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WO Investments LLC owners Shanan Wright and Dion Oakes have been farming industrial hemp since 2014. (Wright-Oakes LLC)

When Dion, 27, approached his father-in-law, 55, about farming hemp, the agricultural veteran brushed him off at first.

“Oh, you’re just a pothead,” Oakes recalled his in-law telling him.

Wright didn’t deny this account, admitting that his perspective changed when he learned more about the plant.

“It was just education that changed my mind,” Wright said. “I’ve been a farmer for 30 years growing mostly potatoes. Hemp is just a nice change. It’s something refreshing.”

To date, he and Oakes have cultivated the plant for seven years as Wright-Oakes LLC in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The fact that it doesn’t require a ton of water made hemp very attractive to them.

“We started out indoors with 100 or so plants, just to see what the plant would do here in the Valley,” said Oakes, who began farming on a potato-seed operation after high school. After growing hemp indoors, Oakes and Wright then grew it on 30 acres, and, from there, on 300 acres. The pair went on to double their hemp acreage and are growing the crop on more than 2,500 acres this year.

“The biggest thing that’s driving this is money,” Wright said of the newcomers to the industry. But he added that young farmers and old farmers can learn from each other. Older farmers have years of experience cultivating crops while young people adapt easily as the agriculture industry evolves.

“These younger people are coming back into farming with a whole new vigor,” Wright said. “They understand the new technology way better than some of us older people. Farming is changing rapidly. There are GPS-driven tractors, and all of the equipment is digitally controlled.”

Now along with farming, the two have started a hemp food processing facility. They offer white-labeling, wholesale, bulk and tolling of hemp food products, which include, hemp hearts, hemp protein powder, and hemp oil.

Interview courtesy of Civil Eats

Wright-Oakes LLC Hemp Field