From Rags to Riches: A Look at How Montenegrins and Other Eastern Europeans Are Enticed to Humboldt County Marijuana Farms

For breaking news and in-depth articles on countries such as Bulgaria, Albania, and Montenegro in southeast Europe, many read BalkanInsight, a publication run by award-winning journalists. Today, it posted an article about the Montenegrin connection to Humboldt County’s marijuana farms.

The piece describes forces that push Montenegrins to leave their home and head to our area in large numbers. On the one hand, in their country, they face vast economic problems. On the other hand, they hear enticing tales of riches earned in Humboldt County. One former trimmer described a virtual financial paradise. “All you needed was to go down to Eureka…and ask around for trimming jobs. The Americans also provide food and accommodation and my net income hits 450 to 500 dollars per day,” she said.

Greenhouses in Humboldt County in 2014.

Greenhouses in Humboldt County in 2014. [Photo from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department]

One man, who goes only by Milan in the article, compares coming here to his grandfather also coming here as a gold miner. Milan said he came to Humboldt County because he was in danger of losing the house and lands that had once belonged to his grandfather–a man who had once panned for gold in California. The article states,

“Marijuana fields have become my fields of gold, and I am not far from the place where my grandfather used to live once,” he said.

“I had no choice and was on the edge of the abyss, both financially and physically. Back in Montenegro, I snatched the house and land away from the banks and my family is safe. I am so grateful to America; there’s no greater country in the world,” he said.

Though the piece reads a bit awkwardly at times (as if, it was written in another language and translated to English–a likely explanation given the mangled nature of quotes attributed to Kym Kemp), it is overall an excellent look at what it means to be a trimmigrant or marijuana grower from Eastern Europe.

Apparently, “Californian marijuana is an unavoidable topic in the cafés of Podgorica these days – especially the amounts of money that many have earned in the pot industry.” According to the writer, the following video by Milos Beli Pavicevic of Podgorica which has had over 100,000 views adds “to the frenzy.” According to the article, Pavicevic “protects himself from the summer heat with thick wads of 100-dollar bills, out of which he makes cooling fans as “Benjamin Franklins” rain upon him.”

The writer said, “Three people that we spoke to mentioned Pavicevic as a good and well-intentioned intermediary for Montenegrins when it comes to accommodation and jobs at the pot farms.”

If anyone can translate the following video, we have a feeling we would learn even more…[UPDATE: a reader tells us the man only says, “[I] feel so hot” repeatedly. Then, according to the reader, he added, “[L]ook how the money falls from the sky.”] [UPDATE 2: The person who posted the video we talked about apparently did not like the publicity and removed it.]

While the video looks too good to be true, the stories from Montenegrian workers here appear to back up that a good living can be made in the Emerald Counties. Some of the workers plan to bring families and eventually apply to stay here, according to the article.

The article closes with one man’s dream of getting work in our community:

A retired senior police investigator was in the queue for a tourist visa, hoping to work in the cannabis fields; for possession of the same, he used to arrest people in Montenegro.

“My goal is to whisk my family away from here, so my children have a future, as free persons who dare to speak their mind,” he said.

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77 comments

  • More stories to bring silly foreigners to our area. The influx of Spaniards looking for “work” last summer was remarkable, if not sustainable.

    I hope the truth comes out soon, but I expect another crazy season in the triangle…

  • Old news. Now it will be played in reverse.

  • Yup. You can’t really blame them. People want to come here, work hard and make lots of money for their families. When we make it easy for them then it is our own fault. When we don’t think that the story of Humboldt riches is being told all over the country and the world then we are being stupid and creating our own problem. This is why I specifically blame Gallegos and then Kevin Hoover. When Gallegos publicly stated that he would not prosecute up to 99 plants “for medical” he didn’t think his statement would be spread through the nation’s media?! It was an open invitation for the greenrushers to come on over and tear it up. Then several years later Kevin Hoover worked hard to get our story spread again in nationwide media. He stupidly thought it would lead to a crackdown…Ha Ha ha! It lead to a new wave of greenrushers who saw the story of riches being made here. Thanks, Hoover!! Of course we must also place the blame where it ultimately belongs- the HCSD and their complete mishandling, even outright refusal to do their job in any meaningful way…Call me a complainer but I am just posting this comment to record the history. So much denial and making excuses but the root of our demise was obvious to many of us. We saw it coming, we saw it happen, many of us enabled it and now here we are. There will be more- many poor people see $15/hour jobs and $400 pounds as much better than they can do where they live. The rush is not even over.

