Slaton hemp facility begins processing crop in inaugural season

Processing begins at Slaton hemp plant

SLATON, Texas (KCBD) - Out in Slaton, the summer months of 2020 were spent preparing for the thousands of acres of South Plains land used to grow hemp. The processing facility was an empty building in early May, but is now drying the bales that seem to not stop coming.

“We get calls daily with people that decided to grow some hemp but have no game plan, they have no end plan,” Chris Bednarz said. “Once we process ours, then we will also be helping to fill some of that processing gap for some of the other farmers around that decided to grow hemp.”

Bednarz is a managing partner at the Slaton facility operated by Delta Agriculture Partners. With 17 farmers in multiple counties, Benarz estimates they’ve started processing close to 4,000 bales and expect a total of 6,500 to 7,000.

“It’s been great,” Benarz said. “It’s been a lot of work, a lot of long hours, but it’s pretty cool to watch this thing run every day and dry hemp. The farmers that are all working with us, they’re excited. We show up to the farms and every one of them has got a smile on their face.”

Doug Heinrich is one of the farmers who, after many years of farming cotton, decided to grow this new crop. He told KCBD it would be a little more financially stable.

“We’ve heard all these different scenarios of how it works and different ways of doing it,” Heinrich said. “Then, when they came up with this [facility] in Slaton, it seemed very simple. Just plant it like cotton and just grow it like you would corn or cotton, just water and fertilize it. It seems to have turned out somewhat good, so far.”

Heinrich has 40 acres of hemp this year, but is open to the same, if not more, next year. He said the Delta Ag partnership has helped him every step of the way.

“There’s no way I could have done it without,” Heinrich said. “I wouldn’t know where to take it, what to do with it. We have a guy from Colorado that comes here and pretty much has given us all the ideas of how to do things. So, that was a big help.”

At this point, the Slaton processing facility is drying the bales. The separating of the product into raw goods like seed, stalk and flour is expected in a few weeks when the rest of the equipment arrives. The goods are then sold to extractors.

Delta Ag takes up the marketing of the goods to extractors and offers a guaranteed price to the producers.

“Farmers were excited about growing hemp but didn’t have a place to go,” Bednarz said. “Farmers can grow anything in West Texas. But, a new crop like this, the missing link was the processing and then also the marketing of it.”

Bednarz hopes to take in more farmers next season or allow their existing partners to grow more acreage.

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