new carts and existing ones that need it; that means supporting the growing plants as they get heavier.
Wednesday we move all the carts in the facility to make room for the four new carts that we plant each week. We sweep and mop all floors at this time too. Its exhausting, we have a 10,000 sq ft facility!
Thursday we plant four carts and prepare samples for testing.
Fridays we clone. All days of the week we are also harvesting carts, dry trimming and weighing and packaging cannabis. We have one full time employee to wet and dry trim, but we often assist in that too because the pot can pile up! We process our waste weekly and clean reservoir barrels as well. We clean all the fans monthly and periodically do things like replace water filters, replace hoses. We reuse our soil up to four times, which means every four months or so we clean out carts completely and scrub them down for a fresh start.
What is your favorite part of each day as a cannabis grower?
It’s going to work! We both love our job! Everyday there is a new challenge. Is the humidity ideal? Could the watering system be better? And “working the dirt” is so calming and therapeutic.
JZ: My personal favorite is Thursday when I can clear shelves of four inch pots in veg and plant them into a cart. It’s where all of the hard work of cloning, pruning and transplanting has paid off and now we can just watch the babies grow into massive cannabis plants with huge buds!
What are the challenges you face each day as a cannabis grower?
Jordan: Making time for everything that needs to get done, and not knowing the future. Not only of the cannabis industry in general, but whether or not we will be successful. Anything could happen to destroy us at any moment. There could be a major power outage or an infestation that could destroy our whole crop. We have not had any major financial backing so we need to produce as much as possible to maintain our business.
If you weren’t growing cannabis, what would you guys be doing for a job? If you could choose any job in the cannabis industry, what would you like to be doing?
Jordan: I’d be pouring concrete full time and would be absolutely miserable.
JZ: I fear I would be forced to bartend again or would have to go back to being a courier for Fedex. I often try to think of a job that would be better than this, and I cannot think of one! I know Jordan would like to be more hands on with the actual growing but until we can make more product and therefore make more money, he has to do all of the business side as well as all of the growing tasks. Neither of us would like to have any other job in the industry. Being pot farmers is what we love best!