The final step in the crop cycle is trimming. This means removing the green leafy plant matter, leaving only trichome-covered flowers – the good stuff. This was traditionally performed with small trim scissors and rubber gloves to keep the resin off the hands. This is still widely used to achieve the highest quality product, either directly after bucking or sometimes after an initial pass through a trim machine that removes the majority of leaf matter so the trimmer can work more efficiently. There are a lot of variables to consider with cannabis trimming because, as mentioned before, it removes a lot of weight and, therefore, can change the overall yield of saleable flowers by degrees. Important to note here that trimming produces two products – the finished flower as well as shake or “trim.” How the process is conducted results in varying degrees of quality for each.
We once hired a mixed-mechanized trim crew to process our entire harvest. We agreed on a price per pound, and then they brought in their custom machine and a supplemental crew to perform the finished work (although this was the bench team – the main crew was all at Burning Man!). They utilized the machine as much as possible to expedite the process, as they were paid by the pound; the sooner they finished, the more money they made per hour. After a few days, we noticed quite a bit of bags of shake next to the bags of finished flowers (which also appeared, on average, too small) – the ratio didn’t seem right. A review of the system found that the process of trimming had netted under 45% saleable flower from the bucked weight. We had lost a significant weight which, even at modest prices, meant thousands of dollars. This experience gave us a laser focus on the trim process. It is a complicated intersection between efficiency, quality, available labor, standing orders, and time.
Trimming machines are almost all variations on a drum tumbler that roll the material around. There are blades or very small wires on the outside of the drum that remove leaf matter, and the actual contact of flower on flower rolling around likewise removes leaves. There are a ton of options out there. They start at around $5,000 in cost. Once you get into the more expensive models, there are options to set up more of an assembly line flow with conveyors and sorters as add-ons. We have purchased and used several of the cheaper options, which worked acceptably for our needs. We have also seen and used some of the very expensive models and were impressed. The size and cost of the unit should correspond to your scale.
Spreading Labor Out
Sometimes trimming slowly is a good thing. When you want to keep your crew busy through the winter months, trimming can be a big help – or sometimes the only task at all! As stated above in Storage – material that is to be stored for longer periods of time should be dried and stored still “on the stick” to preserve the flowers’ quality. We have found that keeping a large harvest throughout the offseason is a great way to help alleviate the seasonal aspect of work that makes keeping good employees around so difficult for small farms.