Anderson was the first person in America to legally import hemp from Canada in 2014 after the federal farm bill passed. His first project was for Kentucky and was completed in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. He also has an operation in North Dakota, and now in Minnesota.

Source: Making history with hemp seeds

PLAINVIEW, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Agriculture created an industrial hemp research pilot program in 2015 to study different aspects of hemp production. This is the first year that the MDA has allowed certified seed production, or essentially growing seeds from pure seed stock.

Meet and greet

Mike Zabel, from Zabel Seeds in Plainview, was interested in the new opportunity.

“I wanted to grow hemp, but didn’t want to grow it just to grow it,” he said. “Since we are in the seed business, we decided to grow hemp for seed production.”

Zabel’s farm encompasses 500 acres. Each year he and his wife, Kim, plant corn and soybeans, which are also raised for seed to sell to several third-party seed companies.

The Zabels also grow alfalfa, oats, barley and rye. This year, they planted 44 acres of registered hemp seeds imported from Canada.

Zabel and Lon Baldus, a seed farmer in Grand Meadow, Minn., who planted about 200 acres of hemp, grow seed for Ken Anderson, the founder and CEO of Original Green Distribution.

“Mike Zabel and Lon Baldus are the first certified seed producers for hemp in Minnesota in several decades,” Anderson said.

Anderson was the first person in America to legally import hemp from Canada in 2014 after the federal farm bill passed. His first project was for Kentucky and was completed in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. He also has an operation in North Dakota, and now in Minnesota.

Keeping it close to home

Anderson will provide farmers in Minnesota with the hemp seed Zabel and Baldus grow.

“We are working with the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, and we have been given permission to start domestic production of certified seed, so we no longer have to import certified seed from Canada,” Anderson said.

Even though seeds can be grown and harvested in Minnesota, seed can’t be shipped to any other state.

“At present, interstate movement and transportation of viable seed is federally prohibited, so seed production is destined to be used by farmers next year in Minnesota,” Zabel said. “Producing seed in Minnesota will make it easier and less expensive for industrial hemp growers to obtain seed stock for planting in 2018.”

Genetic purity

Since Zabel is a grower for Anderson, Anderson imported registered seed for Zabel, who will grow seed for one year. That seed will become certified, which means its genetic purity and varietal identity are preserved.

To achieve genetic purity, Zabel stressed the importance of purity in the process while planting, growing and harvesting. When seeding, planting equipment must be carefully vacuumed before use.

“Throughout the growing season, fields will be inspected by field inspectors from the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association,” Zabel said. “The crop will be sampled and tested to ensure THC content is within legal requirements for industrial hemp.”

When harvesting the crop, purity in the process is important. The combines, trucks, wagons, grain bins and related augers and conveyors must be carefully cleaned.

Selling the seeds

Most hemp producers are contracted with Anderson. The grain from farmers will be used in food and cosmetic products.

Anderson’s largest client is Nutiva, a U.S. firm that’s the world’s leading brand of all-organic hemp foods, coconut oil, red palm oil and chia seeds. Anderson also sells to Kentucky Hemp Works and Victory Hemp Foods.

“Most Americans buy more hemp than all of us realize, but we are still at about 1 percent market penetration,” Anderson said.

Anderson is interested in working with General Mills to see hemp grain put into cereal, but he said, “in the United States, we are not to their scale.”

“There’s a lot of opportunity in hemp seed production, but right now the stop gap is getting the infrastructure in place,” Anderson said. Then, selling to places like General Mills will be conceivable.

The easy part is finding the farmers because of the financial incentive,” Anderson said. “They will make far more than corn or soybeans without any subsidies.”