    • For historical perspective the Gallegos standard copied Mendo. Co. 99 plants with a maximum combined canopy of 100 square feet. (yes,100, not one thousand square feet), which means 12′ diameter/’medicinal unit.

    • That’s absurd. Actually it was the LA Times article reported back in October of 2010 regarding the pot busts in SoHum with retired Sheriff Hamilton. That article went viral and was in every major publication in the US and beyond. High Times and numerous other Marijuana/Cannabis publications reprinted the article.

  • Growers….PLEASE, Hire locals.

    That’s all.

    Thanks.

    • Agreed but they will not do it. Many people blowing up grows aren’t from here and don’t even have circles of friends from elsewhere they can hire. They have no friends and are only here for the money. When they need help they go down to Ray’s in Willow Creek or Redway or now even Geiger’s and Wheels in Lville and grab some random workers. It works fine for them because they don’t care a bit about our communities, only about their money. It’s a mess of greed dressed up as “medicine for sick people”. Sad story of a beautiful thing gone way bad.

    • I agree! There are so many people here at home fighting to keep jobs and losing homes!

  • Please forward this article to ICE.

  • Thanks for this article Kym, I’m tired of the xenophobia around here that always spews blame on Eastern Europeans. Wishing them much success just like all our hard working ancestors strove for decade upon decades ago.

  • True embarrassment on all fronts.

  • No more trimmigrants! Get rid of the eastern [edit]!

  • Ive heard of these guys there just piece of shit rip offs

  • As long as they are LEGAL immigrants, they are welcome here.

    • Agreed but they come tourist visas and sneak all their money back. So other then what they spend will here the rest goes tax free to another country. Now that it’s legal it would be nice if they would at least come on work visas.

  • “My goal is to whisk my family away from here, so my children have a future, as free persons who dare to speak their mind,” he said.

    Better hurry as all that is going away soon

  • Can u tell is there anything true about this marijuana triming story ?

  • Well all I got to say is pretty crazy stupid bold to do that online for all the cops to see I think it’s great go bust his ass although wish we had an interpreter I have no idea what he said but I’m sure it was bragging of some sort

  • Pretty much just like farmers, auto builders and real estate developers using foreign labor, no?

    • No. More like the Mafia contracting outside labor. A farmer (bulb farm), auto builder (?), etc may violate the law by hiring an illegal but there are people with an illegal business bringing in people illegally arriving to work under the table. That’s a whole ‘nother level below simply hiring an illegal.

  • The irony, of course, is now Humboldt farmers face the same financial ruin. It’s like panning for gold next door to a corporate gold mining pit. Over production killed the small scale farmer.

  • Only hire locals please! I never have and never will hire a foreigner. No hate towards these people but there are plenty of locals or even Americans from other states that need the work. You think these eastern Europeans or spainards would be happy if a bunch of Americans came over and started taking their jobs? With how many spainards there were last year you would think that the spanish goverment is buying plane tickets for their youth because youth unemployment is so high out there.

  • Still no one wants to talk about the hundred or so parcels owned by the head [Bulgarian]. They go to your neighbors with a suitcase full of cash and fuck the neighborhood. The price of herb has crashed because of these fucks. They own banks, heavy equipment, and do not hire locals. They burn their trash instead of taking it to the dump. But they NEVER get busted!

  • These people are just doing what anyone who cares about their families well-being would do, they’re taking advantage of an opportunity to give their families a better life. The exact same thing that all of our (non-natives) ancestors were doing centuries ago which is why we’re all here today. I can’t imagine how scary it must be for them to do what they do. I mean it has to be scary even for American people to come here and be taken out into the unfamiliar mountains with strangers. I’ve had the pleasure of developing friendships with a few “trimmigrants” from Spain and I have to say they were very hard workers, didn’t complain, and in the end were way more appreciative than most spoiled American trimmers, who often have the attitude that they are entitled to the work and rarely are appreciative. And show me one who doesn’t complain about something. More power to these people! After all this is “The Land of Opportunity” right?

