Powell Valley company plants hemp crop

Employees of Mother's Hemp Farms plant hemp seedlings just west of Powell. It was the first planting of commercial hemp in the Powell area. The plants are expected to be harvested in September. (Photo by Mark Davis, Powell Tribune)

POWELL — The first commercial hemp crop in the Powell Valley was planted this week. Dale Tenhulzen, CEO and president of MHF (Mother’s Hemp Farms), said he is transplanting 35 acres of hemp just west of Powell. The company will sow another 102 acres of hemp in the Deaver area with the drilling method. 

Justin Loeffler, president of the Wyoming Hemp Association, said Tenhulzen’s 137 acres is likely the largest hemp growing operation in the state.

“Despite all that’s happening in the world right now, hemp in Wyoming is moving forward. This is a very positive thing,” Loeffler said. 

When harvested in September, the crops will be processed into CBD and CBG products, Tenhulzen said. CBD and CBG are non-psychoactive chemical extracts that its consumers say have health benefits. The crops themselves will be used to produce a crude extract of the chemicals, which will then be shipped to a pharmaceutical lab out-of-state that specializes in refining CBD and CBG oils. 

“It’s exciting,” Tenhulzen said. 

Tenhulzen said he is also pursuing food lines that will contain hemp products, in partnership with Gluten Free Oats of Powell (GFO). The specialty food company became the first in the state to receive a license to process hemp products earlier this year. Loeffler said he’d sent 1,800 pounds of hemp seeds for GFO to test in its mill. 

Tenhulzen said this year’s crop is only an initiation for what he hopes will be a much larger industry that will eventually branch out into textile products. The fibers of hemp can be used to create a variety of materials, from concrete to plastics. Tenhulzen said they will need to plant 20,000 to 30,000 acres in the state before they can produce enough fiber to make such a venture viable. He said he won’t start moving into textiles for another couple years. 

In an experimental phase of a fledgling industry, Tenhulzen said the crop is too expensive for most farmers to plant. He hopes these first acres pave the way for other local farmers to get into the business.

“I’m trying to put Wyoming on the map for hemp,” he said. 

Tenhulzen also said he’s working with local FFA leaders to start teaching future farmers about growing the crop. 

Despite some people’s concerns that the hemp industry is a doorway into legalizing marijuana — which is a variant of the same cannabis plant that produces hemp — Tenhulzen said Wyoming is attractive for industrial hemp precisely because marijuana is not allowed in the state. 

Hemp is notorious for cross-pollination issues, and fields of hemp grown for different applications have to maintain quite a bit of separation. Hemp crops grown for CBD and CBG are decimated when contaminated by neighboring marijuana fields.

Marijuana “is illegal in Wyoming, and we want to keep it that way,” Tenhulzen said. 

Tenhulzen said Doug Miyamoto, director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, as well as former Powell Economic Partnership Executive Director Christine Bekes were instrumental in helping to facilitate the operation. 

“They’ve been great,” Tenhulzen said.