By Heather Cabot
When Sierra McDonald decided to pursue horticulture at the University of Georgia, her friends joked she was studying to grow weed. Turns out they were unexpectedly right. Shortly after McDonald graduated, she headed to Arizona and a job with The Giving Tree Wellness Center, where today she earns a legitimate living growing cannabis.
“I think [cannabis] companies are starting to realize, ‘Okay, we need somebody [who is] more than just a closet grower who used to do this twenty years ago,” explained McDonald of why she sees employers like hers seeking out STEM degree holders. Her colleague Kati Lindholm agrees. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Central Florida University and a master’s in plant production science from the University of Helsinki.
“We need someone who can understand scientific reasoning and how a plant actually works and how to control it in a different environment,” Macdonald emphasized on a routine day as they closely tracked the temperature and soil moisture in the maze of pungent grow rooms inside The Giving Tree’s cultivation center in North Phoenix.
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