What makes a "master" grower?

When one ponders the label “master grower”, I imagine many preconceived notions come to mind. The term conjures up a lot of emotions in my own heart, as I know it does in the hearts and minds of others. For just one moment, let us put aside the ugly context of the word “master” in the rich, however turbulent tapestry of American history (which alone I feel might be grounds to abandon the term altogether), and just consider what it means to be a master. For a long time, many people, including myself, have held on to the belief that a master is a person who has practiced his or her craft for such a long period of time - usually a decade or more - that he or she has perfected every facet of said craft. Additionally, every trade or craft has a rich tradition of master/apprentice relationship which usually maintains a aptitude measure that ensures that all the pertinent information and practice have in fact been mastered. The craft of legal cannabis farming does not share as long a history as, say, carpentry or plumbing.

Given the the unfortunate and nefarious beginnings from which many of us originated in the craft of cannabis cultivation, there exists no real standard to define a “master grower”. Still, every day I hear the label “master grower” being bandied about so much that it has undoubtedly damaged the very reputation of the word itself.

I think this story finely illustrates my point: I once sat behind the counter of a retail hydro store and listened as a child (for the purpose of definition, if you can’t grow a beard due to young age, you are a child in my book) proclaimed to be a “master grower” to a much older gentleman - who I assumed was about to sacrifice a significant “investment” to a so-called baby “master grower”. When I queried as to the age of this young grow genius, he replied proudly “19”. The infant master grower couldn’t grow a patch of facial hair to save his life, but somewhere in his short life he found time to become a “master grower” of cannabis. Surely, I was sitting before the grow prodigy, nay the marijuana messiah. Needless to say, the term master grower lost most of its meaning at that point.

So, I pose the following questions to you, my fine GNET @memberdirectory, what makes a master grower? Is the title still relevant? Should we keep this as industry vernacular or is it time to abandon this antiquated and largely overused term?

I’ll admit, I still use the master grower title quite frequently…but it does not mean that I have to like it. I am open to alternative suggestions. What language might you prefer to hear?

On another note regarding mastery: My favorite way to master any task: teach the task to someone else.


Wow. Wonderfully written. I’m pondering your questions and points.


Thank you so much for your kind words! I appreciate your pondering and your resultant insight.


I’m glad you asked this question - I think it is important for our industry to address.

My personal opinion is that the term “Master Grower” has never held much value. There are short courses claiming to certify you as a “Master Grower”, people that say you need 10 years experience, and those that say if you can produce 3 lbs per light you are a “Master Grower”. Short of the experience, I don’t think anything qualifies someone as a “Master”.

You may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”…he came to the conclusion that to truly master something you must spend 10,000 hours practicing it. I tend to agree, though who knows if 10,000 hours is the real magic number.

Additionally, a true master of any art will generally not self proclaim the title. Their method, results, and/or ability to teach the art will speak for itself so that other’s will naturally assign the title of “Master” to that person. When you think of a great pianist or violinist do you imagine they went to a class to become great or do you imagine them practicing for hours on end, struggling at times, but learning through those struggles? I believe that for a true master of anything it’s the later.

So we should start to drop the titles, highlight previous experience, and let your work speak for itself. Not to mention - as soon as someone uses the term “Master Grower” to describe themselves, I know they have no real credentials to back it up. That in itself indicates a lack of education around the topic.


Very well written.

First, I have friends in their 40’s who can’t grow a beard, so that part of the story doesn’t hold water with me, but I clearly get the point you were making. haha
I feel the term used to be accurate, especially when describing another grower, but it always gave me pause when someone described themselves that way. Someone calling themselves a “master grower” in the cannabis space is the equivalent of calling yourself a “guru” in the business space. It is a very dated term and if you are using it to describe yourself, then I immediately get mental warning flags going up about everything you are saying. Having said that, there is sadly no effective term to describe someone like yourself @Growernick, that isn’t being diluted by those also using the title without proven results. Does someone who has been growing for decades on their own have less of a title than someone who is working for an “official” operation for a couple years? Where do we place the value of a grower…resume or results…formal education or experience? I don’t know the answer to these questions. All I know is what I consider a grower to be. “True Growers” in my mind are never done learning, never done listening, never done experimenting, never done mentoring the next generation, and rarely call themselves masters. “True Growers” care about the plants, about other growers, about the community, about conservation, about growing ethically, about creating the best product to be enjoyed by all, but most importantly, they let their results speak for themselves. Granted, growers are a unique group, and many can be set in their ways, but ALL great growers that I have been lucky enough to meet and interact with support each other and the industry. And those are the growers I care about and want to see succeed. So whatever you want to be called, I will gladly change my lexicon, just don’t stop exemplifying my definition of a “True Grower”
@IanCaine …please chime in…haha


To borrow from other technical job titles;
Lead Grower - The person in charge of a specific grow
Head Grower - The person in charge of many grows
Chief Grower (aka Botanist/Scientist) - The person at the executive level of a corporation


Without going in depth I think the term “Master Grower” holds no weight and you won’t hear me describing myself or others as such. I like RayWearCC’s term of “True Grower” or maybe something like OG (original grower) that refers to the experience or time that you have been cultivating. Just a thought.