  • Generating empathy for organized crime? I am sure there are people from eastern europe who deserve our sympathy, but this is a very misleading screed.

  • Humbolt has seen the bubble burst. Garberville and Redway will soon be ghost towns. The entire area makes me sick. The greed, guns, drugs, lies and deceit. Maggots eating each other.

    Maybe the land is cursed when all the Indians were slaughtered. There are some of the worst cases of genocide in that area. Then the giant trees were taken, then the salmon. Now the weed. bye bye humbolt.

    • You must be fun at parties.

    • Seek therapy, you sound like you have issues, if that’s all you took from here. I don’t involve myself with anything you said, which by the way is everywhere than just here, lol! Life is what YOU make it.

      I work a reg job, walk my dog and open the door for the old lady leaving. I’ve go to plays and listen to some music that comes thru. I plant actual tomatoes in the sun. Am thinking of getting back in school for the fun of it.

      Maggots are anywhere something can rot & is not confined to one cty, out of an entire country or the world. Think before you thunk!

    • There are 8,000 years of Native American history in Humboldt &surrounding areas. Only the last 150 years has brought the changes we see today. If we don’t like what we are seeing, try to think how rapidly the lives and culture of those people were destroyed. Their descendants walk among us , almost invisible to us. We all need to cultivate the power that comes from calmness and an enlarged perspective. As the late, great John Trudell said, “Your intelligence is your Medicine.”

  • Dang, all these people thinking that they’ll find riches over here are going to be pretty disappointed, I think.

    What a bummer to do it as a last-ditch, desperate move to save your family, and then get here and find that there really isn’t as much money in it anymore as in the golden days when marijuana sold for three and four times the amount it goes for now. Surely trimmers now cannot be paid as highly as they were in those times.

    • Did anyone here read Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath? We have here an old story.

      Marx said that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.

      That seems to be the case here.

  • No one would pay that anymore 😛

  • LOL I talked to one of these trimmers last year. She said I probably didn’t know where the country was located. I told her. She smiled and said “I want to come here to live.” I wished her luck. I hope she stays put. The U.S. needs to close its borders and this is just another good reason. No more dope fiends, please. We have enough criminal growers and their ilk.

  • Immigrants will pay those already here for access and jobs?

    gee, that would be new huh?

  • I have experienced many amazing, life changing events in Humbolt. From swimming with salmon in the redwoods in the Eel river, to exploring the lost coast, and general country life which feeds my soul. Over the past years there has been many people coming to the area driven by short-term profits and with that comes many downfalls of society. In Humbolt there exists the good, bad and the ugly… Like anywhere yes. Its just a small community so they really tend to stick out. So thank you for the ‘therapy’ advice… I don’t live there any longer and am happy to see the industry dissolve there. Perhaps the water will flow cleaner and the salmon can swim up stream once again.

    • And don’t forget that LonelyPlanet designated california RedwoodCoast the best vacation destination in the US

    • Awwwww so u prefer to be, where you can walk around & ignore the problems, pushed aside to the corners of the cities, than the reality being in your face, like a lil town. Your right, no therapy needed for just a plain a-hole! Funniest thing is, If your life is so grand, then why bother coming bk to read and talk smack online bout the place you ran crying from. Subconciously jealous? So good for you, here’s a sticker, move on & get over it [edit]!

  • Everyone wants to steal their slice of the American pie,free welfare,free medical,free collage education,but only if you are an immigrant.This country doesn’t care about it’s own people!58% of immigrants collect welfare!

    • regurgitated parrot food

    • Actually the greatest percentage of welfare recipients are Caucasian (white) southerners. Where is this proof of immigrants collecting welfare?

      • That is a meaningless statement that doesn’t define anything. Just as bad as the one being objected to. For example, caucasians make up the largest group so more being on welfare should be a given. Proportion is the meaningful stat. Similarly with southerners, where there might be higher levels of both immigrants and minorities, a breakdown of ratios might be telling. For example, nationally there may be more Caucasians on welfare but southener stats might be because of more minorities are there and collecting.

        Or not. I don’t know. But a complainer about other’s lack of stats might have thought to include some of their own to be taken seriously. And might encourage more critical examination and less spitting contests.

