The Ely Times
Tracey Seville, co-owner of Silver Lion Farms, gave an update to the White Pine County Commission at a recent meeting about its hemp operation
The biggest highlight Seville pointed out was the amount of parcels Silver Lion Farms purchased. It originally bought two parcels, the Lages north and south, which totaled to about 1,800 acres. Halfway between Ely and Lages is the second half of the property, that was 2,200-2,300 acres, and a third parcel was purchased, that is contiguous to the second parcel, so they are up towards 3,000 acres of land.
The land purchased had been growing certified organic alfalfa previously, and the third parcel had not been growing anything.
Silver Lion Farms also received its USDA organic certification on the crop and the land. “It’s very difficult to get, especially in the world of hemp, as it’s emerging. We are only one in three farms in the entire United States that got that done,” Seville said. “We are looking at buying another 2-3,000 acres in this next fiscal year. We will not grow on it, but we will condition it.”
It was explained that this first year came with several challenges, but Seville said they persevered and moved forward.
“Construction began in early February on something that shouldn’t exist this soon, and we built it in 11 weeks, so we could move the millions of seeds into the greenhouse. We faced many challenges with the government shutdown, weather and some mechanical failures.”
The business has brought several jobs to White Pine County, helping boost employment for locals. It was reported that the total for the year was 58 full-time personnel for Silver Lion, and several temporary positions added around 60 personnel.
They offered a wage of $25 an hour, which includes per diem for their transportation. Seville said, “Benefits will be coming in January for full and part time. Interestingly enough, the average hourly rate was $30 an hour when we were running double shifts morning and night in the greenhouse.”
Another stage of Silver Lion Farms is moving ahead. Seville said, “We are going to put about another $10 million into the greenhouse in December and January. It’s going to bring it up to what I call, ‘super sexy mode’.”
To date, Silver Lion Farms has invested $50 million into what they built and delivered this year, of which $42 million is in pure infrastructure. That includes land, construction, the building itself, the drying system, the greenhouse operations.
Seville describes the drying machine to be so massive you could see it from space. It is capable of drying up to 300,00 thousand pounds of wet material a day.
A huge amount of money spent by Silver Lion stayed in the community. Upgrades to transformers with a cost of $400,000 went to Mt. Wheeler Power. Bath Lumber and Sportsworld, $35,000-38,000 in their two businesses alone. $600,000 in local engineering and $800,000 on propane.
“We spent four and a half million dollars on seeds to test them,” Seville said.
Future plans include growing, planting harvesting, drying and extracting all on their own campus 60 miles from Ely.
“It was a learning year, we are going to prepare a lessons learned bible if you will and share that others with the region,” Seville said. “We will begin selling seedlings tor farmers in White Pine. We may be working with a few local farmers, and sharing what we learned…it’s all about helping other people to do this.”
Seville did note the only significant issue they have had was theft of one of their tractors early on in their project.
Although a GPS tracking device had been placed on the tractor, it appears as though it was removed, and the tractor was loaded onto a tractor trailer and hauled off in the early morning hours. Since then, an on ground security team has been implemented.
“We have committed $40,000 to the CACH program to the kids,” Seville said. “We want to continue that, and I’d like to continue to sponsor that, We are looking at additional donations and what things we should support.
“We have looked at a lot of differnt things we want to invest in in terms of housing and commercial development in town, and we are even looking at the rail, what they are restoring, what we can do financially, or otherwise to help get that back up and running. I am not here to make any hard commitments yet, but the conversations are on the way”