The Ultimate Medical Cannabis Resourse

Accidental grower

Renata Varga got into the cannabis business by accident after accepting a data entry job.

Renata Varga relocated last fall from California to grow medical cannabis in Oklahoma for High Country Genetics.
| Photo Alexa Ace

Renata Varga had her first exposure to cannabis when she was 8 years old with her best friend and a soda can.

“I was in a closet with her older cousin. And he had some weed,” she said. “We had a can pipe, like a Pepsi can, and he showed us how to make a little pipe. He was 11 or 12, so he was showing us little 8-year-old girls in the closet how to make a can pipe and smoke weed.”

Flash-forward three decades and Varga is now a grower cultivating legal cannabis for High Country Genetics. Along the way, she has worked in sales, at a hydroponics store and as a guerilla grower.

Varga was born on a U.S. Army base in Bedford, England, but grew up in Susanville, California.

“The day after I graduated high school, I moved to Sacramento with a girlfriend of mine,” she said. “And I spent 16 years there in Sacramento, trying to find my way through the concrete jungle.”

That was where Varga was introduced to the business side of cannabis.

“I was working as a bartender and waitress at a sports bar. And one of my regular guys, he said he was opening up a business and then asked me if I knew how to do data entry,” Varga said. “Well, I did data entry for Milgard Windows [& Doors] manufacturing for five years. I was a senior document analyst, reception office services, human resources — I even helped out the distribution department. Corporate office stuff. The first day I walked in the door, I walked in, and I’m like, ‘What kind of a place is this?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, this is a hydroponic shop.’ And I was like, ‘Really? This is great.’ So I’m working at the hydroponic shop. I’m living in a duplex, and my neighbor died, and so my boss rented the next door to my duplex and we blew it out.

“It’s a one-bedroom place with a large living room and dining room area, and I had the living room just stuffed with plants and lights. Every time a rep would come in from the hydroponic industry, sometimes they give you some samples here and there. They teach you about stuff. I ended up just completely immersed in it from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. I was working at the hydroponic shop, I had a grow next door going. So I was very busy doing that for some time.”

After a break from growing to travel the world doing sales for a horticultural lighting company, she reconnected in 2015 with Dustin Fraser, who founded High Country Genetics.

“We saw each other again and started hanging out, and I ended up going up to [Mendocino County] with him to his farm and going and making big trees happen,” she said.

Varga arrived in Oklahoma last fall and experienced her first ice storm.

“The weather here is bipolar, to say the least, and it’s giving me whiplash right now,” she said.

She is now working on her fourth harvest as an Oklahoma grower.

“I’ve always known that there was nothing wrong with it. I thought, you know, it’s just something that’s in your guts, and sometimes you just gotta listen to your gut that people aren’t always right. They may have opinions, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one,” Varga said. “It’s hard for that generation to come to terms that they were lied to for such a long time by their parents, by everyone that taught them everything that they know. They’ve been lied to their entire life — iterally lied to.”

Has Varga ever taken a break from smoking since that first clandestine hit among the coats and trousers?

“No,” she said. “Not unless I was completely out.”

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