The inaugural NoCo Hemp Expo in Windsor Saturday showcased the hemp-based products that industry supporters say can provide more sustainable alternatives for food, fuel and farming.
More than 300 people attended the event at Ricky B’s Sports Bar and Venue, 522 Main St. The crowd browsed the tables of hemp-based products and heard from speakers who discussed hemp’s history, recent legislative efforts, hemp farming and the plant’s benefits.
“I really did not expect this type of response,” said Colorado Hemp Company owner and event organizer Morris Beegle. “I expected a good response, but there’s probably 30 to 35 people that have flown in from out of state for the event. That I did not expect.”
Beegle said that while the hemp movement has been going on for quite some time, the recent legalization of marijuana and farming of industrial hemp has boosted interest in the various uses for the plant and its seeds. Unlike marijuana, industrial hemp doesn’t contain enough THC, an intoxicating ingredient in marijuana, to be used as a drug.
“It has health benefits. It’s a super-food. So, if you’re into flax seed, it’s right up there with that,” Beegle said. “It’s used in health products like shampoo, lotion, conditioner, soaps. You can make paper with it, build houses with it. You can use it for biofuel or to make plastics. Virtually anything made with petroleum could be replaced with a hemp-based alternative.”
One attendee, Daniel Sanders, flew in from North Carolina, where he co-founded of an organic hemp-based clothing company in 1990s.
“I wanted to see the new products and feel the grassroots energy of an emerging industry — not a new industry, but a rebirth of it,” Sanders said. “I think the industrial side of hemp has become so maligned because of the medicinal marijuana part. I think these products build a lot of awareness that we’re talking about an agricultural product that has so many uses.”
Many speakers and booth operators discussed the various uses and benefits of agricultural hemp, which Beegle said is a good rotational crop for farmers who rely on other crops such as corn, soy and alfalfa.
“It replenishes the nutrients and minerals in the soil. It doesn’t require the pesticides, the fertilizers or the amount of water that a lot of other crops require,” Beegle said.
Bo Shaffer of First Gen Colorado passed out hemp seeds and discussed his company’s work with marijuana genetics. He said the company stresses and selectively breeds hemp plants to find the ones most resistant to drought, diseases and other harsh conditions.
“We are trying to produce a strain that will be the best strain for Colorado,” Shaffer said. “We’ve lost 30 to 40 percent of our plants by stressing them, but the ones that make it are going to be superior for growing here in Colorado.”
He said the attendees coming to talk with him about his work ran the gamut from young to old.
“I’ve seen some young people that are interested in the science and genetics. I’ve seen some older farmers who are at least as old as me,” Shaffer said. “There’s been all kinds of people here. I ran into an old lady and her son who own 40 acres up north and want to know how to grow it. You’ve got all kinds of different people wanting to do all kinds of different things with it.”
Beegle said with the interest in and attendance for this year’s expo, he plans to hold the event again next year. He said he’d like to host the hemp expo for Northern Colorado in the spring and host one hemp expo in Denver each fall.