If you've driven out to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, then you might have seen something that caught your eye or even caught your smell. It's a hemp farm. And it’s a part of the growing and changing agricultural landscape in Montana.
“My family's big crop has always been the hay crop,” says Gallatin County farmer Dale Flikkema.
Flikkema has been farming in the Gallatin Valley for three decades.
“Just traditional crops here in the valley, you know, wheat, barley, alfalfa, hay,” says Flikkema.
Two years ago, Dale decided to grow something outside of his comfort zone; once he started growing hemp, it made him the first hemp grower in the Gallatin Valley.
He partnered with IND Hemp, a Montana-based company that helps farmers evolve.
“We contract with farmers to grow hemp for us. We then bring that into our facilities at Fort Benton and process it, and then we sell our products all over the country,” says IND Hemp Chief Strategy Officer Trey Riddle.
IND Hemp helps farmers like Dale learn the process of growing hemp.
“We have a full-time agronomist that helps them plan their crops and we also provide the seed for them to plant and of course the contract to buy the commodity,” says Riddle.
Once the hemp is cut down, it is taken to Fort Benton where it's processed and becomes a variety of other products in agriculture or even apparel.
“We provide very high-performing bedding for animals, dressings for feed full of omega three six and nines, and almost a perfect protein for animals,” says Riddle.
After a rocky start the first time around, Dale is happier with the plant that grew up to 12 feet this summer.
“We made several mistakes, maybe right up off the front. The crop was, I want to say, was a little bit on the disappointing side. Of course, I'm a firm believer that if you're going to do anything once you got to do it two or three times. So another reason why I grew it this summer,” says Flikkema.
Riddle says that hemp helps Montana farmers evolve.
“Another opportunity to change up the rotation and diversity in their fields is really important for the health of their soils. Also, we can get out of the commodity price fluctuations,” says Riddle.
“To be in AG, you better be adjustable and flexible and do different things and you've got to be able to change on the moment,” says Flikkema.