Hemp is a non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana. Yet for decades, officials resisted legalizing hemp. That changed last year when Governor Kristi Noem signed a bill authorizing production of the crop.
Now, South Dakota farmers are starting to plant it.
Derrick Dohmann is the sales and marketing manager at Horizon Hemp Seeds in Willow Lake. He says there are many surprising uses for hemp.
“I know Nike and Adidas have prototype shoes out with hemp fiber in them, companies like BMW and Mercedes are making the interior paneling of their doors out of hemp fibers, Wrangler Jeans and Levi’s produce hemp fiber jeans, so the possibilities are really endless for what we can do with this,” Dohmann says.
Some of the political debate about hemp legalization focused on CBD. That’s an oil extracted from the plant. CBD is widely used in products not yet reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
AH Meyer and Sons is a honey farm. Meyer says equipment used in the beeswax extraction process can be used for extracting CBD oil from hemp seeds.
Meyer says 17 grower licenses, two processor licenses, and one combination license have been granted in South Dakota.
Meyer says only 35 out of 2,200 acres of hemp in South Dakota will be devoted to CBD. The remaining hemp must remain below a 0.3% THC level. THC is the chemical that, at higher levels, causes marijuana’s intoxicating effects.
“When you have all that information in front of you, you can see why the controversy would go away and people could see how this will go forward and just be like any other crop that’s planted and that it’s very manageable,” Meyer says.
Krysti Mikkonen is the marketing director for Mikkonen Organic Farm in Frederick.
Mikkonen first considered growing hemp on her fourth-generation farm to diversify crops. Certified organic farms are prohibited from using synthetic fertilizer, relying instead on crop rotation to replenish soil nutrients.
Mikkonen says she toured a house constructed and furnished with as many hemp products as possible.
“You know, so many people focus on the CBD and the possibility of an illegal whatever and they’re failing to look at the 99 percent of the other things that can be done from such a versatile crop,” Mikkonen says.
As the hemp industry grows, Dohmann encourages more farmers to consider the crop.
“There’s a lot of work yet to get done, but South Dakota as a whole, we’re not too far behind, but we definitely need to keep going in the right direction and have people jumping on board with us,” Dohmann says.