As many of our readers know, for the past three years the Independent has been writing about the enormous potential the hemp plant represents for southeastern Colorado. Well, the time to take advantage of a potential economic boom is now upon us as the hemp industry is starting to establish itself since the passing of the federal 2018 Farm Bill that essentially legalized the production and sale of hemp-derived products, in particular CBD, in all 50 states.
Although Kiowa County has not responded much to the enormous opportunity that the production of hemp could mean to the region, there is a group of investors who came before the Bent County Commissioners last week requesting a Special Review Use Permit Application of A-1 Zoning Regulations.
The official Bent County Docket read in reference to this permit, “Nature’s Alternative Farms Holdings, LLC proposes to construct greenhouses to produce hemp on the farm they designate as Farm 39S. Production will include an irrigated farm, greenhouses for hemp and produce, and processing plant for hemp. The land in Bent County is further described as: Parts of Section 24, and East ½ of Section 23, in Township 23 South, Range 49 West of the 6th P.M., Bent County, Colorado.”
In layman’s terms, Nature’s Alternative Farms, LLC (NAF), owned and operated by Bill Grasmick and Karl Nyquist, is undertaking an ambitious business opportunity just outside the town of McClave where they propose to grow hemp in six irrigation circles, and, eventually, seven greenhouses. Even more, their proposal includes a processing plant, and a couple of buildings for the massive work required to grow, harvest, and process hemp. In all, the new business will invest upwards around $200 million dollars in order to get up and running.
By now you might be thinking NAF is crazy to believe a $200 million investment in southeastern Colorado will pay off. However, the answer just might be, no, not at all if you read the group’s executive summary that estimates how the hemp industry is about to explode in a huge way. NAF explained that the market for Hemp CBD oil and other hemp products is the fastest growing market in the world. Colorado currently has a hemp infrastructure in place and has been growing and producing half of the hemp crop in the United States for the past three years. The estimated value of the crop was $300 million in 2017. But by 2022, the value is estimated to skyrocket to $22 billion. That kind of growth has occurred mostly by word of mouth instead of any focused marketing campaigns. That is an incredible growth potential that NAF hopes to get in on.
NAF has a strong business plan that addresses the current Barriers of Entry to the hemp industry. The main one is a lack of industry. That makes them at the forefront of developing methods and best practices for the future. In addition, some other barriers include farmland shortage, water shortages equipment and building costs, and the cost of the hemp plants and licensing.
In order to solve these barriers NAF has combined forces with Colorado Advantages (C&A) who has been in the game for a while. Their Monte Fiore test crops have been harvested and its genetics verified to yield a favorable 15% CBD level. Seeds have also been obtained for the 2019 expansion. C&A has extensive farming experience and relationships. The company has also made deals for water and has raised the capital necessary for the 2019 season.
With C&A providing the farming and cannabis experience, NAF plans to be a vertically integrated wholesale hemp company, processing its biomass, the stocks and leftover material, into crude oil, distillate and ultimately isolate for sale to businesses that in turn produce consumer products. The main product will obviously be the CBD as that market is currently growing exponentially. However, NAF is positioning itself for long-term survival by implementing plant production and seed production through wholesale and retail consumer goods. In other words, there are a huge number of products that can be processed in their plant in addition to the CBD. The more revenue streams available the better the company will sustain its position as the market matures.
Initially, the company will focus on specific revenue streams with potentially high profit margins. In addition to selling the processed CBD, their main focus, other revenue streams will include seed sales, clone/seedling sales, plant stalks processed into cattle feeds, plastics, and hempcrete, and brand products such as tinctures, lotions, sodas, capsules, and edibles.
NAF estimates that the new hemp farm and processing plant will create 55 new jobs in McClave including up to 20 processing jobs, 20 greenhouse jobs, and up to 15 farming jobs. The cost breakdown includes $6.2 million for a 25,000 square foot processing building and equipment; $3.4 million for 88,000 square feet of greenhouse space and equipment; $800 thousand for 375 acres with 6 pivots of irrigation equipment; and $200 thousand for a 5,000 square foot shop building.
Finally, NAF estimates that this new company will generate more economic development in its first full year of operation than the cost the county is estimating from the loss of the recently dried up Arkansas River Farms property. Further, NAF indicated in their meeting with the Bent County Commissioners, that they would be working congruently with the proposed dairy farm that is being established in Bent County close to Las Animas to provide feed for the dairy cattle.
As late as last Friday, the Bent County Commissioners had approved the special use permit giving Nature’s Alternative Farms, LLC and Colorado Advantages a green light to proceed with this cutting edge and potentially strong economic hemp farm and processing plant in southeastern Colorado.