A mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced person. This can be at work, in an educational or professional setting, or simply through a caring relationship. Mentorship refers to the guidance provided by that individual. A mentor shares information and experiences with his or her pupil and allows that individual to leapfrog the trial and error one might otherwise expect when learning about life or mastering a new skill or ability.
I was lucky enough to have a cannabis mentor. A financial client of mine became a good friend through the course of our working together. I have always been an educator at heart and I shared my capital market understanding, investment approach, and financial planning process with him in great detail.
Appreciative of the information, he one day shared that after early retirement, he began growing organic cannabis indoors. A couple of years later he purchased a property and began farming full-term plants from seed outdoors. I had always been fascinated with cannabis and had grown a few hobby crops on the hillside in Hydesville in my late teens and early twenties. I expressed an interest in learning how to grow, and because I had shared valuable information, he was willing to do the same.
I was launching my own financial firm and had several months of downtime as I waded through the regulatory process and acquired an Investment Adviser Certification from the State of California. I began helping casually in the indoor garden and occasionally the outdoor garden as well. It was through that relationship that I cloned, staked, bottomed, cored, and leafed a pot plant for the first time. The more I was around the plant the more I wanted to become a grower. It became my dream and my professional aspiration. Fast forward a few years to my mom becoming ill with cancer a second time and I retired to cannabis caregive for her.
I was kicked out of the home for four months as my sugar momma couldn’t tolerate my new career and I came to know loneliness and crippling sadness for the first time. Mom passed away, I was away from my children, including my ten-month-old baby boy and I was devastated. It might sound silly but my pot plants got me through that very dark period. The garden was alive and I was in relationship with it. While working with the plants my sadness and pain would temporarily fade away and I found peace, strength, and hope in them. I began farming commercially the next season, in 2015, and have been in the hills of Humboldt since then.
Anyone who works on my team hears about my mentor at least a dozen times a year – lessons, tidbits of information, reminiscing. I learned a lot from him and will share four concrete lessons I hope you’ll find useful, whether a farmer or not.
The first is about patience. Patience, by nature, is not my greatest virtue. I’m the guy who paces around while waiting on the microwave! In the context of pot farming my mentor taught me early on that “it’s their time, not yours.” He was referring to letting the plant’s needs, not mine dictate things. For example, water and feed when they need it, not when it’s most convenient for you. Harvest the plants when they are done, not when your bank account is getting low.
In essence, he was teaching me not to force things, to let the natural ebb and flow of the plant’s rhythms guide my efforts. Frankly, that became a valuable life lesson for me. As a high-energy, aspirational person, I can get buzzing around too fast. It’s a great reminder to slow down, be patient, and savor the current moment rather than always focusing on the next thing. I still struggle with the concept of patience on occasion, but now understand it’s a learned skill that we can all possess to some extent. In pot farming, parenting, interpersonal relationships, and business management, patience and the discipline to allow things to unfold naturally and organically are powerful concepts.
The second major teaching was about process. I began growing with very little functional knowledge of the plant’s life cycle: germination or propagation, veg, transition, bloom, and finish. As I gained a functional understanding of the cycle and what environmental conditions and nutrient inputs the plant wanted at different times, my success skyrocketed, as did my ability to scale up the amounts I grew successfully. By having a coherent and consistent farming process that delivered results I could worry less and enjoy the ride more. Through systematic and everyday execution problems were reduced, predictability of outcomes improved, as did my sense of confidence and empowerment.
While spontaneity, creativity, and aptitude for change are attributes I possess and greatly admire, implementing consistent, written processes can radically improve your performance in business. I’ve heard that systems and processes drive enterprise value and my mentor, in his own way, cemented this reality for me.
The power of knowledge and information
When transitioning to commercial outdoor farming from indoor, I had another skill set to master – soil health and vitality. My mentor shared the importance of such and gave me a basic five-part amendment blend one of the local fruit and vegetable coops was using. It consisted of compost, worm castings, trace minerals, oyster shell flour, and magnesium sulfate. Fascinated with this new information I set out on an investigative process to learn more about dirt.
My research led me to soil biology, i.e. mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria as well as numerous other organic amendments like alfalfa meal, kelp meal, guanos, steam bone meal, neem seed meal, palm bunch ash, and several others. With a more robust amendment package, my results skyrocketed again – bigger, heavier, more beautiful buds.
This experience reminded me that knowledge is power and that information is, in many ways, a key to enlightenment, advancement, and success. Whether talking about business or life, seeking new information, new ideas, and new ways of doing things can be a real game-changer.
Not everyone is your friend
This one was hard for me to grasp. I, by nature, am friendly and trusting. I like sharing ideas and experiences with others and have always been a people person. I, despite much evidence to the contrary, have faith in humankind and continue to despite taking a few knocks over the years.
That said, my mentor warned me about haters and thieves. He shared that not everyone would respect what I do for a living and that it was best not to talk about work, no matter how proud I was. I should have listened, at least with respect to my traditional market days! I kept my circle quite small, but not small enough. I experienced a home invasion robbery and have heard a fair handful of people close to me tell me how stupid I am for transitioning to cannabis.
Nonetheless, I march onward. This year I have come out publicly as a cannabis professional and I don’t regret it. I’m proud of what I do and feel more fulfilled in this industry than in any other. This business gives me life and joy. And while my transition to ganja farming has brought a bit of grief and judgment, we only have one life and this is the one I choose.
Whether you are talking about life or business, seeking a mentor is highly recommended and can help shorten the learning curve and help you operate or function at a higher level. This is not about dumpster diving for free information, it’s about forming a caring and productive relationship where both sides win. For those with valuable information to share, becoming a mentor yourself is highly rewarding. Sharing knowledge is love and helping others is life.
All my best to Humboldt and beyond!
Jesse Duncan is a lifelong Humboldt County resident, a father of six, a retired financial advisor, and a full-time commercial cannabis grower. He is also the creator of NorCal Financial and Cannabis Consulting, a no-cost platform that helps small farmers improve their cultivation, business, and financial skills. Please check out his blog at, his Instagram at jesse_duncann, and connect with him on Linkedin.