Project aims to a-maze with hemp

Chris Farver, of Caledonia, makes his way through the hemp maze at Fright at the Farm Saturday in Zumbrota. The maze features six stations where people can read information about industrial hemp.
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Ted Galaty wasn’t looking for a cause. He was looking for a crop to replace corn for his autumn maze.

"Everybody’s seen a corn maze," he said. "I wanted to do something different."

He selected hemp. Before the crop took root, Galaty and his family found themselves taking up a cause.

Galaty runs the Fright Farm and adjacent maze off U.S. Highway 52 south of Zumbrota. This year, he decided to switch the four-acre maze to something different and established the Minnesota Hemp Maze.

Corn, he said, was labor intensive, expensive and getting costlier by the year.


"Not rotating was depleting the soil," he said. "I’m just putting more and more fertilizer, more and more spray on my crop."

Galaty researched hemp and consulted the Minnesota Department of Agriculture about the crop. Hemp can be made into food and multi-use oil. Its fibers can be used to make canvas, rope and linen. Fibers can be made into paper with just a fraction of processing and chemicals conventional paper requires. It can be made into a biodegradable plastic. Hemp can be used in concrete to make buildings. The crop also replenishes the soil and doesn’t require tilling to plant.

"It’s amazing what can be done with hemp," he said. "And what it does for your soil at the same time."

For this year’s maze, Galaty’s goal became twofold — to entertain and educate. Instead of a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt in this year’s maze, Galaty posted signs in the maze with hemp facts.

Legalized it

In 2014, President Obama signed a farm bill allowing farmers to grow hemp. That ended decades-long Federal prohibition of hemp production in the U.S. Since then, 30 U.S. states have followed in decriminalizing growing hemp. Unlike its cousin, marijuana, hemp contains little THC — the psychoactive compound that gets users high.

"Your lungs would actually fail before you could get high on this hemp," Galatxy said.

Hemp does contain cannabidiol —known as CBD— a cannabis compound that has been documented to have medical benefits and can counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.


Despite its uses and relatively recent legality, producers still face hurdles lingering from decades of prohibition. Production and processing equipment is difficult to find in the U.S. Insurance companies don’t insure the crop and farmers are not likely to get loans from banks for equipment and seeds for those reasons and due to its inconsistent legal status throughout the U.S.

However, if more farmers begin growing it, a processing industry will grow with it. Financing options could open up as well.

"I just know the time is right," he said. "But obviously you need more farmers to buy into it then you have the banks and industry buying into it."

Galaty needed to apply for a license and pay a $500 fee before he could produce hemp. The hemp seeds were donated by Legacy Hemp seed company. Galaty paid a farmer to plant the four acres. With about 300 visitors to the maze since it opened for the season Sept. 22, the maze is money ahead on the enterprise even without harvesting the hemp.

Going further

Snow covered the hemp crop on Sunday. It turned the recognizable blooms into clumps of white. Despite the weather, Mason Harty and Brandon Jenson, both of Cannon Falls, toured the maze. They both had heard about it and had seen the acres of hemp from the highway.

"I think people need to be informed about all the good uses for (hemp)," Jenson said.

"I know I learned a lot," Harty said. "It really could do some good right now."


Among corn, soy beans, and wetlands, the hemp field has turned heads and prompted a few calls to law enforcement. While Galaty’s operation is completely legal, anyone without a permit to grow hemp could be subject to steep fines or imprisonment if they try to leave with so much as a stem or a seed of hemp.

Such laws are a holdover from when hemp was categorized as a schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Although widely used through most of American history, hemp popularity began to decline in the 1930s. In the 1940s, government-supported efforts and financing spurred hemp production for needed products and material during World War II. Laws restricting and eventually prohibiting hemp production were reinstated after the war. Since decriminalization at a federal level in 2014, Minnesota Department of Agriculture has authorized more than three dozen pilot hemp production programs on more than 1,200 acres of land.

As laws catch up, Galaty said he sees hemp as a solution to multiple problems. Plastics made from hemp are biodegradable, he said.

"Hemp plastic biodegrades in, what —" Galaty said.

"Eighty days," his wife Tricia Galaty, and Sarah Sweets both simultaneously said to finish Galaty’s sentence.

The two work at the Fright Farm and the hemp maze and have picked up more than few facts about hemp. Before the maze was even complete, Galaty got a demonstration of the strength of hemp fibers when he tried to trim back some of the plants. His rotary trimmer became bound up. He dulled a knife trying to free it before deciding it was a lost cause. The nature of the plant is why special equipment is needed to harvest and process hemp.

This year’s crop is food-grade hemp that grows about six feet tall. Galaty said he already sees signs the soil is in good shape. He had the maze planted on Memorial Day. If Galaty hadn’t planned to grow the hemp for a maze, he could have had two harvests this year, he said.

Despite not yet having the equipment to process it, Galaty is already planning next year’s crop — a variety grown for its fiber for processing into linen that grows up to 12 to 15 feet high.

"For a maze purpose, 12 to 15 feet high would be much better," he said.

This year, the crop will stay in the ground. Next year, Galaty said he might do something with that crop if he can find a processor and and equipment to get it out of the ground.

"I’m not sure where this is going to take me," he said. "But I want to see if I can go further with it."

The maze is open from noon until 4 p.m. Oct. 18-21; 27, 28 and Nov. 3.

Minnesota Hemp Maze

Where: 47385 U.S. Highway 52, south of Zumbrota

When: Oct. 18-21; 27, 28 and Nov. 3, noon to 4 p.m.

Related Topics: CORN
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