Iowa native starts Fairbank hemp farm with help from fellow vets

By AMIE RIVERS | Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier | Published: June 21, 2020

FAIRBANK, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — Unemployed military veterans will be among the first Iowa farmers to plant a hemp crop this year and eventually will train others on their techniques if Randy Hasstedt’s plan comes to fruition.

As the CEO of U.S. Veterans Alliance — a group so new it doesn’t yet have a functioning website — Hasstedt, who was born in Waverly, has lots of plans to help veterans like himself, a third-generation U.S. Navy Seabee.

Those plans, Hasstedt said, include buying an old Las Vegas hotel to house homeless vets and staffing it with a psychologist, as well as helping vets in another capacity in Texas.

“We have an intricate business plan in which we want to be able to move vets around to places where they feel comfortable, and also establish helping them figure out what they want to do when they come back,” he said.

One of those plans, now that he’s one of the first licensed hemp growers in Iowa, is to come back to Iowa and help transition veterans like himself into employment and entrepreneurship. Eventually, those veterans can train other farmers to grow hemp as well.

“This fell so in line with our business plan, it’s incredible,” he said.

Hasstedt and his employees are working with an Oregon-based agronomist via Zoom meetings to learn the ins and outs of preparing the soil and planting hemp seed on 30 acres outside of Fairbank.

About a week ago, they loaded up the planter and put those seeds into the ground. In three to four months, the crop should reach maturity, Hasstedt said, at which point the hemp will be sold “for flower and biomass.”

Hasstedt said the final product will be sold to a Washington-based CBD company, Everyday Natural Products, and likely be used in CBD elixirs or oils.

“I’m learning this as I go, because I’m new to this, too,” he said.

Ultimately, he wants to use hemp farming as one way unemployed vets can find meaningful work — and eventually pass on their knowledge to other farmers looking to transition some of their own acres to hemp.

“Having roots in Iowa and knowing people in Iowa made it a lot easier,” Hasstedt said. “Seeing it grow and develop is really solidifying the purpose we started. Hopefully, this is going to provide a change for everybody.”

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