Episode 3 of the Goodness of Hemp™ Industrial hemp show introduces us to IND HEMP lead Agronomist Ben Brimlow as we travel north to join the Montana Organic Association at Vilicus Farms.
Far in the North, above the 'Highline' - Route 2 - that runs east to west across northern Montana and tucked up against the Canadian Border is a dryland agricultural production zone growing a variety of crops. Vilicus Farms has grown over the past years to be an example and leader of organic and regenerative practices. They use a 7 year rotation of wheat, barley, oats, peas, yellow peas, lentils, flax, and more along with cover crops. This is the first year they are adding hemp to the rotation as a broad leaf alternative and IND HEMP is excited to be growing both Organic hemp grain for hemp food as well as organic fiber varieties.
Along the way, we take the time to introduce you to IND HEMP lead hemp agronomist Ben Brimlow. Ben shares with us how he was inspired by agriculture and making a difference in the food system. This put him on a path to Washington State University where we completed both his under grad and masters in agronomy and soil science. He shares how that led him into breeding wheat, barley and other crops for dryland production in the Pacific Northwest. After a few years in the research and breeding he felt the pull back onto the farm and worked for a few years as a crop consultant for Nutrien Ag Solutions, supporting both conventional and organic farmers on the Palouse hills of eastern Washington.
In 2019 Ben planted the first dryland hemp grain crop in Washington state. Through that experience he networked with Hemp Northwest and was subsequently introduced to the Elliott family and IND HEMP. While initially believing there was opportunity for collaboration with IND HEMP and Washington growers, the offer was made for Ben to join the #indhempfamily and lead the agronomy team producing industrial hemp grain and fiber at scale in Montana. Ben jumped at the opportunity and moved his family to Montana and in 2020 supported more than 30 family farms growing nearly 10,000 acres of industrial hemp grain.
"The Montana Organic Association (MOA) brings together people, businesses, organizations, and agencies working to develop Montana's organic sector and building its community. MOA is proud of its legacy that has led Montana to be a national leader in organic production. But MOA is more than organic production; it also serves to educate about organic products including food, fiber, and non-food items like cosmetics and household supplies, and provides strategies to limit the use of chemicals in everyday life. MOA advocates for policies that protect the environment, promote healthy living, and support individuals, farms and businesses that are actively engaged in developing sustainable businesses and communities. MOA accomplishes this through hosting events, serving as an educational resource, providing networking opportunities, and through its communications channels." https://montanaorganicassociation.org
"Vilicus Farms officially started from scratch in 2009 when Doug and Anna purchased 1,280 acres of Northern Great Plains prairie off the open market with 20 years of savings and lots of hutzpah. The vision for Vilicus began years earlier when Doug, whose family’s grain farm in Ohio had been lost in the farm crisis of the 1980’s, began looking for a viable way to return to farming. Without the existence of a traditional family farm base, options were limited. In 2005, Doug and Anna recognized the emerging opportunities in the organic market and began drafting their vision of a model organic farm that would push the boundaries of conservation and sustainability." https://vilicusfarms.com/about.php
Special thanks to our friend Eric Hurlock and Tin Bird Shadow for graciously providing the music for our YouTube series. https://tinbirdshadow.bandcamp.com/releases