Though it smells and looks like marijuana, hemp differs from its cannabis sister in that it doesn’t produce a significant amount of THC. In Taylor, a married couple is trying to educate the public on the benefits the plant possesses with their two-acre hemp crop.
Shane and Cathy Weber are the first hemp farm in Stark County and have products for sale in Dickinson at the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Salt of the Earth LLC and Vapes. With harvest underway, the Webers will spend the next couple of weeks clipping more than 1,750 plants.
This year, the Webers are growing four different strains: Suver Haze, Sour Space Candy, Forbidden V and Bubba Kush. Though the names of the plants at first may sound skeptically close to what some are familiar with when they hear hemp, Shane Weber assures that it is all natural.
“Hemp is like the non-alcoholic marijuana,” Shane Weber said. “That’s how I relate it to people… A lot of people don’t even know that hemp looks and smells exactly like marijuana; it’s just educating that has to be done.”
Hemp, like many plants, has a variety of industrial uses which include everything from clothing, cosmetics and rope to printer's ink, wood preservatives and detergents. The most common uses are in soaps and oils, but being the first farm in Stark County to get on board with hemp has been an enjoyable journey, Shane Weber said.
“It's really exciting. We haven't come across anybody that's been really negative toward us.. Most people are in some way or another really interested in what we're doing and even the fact that we're able to do it,” he said, adding, “... If we were in Oregon or Colorado, it wouldn't be that big a deal. But out here, there’s CBD shops in Dickinson and all the big cities, none of the products are from North Dakota, to my knowledge. Maybe one or two here and there. But we haven't seen any in Dickinson or Bismarck. So we're definitely trying to change that to get our products grown and made in North Dakota into the shops for (people) to have an option.”
During a family reunion in the summer of 2019, the Webers got a snippet of advice from their relative, suggesting that they use their land in Taylor to start growing hemp. Cathy and Shane Weber thought it wasn’t a bad idea.
They began investigating and spent months researching. They attended a few hemp summits in Bismarck and in Dickinson and in the spring of 2020, they found a seed supplier and planted two acres. Shane Weber also built a greenhouse.
As momentum was on the rise, Shane Weber lost his job in the oil field due to the shutdowns and economic backlash of the coronavirus pandemic. He decided to go all in with his hemp farm. Though there is a CBD hemp farm in New England, located in Hettinger County, Shane Weber noted that his farm is much smaller in acreage.
“We had 3,000 plants. It took three days to get them all in the field because you have to pack each one by hand. (It’s) very labor intensive… (people) thought I was the unluckiest farmer in the county,” Shane Weber said, with a chuckle. “And then I told them, I was doing it by hand and then they were like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ The questions started coming in.”
Being that the Webers are certified organic, the hemp crop is maintained by tilling the soil, adding a dose of mulch to keep weeds away and irrigation every two to three days.
“Now, I walk the field every day, looking for males to make sure that nothing gets pollinated. I keep an eye out. Most of the plants are doing really good. Every once in a while there’s a plant that is a little bit different, but they’re all kind of like people — every plant is a little bit different,” Shane Weber said. “So far, we haven’t had any problems with bugs or anything of that nature. But I still keep an eye out daily just (in case).”
As opposed to what some companies will do to harvest hemp, the Webers are doing it the old-fashioned way by extracting the flower — or the bud of the plant — then decarboxylating it. This process involves heating up the flower and adding hemp seed oil, which extracts the cannabinoids and CBD. The oil is a product that they purchased from Healthy Oilseeds, LLC, in Carrington. Due to its short shelf life of one year, most companies don’t use hemp seed oil, Cathy Weber said, adding that they prefer having a fresh product for customers to use while also knowing where each ingredient is sourced.
“It's definitely a versatile, natural way of healing. It's so unique how you can use it in so many different ways,” Cathy Weber said. “For instance, my oil — you could give it to your animals and I put it on my face for anti-aging because the hemp seed oil that we get locally, there’s only three ingredients in our oil. When we make our oil, we don’t use solvents like a lot of companies that make CBD products are making (on a) large scale.”
Harvesting is also a meticulous process. When plants are ready to be harvested, Shane Weber will clip off three or four tops and send them to a lab in Fargo for testing. Once those are approved and below the legal THC limit of 0.3%, the crop has to be harvested within 30 days. In 2020, the Webers began harvesting the first week in September. However, this year’s harvest is expected to last longer with different strains growing this year, he said.
The vitamins, minerals and nutrients in hemp have been cited to provide some significant health benefits such as those who require taking a daily pain reliever.
“We just recommend that if people have aches and pains and they're taking Tylenol or something like that regularly, it wouldn't hurt to give us a try. It’s all natural and it can do good,” Shane Weber noted. “It might not be a cure all but it can definitely help and replace drugs like that.”
Cathy Weber added, “I love my oil. That's the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night because the hemp seed oil… is huge for anti-aging. So I think that's awesome. It's moisturizing, it's nourishing, it's healing and you can ingest it as well. We have the higher end bottle that's for tincture for underneath the tongue just to help with inflammation, anxiety, sleep, whatever.”
Looking ahead at his two-acre crop, Shane Weber remarked how he wants to continue being a hemp farmer and eventually expand.
“Our short term goals, I would say it’s always going to be to educate people so they understand that this crop is legal, and everything’s okay. We definitely want people to know about our products and everything too. This is our business now and (we strive) to have a crop that’s compliant. The state has to come out here to test everything… so we (can) have a harvest,” he said.
For more information, visit badlandsorganichemp.com or visit Badlands Hemp Facebook page.