The Lower Sioux tribe in Minnesota are building a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing campus that will allow them to pioneer a green experiment. It is the first of its kind in the US. They will have an integrated vertical operation to grow hemp, process it into insulation called hempcrete, and then build healthy homes with it. Once the tribe makes this low-carbon material, they can begin to address a severe shortage of housing and jobs. The project is the brainchild of Earl Pendleton, a rail-thin man of quiet intensity, who until recently was the tribal council’s vice president. He grew obsessed with industrial help when reading about it over 10 years ago. It took Pendleton a long time to get others to buy into his vision of hempcrete as a viable alternative to a tribal economy largely based on gambling revenue. Once the tribal council got on board three years ago, they cobbled together loans, government grants, and their own funds to earmark more than $6 million to build the first two prototype homes and the processing campus. Hempcrete has been a building material for the wealthy and this tribe aims to change that. They will be positioned to be hempcrete experts in a new green building economy, hopefully creating job prospects for their tribal members.

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