SUN RIVER — Fort Benton’s IND HEMP hosted the “Montana Summer Summit” this week in Sun River.
One of the highlights of the week came from Sun River farmer Chuck Merja, who is under contract with IND HEMP, and announced that he had grown fiber hemp for the Fort Benton-based company. Merja is widely known for his role on Sun River’s robotics team, and although he has experience as a farmer, alongside his brothers, Pat and Elliott, he never grown from hemp fiber previously.
Merja explained, “The idea is to grow hemp for use here in the United States. China is the top producer, and it’s time for a resurgence in the hemp industry. We decided to try our luck with fiber. production system quite well, and so far we’ve been very happy with how it’s turned out.
Merja said approximately 4,000 pounds per acre of hemp fiber will be cut and given to IND HEMP for manufacturing. Merja said, “It’s a finer fiber, for the textile industry instead of making rope… It’ll be in clothes or shoes, we think.”
Mikayla Moore, hemp program manager for the Montana Department of Agriculture, said, “This particular crop looked great. ‘here there and breaks down, there’s little to no THC in it, and it won’t be ingested. I believe this culture will be used in textile grain fiber.
Guy Carpenter is a North Carolina-based textile and apparel manufacturer. He also attended the crop analysis and said he was satisfied with what he saw.
Carpenter said it’s important to keep in mind that for a healthy crop like fiber hemp, it needs to be between six and eight feet long with the same level of thickness as a number two pencil. He also emphasized the importance of retting. Retting is a microbial process that breaks the chemical bonds that hold the stem together and allows the bast fibers to separate from the woody core.
Carpenter said: “Perhaps few people have heard of hemp in the sense of a textile-grade fiber, but it is one of the oldest cultivated plants known to man, and it is why it is cultivated, and it is the first textile fiber cultivated by man, so some people may not have paid attention to it, but those people who are careful about the food they eat, are also starting to pay attention to the clothes they wear, how they’re made, what they’re made out of. Towards a more sustainable and circular economy in this world, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Matthew Mead is someone well versed in fiber-based hemp – he’s the CEO of Hempitecture, an Idaho-based company.
Mead said, “We are here in the fields of Montana, seeing where our raw materials are grown, and they will ultimately be transformed into high-performance, sustainable insulation.”
He added, “It’s really great to see Montana agriculture thriving and embracing a new culture here, and we look forward to partnering with Montana farmers and bringing them to our facilities in Twin Falls, in Idaho, so they can see what they’re developing in the field and how it turns into a durable, long-lasting, high-performance product.”
One of the long-term goals of IND HEMP is to build a more sustainable future for producing high-quality hemp for a variety of industries and consumers, and one of the primary means of doing this is through the practice of regenerative agriculture.