Hemp producer Zion Growers eyes former Vermont Marble Company facility

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 6:10 PM EST
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PROCTOR, Vt. (WCAX) - The former Vermont Marble Company facility in Proctor may have a new owner.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont bought the building about 10 years ago and for the past six months, has been actively looking for a buyer.

Zion Growers is an industrial hemp company in Vermont. They are in talks with the Preservation Trust of Vermont to buy the building. There is no deal yet, but both sides are very positive about the possibility of this purchase.

“Some of the most important monuments to democracy in Washington, D.C., and around the world, were fabricated at that factory,” said Ben Doyle, the president of the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

At one time, 1,000 people worked at Vermont Marble Company in Proctor.

But about 10 years ago, the Preservation Trust of Vermont bought the 80,000-square-foot-plus facility to revitalize it, build community and hopefully find long-term owners.

St. Johnsbury-based Zion Growers might fit the bill.

“I was just really impressed in their community development and what they are trying to do in St. Johnsbury,” Doyle said.

Brandon McFarlane and Travis Samuels are cousins who own Zion Growers, an industrial hemp company that is taking off.

They are tentatively closing on the E.T. & H.K. Ide building in St. Johnsbury next Monday and are launching their official website this week.

“We thought, this building is massive and it’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of renovation, but it is something that we are capable of doing and that we are interested in doing,” McFarlane said.

And they want a second facility in Rutland County.

Zion plans to work with local farmers, storing hemp bales in the Proctor facility and primarily process it for hurd, a wood chip-like substance and fiber.

“Any concerns about what’s going on in the facility and things like that, there really isn’t a smell component that we are concerned with, or should anyone who is going to be living around the area,” Samuels said.

Over the past few years, most growers transitioned to producing for cannabinoid production-- like CBD-- and away from fiber and grain.

In 2021, a total of 440 people registered with the state as hemp processors and/or growers. But there are only about six registered in Vermont for the type of hemp in Zion Growers makes.

“It would be great for Vermont to help stand up a fiber and grain market in our state because certainly, a need for animal bedding, high-quality animal bedding is a good market,” said Stephanie Smith, the hemp program manager for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

Zion is willing to keep the 40,000-square-foot marble museum and the building’s other tenants.

“We’re trying to get them back to doing what they do best, which is be a museum and tell the story of marble in Proctor,” McFarlane said.

Preservation Trust of Vermont says Zion Growers hopes to process their hurd and fiber in the fall.

The price tag is a mystery. No one would share the asking or purchase price of the property but we’re told it is assessed at $480,000.

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