“Leave the ego outside the garden,” says Keri McBrien, Master Grower and founder of She Whispers to Plants, a centre for cannabis growing and growing education in Western Canada.
To anyone who knows McBrien, you’ll know she is a fiercely strong, persistent, and one of the most loyal advocates for the cannabis plant. What we’d consider an industry pioneer, McBrien has been growing cannabis, and mastering the process, for over 18 years.
Kantoka had the opportunity to catch up with Vancouver Island-based McBrien, and her growing apprentice at She Whispers to Plants, Alberta’s Sarah Remillard, to learn about their journey, their hopes for the future of cannabis, and their tips for success within the cannabis industry.
A Long Journey to Master Grower
Keri McBrien has a career to admire to say the least. For years, McBrien worked at her day job as a Pharmacy Technician after pursuing her pharmacy education at Red Deer College. It was at night that she began cultivating her passion for growing cannabis as an ACMPR (Canada’s medical cannabis program) grower. Many nights spent over her plants, hunting cultivars, and breeding genetics have led to what McBrien considers her greatest accomplishment, “My genetics are my absolute favorite accomplishment. I’ve collected hundreds of strains over my career and I love to hunt through different phenotypes and cultivars. Keeps me interested. I like the science of it all. I’m pretty proud every time my crops finish so I am lucky to see the accomplishments on a regular basis.” And anyone who has had the privilege of having a taste of the She Whispers to Plants cannabis knows that they’re in for a real treat.
A fervent learner, McBrien was eager to continue her education in cannabis cultivation and the general business of cannabis. She completed her Masters Certificate at Cannabis Training University in Denver, Colorado in 2016, completing Master Certification in 7 areas of the cannabis industry from business and law to cultivation and extraction.
McBrien isn’t just a kickass grower who has earned the respect of growers not only in Western Canada, across the country, and globally, but she is part of the North America distribution team and knowledge team that brings the globe the extensive The Encyclopedia of Cannabis, a 2-volume bible on cannabis strains from A-Z. She truly has a global reach with international partnerships across the globe and a network of women growers on all continents.
Known as an outspoken advocate for cannabis cultivation, McBrien offered those who are interested in cultivation some valuable advice, “Go into this because you love plants. This industry eats up and spits out even the best so you have to keep your focus on the love for the plant. This career is extremely challenging, physically demanding and dirty. Long hours and little sleep,” she said, “I know that a lot of people who come into this industry do it thinking that we sit around and smoke joints all day. In reality, it’s a pretty intense career trying to keep 35 balls in the air perfectly balanced at all times, and it requires focus and discipline.”
A Master Grower in Training
McBrien took on an apprentice and protégé, Sarah Remillard, who manages the She Whispers to Plants head office in Alberta. A newer entrant into the cannabis industry, starting two years ago, she has become a specialist in making edibles and topicals. “My life has always had cannabis in it,” she adds. Remillard is a perfect compliment to McBrien’s skills as she educates the up and coming generations on how to cultivate outstanding cannabis. Remillard considers her mission in this industry to “teach and show others my love for cannabis,” adding, “It’s tough, but we gotta keep going to normalize cannabis use.” She envisions a future of the normalization of cannabis, “to not feel judged for my medicine.”
Both women of She Whispers to Plants consider themselves flower girls and prefer to roll up the She Whispers to Plants cannabis cultivated under the ACMPR into a nice, perfect joint.
Advice to Future Master Growers
We asked the women of She Whispers to Plants to reach back and give their young selves a piece of advice that they wish they had: “Learn to say no, learn to value yourself, and stop apologizing,” said McBrien. “And to tune out the noise in the peanut gallery,” added Remillard.
McBrien left us with her hopes for the future of cannabis cultivation: “I hope that craft cannabis and small farmers get the opportunity to participate in the legal market,” she said, referring to the extreme barriers of entry that cannabis farmers are facing transitioning into the legal market, “The farmers that built the industry need to be recognized and the talent utilized.”
Are you an up and coming cultivator of cannabis? Stay tuned to Kantoka as we release Kantoka Pro, where you can create a professional profile that showcases your skills and accomplishments as a grower. Cannabis industry recruiters and headhunters who create a profile and post jobs on our platform can browse qualified candidates to find the right fit for their cannabis company’s growing team.