Industrial hemp products provide new opportunities for growers and producers

Hemp enthusiasts converge on small town to show off their products

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
Reva Dougherty buys hemp earrings from Andrew Bader during a Hemp open house in Great Bend, Kansas.

Hemp enthusiasts, growers and producers from across the U.S. came together Friday evening during the second annual open house at South Bend Industrial Hemp in Great Bend. South Bend not only grows non-THC commercial industrial hemp for CBD oil but fiber plants as well. They also have a decorticating facility. This is one of only a handful in the U.S.

Hemp fibers are being used to weave into baskets, make prosthetics as well as sunglass frames and houses. 

Although Reva Dougherty of Great Bend is excited for the opportunities hemp can bring to farmers, during the open house, she was drawn to the aesthetics of the product. She purchased several sets of hemp fiber earrings from Hemp3D during the event. 

Related:Kansas' first industrial hemp fiber processing facility opens in Great Bend

"We've seen from the very beginning what they (South Bend Industrial Hemp) have been working on," she said. "They're trying to make it better for farmers to find an alternative crop."

Hempcrete

Several manufacturers of hempcrete, from novices to longtime builders and growers, gathered together to exchange ideas. Hempcrete is a bio-composite made of the inner woody core of the hemp plant mixed with a lime-based binder, according to American Lime Technology.

Corey Hughes of California, who runs Hemp Builders U.S.A. and Pass it Forward – a workforce, not-for-profit organization in Los Angeles – has worked with the product for seven years. Hemp Builders recently built a small home and shed using a binder with  hemp insulation. His group builds greenhouses, barns and fireplaces.

Hughes said he is ready to use the plant in Great Bend.

"We are going to distribute (our product) through here," he said. 

Because the material is both pest-free and fire-resistant, hempcrete is gaining popularity. 

To build out of this product in Kansas, contractors must obtain a fire marshal's permission. Conrad McAnany, who works in asphalt in Kansas City, is starting to conduct research on hempcrete. He hopes this research will demonstrate the viability of this product. 

More:Will hemp be boon for farmers? Kansas reports say it’s too soon to say

Grow Missouri Hemp, out of southern Missouri, is hoping to start building in southeastern Kansas soon. Another company, the Hemp Building Company out of Colorado, is looking to build in western Kansas. 

Hemp3D demonstrates how they make a vase during the South Bend Industrial Hemp Open House on July 9 in Great Bend, Kansas.

Hemp sunglasses and vases

Other vendors brought baskets, sunglasses and coasters made out of the fiber to the event. Andrew Bader and Jack Schueth of Hemp3D in Nebraska are using hemp fiber to produce sunglass frames, earrings and vases. Because the plant needs little water to grow and requires little fertilizer, a few years ago, Bader became interested in the crop.

"I was looking for an alternative crop to grow," Bader said. "I hate to have all your eggs in one basket. Hemp is just all encompassing."

Soon, Bader was not only growing industrial fiber hemp alongside soybeans and corn on his farm, but he was teaming up with Schueth, purchasing 3-D filaments out of North Dakota and creating 3-D designs from the fiber. Schueth said they are the only manufacturers in the U.S. producing this biodegradable 3-D product. 

More:'30 years of beating your head against the wall': Some Kansas farmers jumped in and out of the hemp market.

"We use the core of the plant," Schueth said. "It biodegrades once it is put in the soil. It's good for your life until you throw it away."

In addition to the sunglasses, Hemp Vision manufactures earrings, intricate pyramids and coasters out of the fiber. 

Jack Schueth of Hemp3D speaks with a customer during the South Bend Industrial Hemp Open House in Great Bend, Kansas.

South Bend brings people together through education

In 2018, brothers Aaron and Richard Baldwin, fourth-generation farmers, were looking for a new crop. Melissa, who helps farm the industrial hemp, is a research scientist. The three native Kansans enjoy educating the community about hemp.

"We started chasing this vision in 2018 and have slowly watched it come to fruition," Melissa Baldwin said. "This is a great event with so many wonderful people."