Doug Weist, a fourth generation farmer in Choteau, has spent the last two years venturing into hemp production. Only five percent of Weist’s 4,000 acres of dry land is currently occupied by hemp plants. The other ninety-five percent is in a rotation with either spring wheat, winter wheat, barley, chickpeas, or canola.
“Hemp was only legalized in 2018,” Weist explained. The hemp plant can be used to produce goods such as textiles. However, Weist’s plan is to use the plant to produce building materials.
“I’m tired of competing with everybody at the same game, so here's an opportunity with a brand-new industry to get in at the ground floor and maybe shape it. Be a part of it and maybe be a decent player in it” Weist explained.
Doug, his wife Cindy, and his business partner Michael Bourke started Big Sky Hemp (website) to grow, process, and distribute hemp products across Montana.
Products under the Big Sky Hemp umbrella include all-natural building materials in the form of insulation, flooring, and wall panels that will replace fiberglass.
Hemp building materials come with their own benefits for the consumer including being locally-sourced, rodent-proof, fire-proof, and pesticide free, and it regulates humidity within the home.
“The other thing about it is it's recyclable. If you decide to demo that house, it is mulch. You can chop it back up and put it back into a mix and another house, it’s not going in the landfill,” Weist told MTN News.
On the flip side, Weist explains to exchange regular fiber glass insulation with the hemp product, the customer will pay around twenty percent more.
Hemp, however, is not a new building material in the world. The "war on drugs" in the 1970’s put a halt to hemp production in the United States and in many countries around the globe.
That was not the case, however, in France: “France said, nope, we don't want to do that. We want to keep hemp going. So they've got buildings that are thirty to forty years old, made of hempcrete,” Weist explained.
Overall, the process takes around four months from planting the seeds to installing the product in a home.