FORT BENTON — Members of the Cascade County Farmer's Union learned about hemp as they toured INDHemp’s processing facility in Fort Benton on Tuesday.
"Educational events like this are an opportunity for us to see what our neighbors are doing, or in this case what organizations or entities further down the supply chain are doing with the farm products. So by learning, we can better improve our own operations and then take information home to talk to our neighbors,” said Eric Bergman, president of Cascade County Farmer’s Union.
"Hemp is a relatively new crop in the industry, so right now as producers we're just learning and taking whatever opportunity we can to find out whether it's a good crop for us or our neighbors or other members of our organization to get into."
INDHemp processes hemp for consumption. "We make hemp hearts, hemp seed oil, hemp protein and other food products,” explained Morgan Elliott, INDHemp Chief Operating Officer.
Business is booming: "Our first year, we contracted about 3,000 acres. Last year we contracted about 10,000 (acres) and this year we're trying to grow off of that 10,000 acres. We're trying to be conservative and optimistic but also realistic with our farmers so that we don't have train wrecks,” said Elliot. “We have guys that are incorporating this into their farming operation, that are being smart about it, but are really seeing the value that the crop has as a rotation crop and just the diversity they have for their operation and hopefully come home with a little more cash in their pocket."
The company is also diversifying, working to build a facility to process hemp into fiber as well.
Prior to the tour, the CCFU hosted a luncheon in Fort Benton to discuss a number of topics, including how to increase membership and projects the union is working on.