Shepherd industrial hemp grower: ‘Phones are blowing up’ with interest

Mitch Galloway Michigan Farm Bureau | Nov 1, 2019

Link to original article: https://www.themorningsun.com/news/local/shepherd-industrial-hemp-grower-phones-are-blowing-up-with-interest/article_80a3153a-fc0e-11e9-aac1-27a24a7c66f8.html

Michael Klumpp’s cellphone rings and rings and rings. On the other end of those calls? Interested industrial hemp customers.

Such is the life for Ag Marvels LLC CEO Klumpp these days, especially amid Michigan’s first legal industrial hemp harvest.

For Klumpp and other state processors and growers, the 2019 hemp harvest season’s been like the “Wild, Wild West” due to limited knowledge on the crop’s growing practices, its uses, and the unknown product market.

Now, Klumpp through his Shepherd-based Ag Marvels, a vertically integrated grower, processor and marketer of industrial hemp, is trying to change that.

“This is perfect timing,” said Klumpp, whose family also farms about 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, and 20 acres of industrial hemp.

“Ag in Michigan right now is not really profitable. I think it’s a great opportunity for guys — a little subsidy — to help with the other stuff they are doing. … All in all, I think guys are going to have good luck with what they are doing with hemp.”

Since the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) launched an ag pilot program in April, allowing farmers, processors and institutions to “test the waters” with industrial hemp, Klumpp’s watched as his customer base grew to roughly 50 growers.

Today, his phone continues to ring and ring and ring.

“It’s 110 mph right now,” Klumpp said. “We’ve been busy in all aspects. I tell you what, the phones are blowing up. I got two phone calls this morning on people interested in hemp.”

Industrial hemp production became legal under the 2018 U.S. farm bill.

Now, more than 572 grower licenses and 423 processor handler licenses have been issued through Michigan’s 2019 pilot program, as Michigan Farm News previously reported.

Later this year, federal rules and guidance on the state’s hemp plan are expected to be released by USDA prior to the 2020 growing season.

Klumpp received his licenses in April. Following harvest, growers and processors send final data reports to MDARD, which will compile the information.

“This is something we were anticipating getting involved with,” said Klumpp, “just because we were set up pretty well for it, already growing organically here for our own farm. And, we have a big network of farmers in the state that we can reach out to for hemp.”

By contracting through Ag Marvels, customers can send in material to be dried through a biomass dryer or hung up in three hanging barns. In all, Klumpp said Ag Marvels “sells the seed that goes into the ground to putting product on the shelf.”

Ag Marvels has the biomass capacity to extract 2,500 pounds per day of hemp and is hoping to expand that into 5,000 pounds in the next 90 days.

“We’ve got lots of guys showing up here, essentially dropping whole (hemp) plants off to us, or milling and drying them,” he said. “It’s whatever it takes to get (harvest) done right now.

“And we’ve built up all of this infrastructure … to get it done.”

Currently, industrial hemp is sold as fiber, seed or CBD oil, which must be below the THC level of .3%.

Ag Marvel currently sells, among other items, leaf wash concentrate and seed to farmers, with some retail products — bath bombs, Chapstick and CBD oil balms — being branded under the Heirloom Grove name. The company employs roughly 18 people.

When a federal rule is established, Klumpp said growers and processors will have a better understanding of the hemp market for fiber.

“There are people like us who have stems and stalks and different things that there’s great use for but nobody’s setting up to take them; there’s no infrastructure in place,” Klumpp added. “For us, that would be a huge help.”

On Dec. 4, Ag Marvels is hosting an educational seminar at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, where commodity experts and industry leaders will discuss financial opportunities, growing practices and crop insurance to attendees.

Registration is still open.

According to Theresa Sisung, associate field crops specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau, the interest in growing hemp means more processing capacity is needed in order to expand.

“It is nice to see Ag Marvels, among others, putting in the necessary infrastructure to process this new and exciting crop,” Sisung said. “As we look toward the 2020 growing season, it is important for hemp farmers to find a processor to work with and to start building that relationship now.”

To learn more about Ag Marvels and its offerings, contact Klumpp at 989-828-7403 or mklumpp@agmarvels.com.

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