From the outside, the big white barn looks like any other small family farm in southwestern Dane County, surrounded by gently rolling hills and freshly tilled fields. Kattia Jimenez greets me at the gravel driveway and we walk up the hill. What’s happening inside this barn is something that hasn’t been legal in Wisconsin for more than half a century. This is the home of the Mount Horeb Hemp Company, one of the few farms to grow hemp in 2018, the first year production became legal again in Wisconsin.
The first thing I notice is the electronic security keypad on the door, an anachronism for a century-old barn. The second thing I notice is the smell — a dry musty air that smells like marijuana. Inside the remodeled barn hemp plants are stacked floor to ceiling. The lights are dim and a disco ball hangs from the ceiling. An industrial strength dehumidifier hums in the corner. Four people are hunched over a table, trimming dried buds. Jimenez’s husband, John Eichorst, and a few friends are sorting through stacks of plants, separating the valuable flowers from the stems and leaves. Some plants are pinned to clotheslines crisscrossing the room. The harvested product is stacked in a small tower of plastic tubs leaning against the back wall.
They grew their crop from seed, which they sowed back on frosty April mornings in their small greenhouse. They tucked their seedlings into the field after the last frost in May, like tomatoes. In the first week of October, they harvested the first crop with a small handsaw. It’s now late October and in a few weeks the dried flowers will be sold to a processor who will turn them into CBD oil.