        This article says, for example, ( http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/report-42-percent-of-new-medicaid-signups-are-immigrants-their-children/article/2556114 ) 42% of people signing up for Medicaid are immigrants. But almost all media has their own axe to grind these says and the government is too cowardly these days to report things that flow against their own political niceties so it’s really hard to pin anything down. It tends to revolve around personal experience what you believe in the absence of honest reporting.

  • This is disgusting. This man is disgusting. He is a thief.

  • There is something really off about the information in that linked article. People don’t get a guest work visa to work in an illegal industry. It’s more likely that they either lied on their visa application with the collusion of people living in the US or simply lied on a tourist visa and overstayed.

    And a medical doctor not being able to get a visa to work in the medical industry? If true, what a waste.

    Frankly this is human trafficking as no one should lose a third of their wages to a facilitator. Especially a facilitator to work in an illegal industry. I wonder how many women ended up where they thought they would be going.

    • This is definately fake. He’s not a worker but a solicitor for what’s plaguing the hills these days, ORGANIZED crime!
      Just look at the 4 Down In Ohio Bust! I wasn’t worried or afraid of Beauford w a beer & a gun. This is definitely different.

  • Hands down when 12 foreign trimmsients can pile into a small carport and trim through the storm and cold and rain then sleep in there moist tents for over a month I have to say first hand they are more rugged than the average American that’s for sure. I hear the price this yr for hand trimming will be 100 to 130 let’s see who is hungry I bet the foreigner trimmsients will still do it you can’t smoke spliffs and drink beers at Walmart on your breaks or during work. Hire Argentinians

    • Ah. You prefer workers with the inconvenience of the Fair Labor Act. Sort of the thing Cesar Chavez protested about in 1960 and 1970s. Only this time you’re on the side of the greedy bosses.

  • “I will try to become legal in the US and later bring over my three children. Montenegro is a disaster unless you are into organised crime and in cahoots with those in the government,” he said.

    Going from the frying pan right into the fire by moving here.

  • I have had the opposite experience, wish I had worked for a Bulgarian farm maybe I would have been paid. I can understand why people hire trimmergrants seems like alot of the Humboldt locals are strung out on their egos, coke, drunk, lazy and entitled. I know that there’s exceptions to this. I know of many people who didn’t get paid for their work this year working for Humboldt locals.

  • This video was from 2-3 years ago !!!

  • This guy is a [edit] real piece of shit even his mother doesnt like him. Just a ordinary thief, he is not a grower, doesn’t know what’s maxsea and calmag for.

  • (outlandish) Story I heard is that if / when [Edit: Bulgarians] ever do get popped the consulate deems them diplomats thus immune from prosecution. Ps vid non op kym

  • Where is that freaking wall!?

  • I’m not sure who would be in favor of low lives like this being in our county. We need to tighten up our neighborhoods, sell land to decent people and generally be more responsible citizens. Anyone that knows anything about Serbians and Bulgarians knows they represent organized crime. It’s part of the culture there. We really don’t need more of that here.
    It’s different from the Spanish and other trimmers, who are just traveling kids looking to make a few bucks.
    Im not saying they are terrible people. What I know about them is they are family oriented, money oriented, not very good neighbors (drive fast and don’t socialize), I hope they go away when the money goes away.

    • At a school fundraiser where I ran the door last year, eastern Europeans were a good part of the volunteers who worked door and security. They didn’t have any kids in the school. Not saying everyone is good. Just saying that judging one group by a few folks doesn’t usually provide a complete picture.

      • https://m.ranker.com/list/good-deeds-by-bad-people/jacob-shelton

        The only way to judge a group is by how they act as a group. The point of this article- at least if there is a clear point- is that Humboldt Co is well known as a place to make a crap load of money by coming here illegally to work in an illegal business. And someone will make arrangements that for another crap load of money. This is not a good thing. It is the direct opposite of a good thing.

        If the “Bulgarians” come here with the resources to buy large tracts of property that need large outlays of cash to create supposedly large profits from an illegal industry, there are questions to be answered other than Humboldt having name recognition in Eastern Europe. Like where the resources to do this come from and what is it that is being allowed to flourish.
        Is it the opening wave of being taken over by a criminal cartel or is is individuals act as individuals? This is important to understand for the future of everyone living here.

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