I often speak about scaling this industry; the need for education, capital and a regulatory framework that will unlock the potential and opportunities that the hemp industry provides. I too have said that we need just one win, as a proof of concept, so that the markets, government and most important, American farmers will be able to touch and see that this potential is real. I too have spoken aloud about the need for us to work together. That vision has eluded us despite our best intentions.

But that was then.

As many know, our partner New Holland Agriculture joined the NHA and is sponsoring the Lancaster Farming Hemp Tour. Eric Hurlock packed up his young family and in a camper over the last months visited hemp farms across this land. His hemp podcasts from those locations have been inspiring and have provided proof that the American spirit and appetite for hemp is alive, particularly for fiber and grain and, it’s doing not badly.

Eric’s tour had a scheduled stop in Fort Benton Montana, where he was to visit IND HEMP, another major sponsor of the tour. IND HEMP decided to use the visit to showcase their work and organized an open house. I was blown away!

Our gracious hosts, the Elliott Family, have not just talked about the potential of hemp, they’re doing it. They have built what no one can deny is the first hemp campus in the nation. It’s a multi generational effort that has brought together a team of young hemp guns that are laser focused on the most important elements of building this commodity. From undertaking genetic research and plot trials, developing relationships of trust combined with solid business models with local farmers growing thousands of acres, bringing together local government and suppliers; the list goes on with all the things they have done right. They know that the multimillion dollar facilities they have built—and the decortication and grain and oil processing equipment—may need tweaks and could have been built for less, but as Ken said “they’re all in” to lift this industry.

Add to that list that Ken, his wife Julie and his daughter Morgan have a 10-year vision for this industry. Most important to that vision is collaboration. Our visit with them proved that out. It’s one of the first times during my 8-year involvement in this space that someone has been able to bring all of the advocates, who have had similar vision and goals yet who could not find a way to work together, under one IND HEMP roof. And it was as if the seriousness of their commitment, the beauty of their new facility and the promise that it provides, seemed to make the competitiveness of the various hemp organizations disappear. We engaged in an afternoon of roundtable discussions, rolled up our sleeves and got to work freely addressing the obstacles, the successes and the opportunities around hemp grain and fiber. The attendees, 50 plus, included the extended IND HEMP Family, hemp advocates, state Ag reps, and corporate suppliers and end users – New Holland AG, FlexForm Technologies, Hempitecture and, the protein star of our space – Victory Hemp. For what I believe was the first time, together, we were able to sit as business leaders do every day across this land and look at our entire supply chain from seed to sale.

From this gathering, we came away energized and committed to focus on achieving just one win for the fiber and grain side of our industry. Could it be making hemp animal feed for domestic animals and horses federally legal, getting standards for hemp grain production and food adopted by both industry and regulators; reconciling the inequities of the crop insurance offered to hemp farmers; path to registration of safe and effective crop protection agents for a rapidly expanding hemp enterprise; the establishment and launch of an Impact or Philanthropic fund to provide capital so successful end users and technologies can scale; establishment of a carbon credit initiative for hemp; or, development of a consumer directed campaign to build awareness about the benefits of adopting hemp into a healthy lifestyle? We did not come to a conclusion. That seed was planted for all to germinate. What we did agree upon is that this was not our last gathering. This was a giant step for hemp. It’s very real.

As I traveled back from drought-challenged Montana, I realized one thing. The industry has already achieved its first win – it’s IND HEMP!

Well Done IND HEMP Family!

~Geoff Whaling – Chair, National Hemp Association