LAKE GEORGE, Minn. — Jeri Scovel hurriedly harvested her first crop of industrial hemp last month.

“I’ve just been praying that it doesn’t snow,” she said.

The first licensed industrial hemp farmer in Hubbard County, Scovel is participating in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s pilot program. This year, 540 licensed farmers grew hemp on 8,000 acres and 400,000 indoor square feet of growing space across Minnesota as part of the pilot program.

Hemp comes from the same plant family as marijuana, but contains very little THC, the psychoactive chemical compound that can induce a high in marijuana users. Both hemp and marijuana contain CBD.

To be legal, hemp must have no more than .03% THC.

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Scovel’s half-acre near Lake George must be harvested by hand so the fragile hemp flower won’t be damaged. Most of the CBD is in the flower.

Under her business name, Hemptress Farms, Scovel will make and market CBD creams, tinctures, bath bombs, flour, powders, syrup, tea and CBD-infused honey.

Scovel enlisted friends to help harvest and dry the hemp plants this fall. MDA tested her plants to ensure they contain less than .03% THC.

“Then I got robbed,” Scovel said. “I think it was kids.”

Eleven plants were damaged or yanked from the ground, presumably because thieves thought they would get “high.” Smoking it will only produce a massive headache, Scovel said.

To guard her crop, she began camping out in a tent. “It’s been brutal sleeping out here.”

Scovel is pleased with her first field of hemp in Minnesota. She previously grew it in California.

Scovel will extract cannabidiols (CBD) from the hemp plant. Most of the CBD is held within the flower, shown here. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)
Scovel will extract cannabidiols (CBD) from the hemp plant. Most of the CBD is held within the flower, shown here. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

Last spring, she started from seed, then installed a drip system for the half-acre of hemp plants. Due to lack of nutrients, some of the plants split and are brittle. Scovel will mulch the unused remains of this year’s crop and put it back into the ground.

In the future, she would like to grind up the woody stalks to make hempcrete. Like concrete, she would use hempcrete to build her house.

After the drying process — about seven to 10 days — she’ll strip the stems of leaves and then extract the hemp seed oil. She’s purchasing a carbon dioxide extraction machine so she can process the hemp herself over the winter.

Before extracting the hemp oil, the plants must dry for seven to 10 days. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)
Before extracting the hemp oil, the plants must dry for seven to 10 days. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

“I’ll be able to do, maybe, a pound a day. It takes a long time,” Scovel said.

The state pilot program is ending, but Scovel plans to continue growing hemp.

“The USDA is supposed to have guidelines,” she said. “I’m just waiting to see what’s going to happen.”