I’m glad I read through this thread. I agree with the structure that @stickydistrict has here. The term “Master Grower” will eventually have a place as the industry grows, and we start to see the cream-of-the-crop growers truly rise to the top and limelight. “Years” don’t always translate to experience, especially when you can legally use and track everything with equipment that was not previously available.


WOW, really well said. “True Growers” in my mind are never done learning, never done listening, never done experimenting, never done mentoring the next generation, and rarely call themselves masters. “True Growers” care about the plants, about other growers, about the community, about conservation, about growing ethically, about creating the best product to be enjoyed by all, but most importantly, they let their results speak for themselves." I would add “That a true leader never has to tell everyone he is a leader, it is self evident!”

Great job Ray!!


A medical dr. Does practice medicine. I have been practing growing full time 60 hrs a week for well over 30 years now, I would never say I am the master of it.
I would say the growing space and plants are master of me.


Hahahaha! @jimdtidrick, my hat goes off to you because that was the greatest synopsis of growing EVER! This wisdom can only be achieved with time! The truth has been spoken: my grow is masters me!

I’d like to quote Thomas Jefferson to complement your oh-so-eloquent response: “I am an old man, but a young gardener

I think the recognition that you will study the craft for your whole lifetime and only begin to scratch the surface of the knowledge out there is where the mastery begins. Everyone who commented on this thread touched on this point.

Thanks for the lively discussion! Do any other growers every feel mastered by his or her grow?


I always assumed it was in correlation to years experience, but even after 15+ years I don’t consider myself a master as it’s nature, the only constant is change, so we’re all learning every day technically.
Everyone carries a different piece of the puzzle.


I couldn’t agree more with that Jefferson quote. After, over, 40 years I’m still “picking up seeds”, when it comes to growing cannabis and I’m a happy learner because “when there is no progress, there is no vision”. This was a great discussion! Thank you for all the input.


Well said, rflasch ! Enjoyed reading this topic, as always.


I believe this would explain the 19 year old “master”.


Wow! That makes perfect sense now! SCIENCE!!! Hahaha thanks @Dewb!


Great topic btw!
I stick to the wise philosophy of Bruce Lee on this one.
He called himself a Student-Master of martial arts.
Student first because he was always learning more.
Master second because he was good enough to teach another person.


Ahhh I like the student master concept, @ShawBee! Shoutout to Bruce Lee!


Yes, Nick, most so-called “master growers” are using 20-year-old technologies within an obsolete paradigm — and they are using them in a shallow and inflexible way, hampered by all sorts of myths and beliefs about Cannabis that reveal a profound ignorance of chemistry, botany, physics, and common sense. “Master grower” is really a political, status-seeking, claim without any objective standards to compare with. As with all political enterprises, what matters is what you can get away with. So be it; let us all listen more carefully to such claims, and poke fun at the poseurs.

  And I agree, one isn't really a "master" until one has taught one's craft to others. And ironically, that's how we experience our own mastery, as we listen and learn from ourselves things we hadn't realized we knew, that we hadn't made explicit and integrated into a system that's replicable.

This may be the best thread on the site. @Growernick, you write with great skill.

A really old grower once told me that until you are my age you are just still a grower. When you reach 90 you may call yourself a master, until then you are still a student of growing.

I like
Apprentice Grower for non degree student.

University graduates in any of the floriculture related fields, I would give the title grower.

Head grower, I reserve for anyone who has enough crops under their belt. That they have made enough mistakes and have learned from them.

Master I reserve for OLD PHD’s in the science of growing and have learn that there is also some art to it.

There is still more science to be a good grower than there is art.

Nelson Coons, said that he was just a red neck flower farmer. He grew commercial violets longer than any person before or since.

L H Bailey and Dr. Beal said of sweet pea growers you are not a Master until you successfully grown every named verity. There is a woman in Colorado who repeatedly beals 1920 field trials of sweet peas and grown every commercial variety as a field trail using the old methods.

The best that most of us can hope to become is the head of our own domain. That does not mean we are smart or successful. But, it could mean we are happy.

Some small few will be true Masters Growers. My guess the universities will still have the bulk of the Masters. You do know a Master when you see, the crop.

As all good growers say, I have room to grow.

The cannabis industry is go to need to work with our universities to see that the new generation of growers have the basic hard sciences to be successful in this new side of horticulture.