COLUMNISTS

Wisconsin hemp: Diversifying Wisconsin’s agriculture industry

Taylor Schaefer

In my first month as the 75th Alice in Dairyland, I have been able to promote the diversity of Wisconsin agriculture as one of our state’s greatest strengths. Wisconsin, which is coined as America’s Dairyland, is filled with a variety of commodities, including cattle, cheese, mink, corn, cranberries, and more. Hemp is another valuable crop that helps boost Wisconsin’s agriculture portfolio.

Peggy Coffeen, right, and her husband are fifth generation dairy farmers and decided to grow hemp on their De Pere, Wis. farm to utilize more of their farmland. Coffeen is joined by Alice in Dairyland Taylor Schaefer.

Hemp has been grown in the U.S. for several centuries, originally used to make important products such as paper, lamp fuels, and ropes. In 2021, Wisconsin farmers planted 680 acres of hemp, which produced 86,000 pounds of hemp.

I met with Peggy Coffeen in De Pere, Wis. to learn more about Wisconsin’s hemp industry and her family’s business called P’ri CBD. She and her husband are fifth-generation dairy farmers and decided to begin growing hemp to utilize more of their farm land. This is their fourth season growing hemp in Wisconsin, and they now have 120 plants that are all cared for by hand.

In early May, their planting begins indoors. Seedlings are then taken to the farm at the beginning of June, and after digging holes by hand, they are transplanted into the ground. In the beginning of September when there is less sunlight each day, the flowers begin to take form.

To maximize the value of hemp grown for CBD, the crop cannot pollinate. Growers want to harvest the buds and flowers found on female plants, but if they are pollinated, those flowers will turn into seeds. The solution is to use only female plants, which are monitored and cared for all summer to ensure they have not been pollinated.

The Coffeen’s work with local partners to extract the hemp oil from their dried product, which is used to make lip balm, body butter, topicals, and more for the family's business  P’ri CBD.

The flowers are later inspected, harvested by hand, and dried on-site. The Coffeen’s work with local partners to extract the hemp oil from their dried product, which is used to make lip balm, body butter, topicals, and more.

As I travel the state of Wisconsin, I continue to be amazed by the growers, processors, farmers, and all those in between that make up our state’s $104.8 billion agriculture industry. Hemp is just one example of how Wisconsin is diversifying the agriculture industry through perseverance and innovation to keep our state’s farming communities moving forward.

Taylor Schaefer

Taylor Schaefer is Wisconsin's 75th Alice in Dairyland