NEVADA CITY, Calif. - During the fall, in the quaint corners of Nevada City, California, a unique seasonal business has been budding. It’s almost entirely illegal, and draws new faces to town from all over the globe.
It’s harvest season for marijuana growers all across the state. They need extra hands to trim leaves and stems from the bud. So, hundreds of visitors from out-of-state and abroad, known as “trimmigrants,” are more than happy to help.
Rita Fuenzalida runs Java John’s, a coffee shop in downtown Nevada City. She doesn’t mind when the trimmigrants come through.
“It’s kind of dead in here,” Fuenzalida admitted to KTXL. “So when the trimmigrants come into town, it’s a business boom.”
But while these visitors are welcome to come, technically they’re not welcome to work. Visitors like Victor, who we’re identifying with a false name.
“It’s important to make this money now in this season, because it’s quite illegal, our situation,” said Victor.
"It's quite illegal, our situation." Victor is from Spain. He, like many other trimmigrants, heard about Nevada City from his friends abroad.
“I need this money to continue to travel,” said Victor. “Now in this moment I’m searching for work for trimmers, you know?”
Unsure what the going rate is this year, Victor says he heard some trimmers make anywhere from $1000 to $3000 a month. They work 10 to 15-hour shifts per day.
Most of the people in the Nevada City area know trimming happens, but it’s still largely under the table. There’s no signup sheet. People who are looking to trim line up outside of bars, taverns, and markets, waiting for someone to come offer them work.
Duane Strawser, Mayor of Nevada City, told KTXL that “the only people hiring them are the out of town illegal grows, because they want the cheapest labor they can find.”
Mayor Strawser called the trimmigrants a nuisance. He says petty crimes rise during harvest season. He also says that big groups of immigrant travelers set up illegal camps, and leave piles of garbage behind. He’s hoping come January, when recreational pot becomes legal, more regulation statewide will naturally phase out the illegal workers.
“These same folks hit Colorado a few years ago and got pushed out,” said Strawser. “Then they hit Oregon and got pushed out. Now they’re coming here.”
But as long as there’s bud to trim, and not enough hands to trim it, people like Victor will be willing and waiting—scissors in hand.