“It was kind of an accident,” Krista tells me during an interview at her grow. “I had a friend who was working in a grow and asked if I could help him out over the summer. And now I’ve been doing it for eight years.” It’s a story we hear all the time: someone with no formal agricultural training starts growing almost on a lark. They start as trim crew or even cleaning staff that’s helping flip rooms after a harvest.

Krista went on to win Best Terpenes in our 2018 Colorado competition and her dispensary, Simply Pure, can’t keep the strain on the shelves.

I get at least five messages a day from people who want to get into the cannabis industry. I would venture to say that 80% of them want to be budtenders. “Why?” is always my first question. Don’t get me wrong: the world needs great budtenders. I spent years in the business trying to train some truly great ones. But there’s a cap on what you can do on the retail side of cannabis.

Working the “back of the house” has a litany of different jobs that need to be done on a daily basis. On a single day someone can be responsible for cutting clones, transplanting veg plants, then watering. The next day they could have low stress training, trellising, and spraying on the menu. It’s an incredibly varied job and people that are self-motivated and fast learners excel in this type of position. At every step there are basic agroscience techniques to learn that have application across plant species.

“It is very physical. A lot of people have the thought that we just come in and put some water on plants and look at them grow and that’s it,” says Krista. “You have to pay attention to a lot of different aspects. Lighting. Heat. Position. Everything counts.”

When you invest seven figures into a facility, the first tendency is to think you need a lifetime horticulturalist to come in and take the reins. I always like to remind people that finding someone who has broad knowledge of cannabis is an underrated team member, no matter what their background.