ZUMBROTA — A new crop is beginning to take form at Willow's Keep Farm outside of Zumbrota.
It's not corn or soybeans. The crop isn't to be confused with ditch weed or marijuana. It's hemp. The multi-purpose, versatile crop is going to be turned into a maze for people to walk through, while also getting a hands-on education from the farm's owner, Ted Galaty.
Previously, the site had a corn maze as a part of the farm's haunted house experience: Fright Farm. Galaty predicts the hemp will grow about 8 feet tall. Galaty said some hemp will grow upwards of 12 feet.
Galaty and his farm are a part of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, created to help the MDA study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp.
Since hemp is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, stealing the hemp is not a smart idea either. Plus, as Galaty says "You couldn't get high off of it."
Does he make clothing? Get into selling cannabidiol? Or could he make a killing in the biofuel business?
At this point, with only 4 acres worth of hemp mixed in with corn remnants, his options are limited. When it comes to where he could process the hemp, it gets even smaller.
Since the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program is for research purposes and Minnesota doesn't have a place to process hemp, Galaty has to send his crops to Canada.
Galaty isn't a fan of this option whatsoever, finding it counterintuitive to load his hemp on a truck to be sent to Canada, when hemp naturally takes in carbon dioxide and removes it from the atmosphere.
The processing is Galaty's biggest gripe with such a unique, multi-purpose crop: What does he do with it in a responsible way?
"I'm just trying to be real creative," Galaty said. "I could probably do soaps, I could probably do candles, I could probably do lotions ... there's a lot of different things you can do, as long as you're not selling it for human consumption."
Overall, Galaty believes he has an opportunity to educate people about hemp. Telling people this crop isn't a ploy to introduce more marijuana into Minnesota, but to show people the historical significance of hemp and the many ways it can help people.
"It's one of those things, it's a learning process," Galaty said. "That's how I farm."
To visit Willow's Keep Farm and learn more about the hemp maze, visit their Facebook website: https://www.facebook.com/Hemp-Maze-Minnesota-235953090497989/.