Cannabis on Campus: DVC Horticulture Offers New Career Track Where “Master Growers” Can Earn Six Figures


Photo by Michael Fischer from Pexels

Jenny Orme, Staff

Back in 2016, the year that California legalized marijuana, Forbes magazine reported that master growers of cannabis could potentially command six figure salaries. The Cannabis business has exploded since then, and schools like Diablo Valley College are now finding ways to get on board by offering new career tracks to students.

“Jobs in the cannabis industry in California are anticipated to skyrocket,” said professor Bethallyn Black, chair of the Horticulture Department at DVC. In response, her department will soon be introducing a new certificate program to help meet the growing demand for skilled workers in the industry.

 Working in collaboration with the Business Administration Department, Black has spent the last three years developing four new certificates to prepare and train students for entrepreneurship and employment in the horticulture industry. One of these is the Master Grower Certificate of Achievement, which specifically addresses the market’s need for more master cannabis growers.

 The master growers program includes small business management, entrepreneurship and venture management, bookkeeping and marketing classes combined with horticulture classes such as nursery and greenhouse practices, and controlled environment growing. 

The controlled environment growing class, taught by professor Michelle Eyestone, covers hydroponic systems for growing plants, a method common to indoor cannabis farming. However, because DVC is a drug-free campus, and cannabis remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the plants raised here are basil and microgreens, with learned skills transferable to other plants such as cannabis and hemp. According to Black, the security requirements would be daunting if cannabis were grown on campus. 

At some time in the future, Black said the Horticulture Department will be creating a specific cannabis training certificate with classes in horticulture, culinary arts, extraction and more. Even at that time, she reiterated, cannabis will not be grown in campus greenhouses.

Currently, the only class offered at DVC directly related to the cannabis industry is Starting Your own Industrial Hemp Business (BUSMG 150 IH-3732), taught by professor Michael Miller. Offered for the first time this spring on an experimental basis, it has a full enrollment of 34 students.

Last November, in order to best serve students and ensure compliance with all legal requirements, DVC established a Cannabis Planning Group. Their purpose is to advise on the development of legal cannabis/hemp-related programs that meet the community college mission of workforce development for students. Membership in the group includes faculty, students, staff and administrators from DVC and its sister colleges in the district, as well as legal counsel and regional directors from the Bay Area Community College Consortium.

The overall trend toward entrepreneurship has prompted several other college departments to develop similar certificates, according to Business Administration Department professors Charlie Shi and Mariam Worsham. Programs including Culinary Arts, Kinesiology, Music, Theater and Art are also working towards creating entrepreneurship certificates. 

Black said she has completed development of these new programs, which began in 2018. With state and district approval still pending, she expects the Horticulture Department will be able to offer these new certificate programs at DVC in Spring 2022.

Currently, the Horticulture Department is humming along on campus, with almost all of its classes requiring face-to-face labs. The program also has six plant sales scheduled between now and the end of the spring semester.

Plant sale dates are March 20, 27, April 17, 24, May 1 and 8. The public is invited to make orders online at the DVC Horticulture website on the Monday preceding each sale. On the following Saturday professors, Black and Eyestone will be on hand to meet customers and have orders ready to pick up at the end of Parking Lot 9.