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Minnesota's Hemp Acres is expanding to meet hemp product demand

Hemp Acres, one of Minnesota's first licensed growers and processors of hemp, is expanding into a 37,000-square-foot food-grade space.

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Hemp Acres hopes to be processing or producing 10,000 acres of hemp annually within the next five years. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)
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Hemp Acres, located in Waconia, Minn., is expanding its hemp processing operation.

“We have recently taken the leap to secure 37,000 square feet of food-grade space, just a couple miles from my farm, and have been converting it to a food-grade facility over the last few months,” said Charles Levine, owner of Hemp Acres.

Hemp Acres came to fruition in 2016, becoming one of the first licensed growers and licensed processors of hemp in Minnesota. However, when hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act and became legal federally, Hemp Acres was able to launch into official production.

“Our whole model is contracting with other local farmers in the Midwest. We have a contract that secures us purchasing their crop at a fixed price,” Levine said.

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With the heavy demand in the hemp market, Hemp Acres is still looking to find more producers to contract with.

“We are still looking for about 3,000 to 4,000 more acres for grain and fiber production this year,” Levine said.

Hemp Acres hopes to be producing or processing 10,000 acres annually in the next five years.

“Demand in the market has been the reason for our expansion. We just can’t keep up with demand. Especially our hemp seed oil," he said.

While hemp is new to the market as opposed to other crops, its versatility is what originally drew Levine in.

“The plant has over 50,000 uses. People are really interested in growing hemp. I think people want to see an alternative to corn and beans. I knew I wanted to get into the industry. It was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Levine said.

Hemp Acres offers a variety of items such as hemp seed oil, hemp protein powder, CBD pellets, hemp fiber and much more.

Although hemp does offer an array of varieties for possible products, the crop also comes with its fair share of risks.

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“There are some growing challenges. It’s a different crop. It’s different in the sense of corn and beans with how you handle it. But it's an exciting opportunity that a farmer can make with it," he said. "I do think the biggest problem is the lack of infrastructure; where are the farmers going to bring it? So that is a void we personally are trying to fill, and we are filling it, now on a large scale. Giving farmers a legitimate space to sell their harvested greens.”

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