Hemp and Honey: The Ioway Way

Despite their small stature, bees have long been at the heart of our survival and the well-being of our planet. Bees and plants developed a symbiotic relationship 130 million years ago; bees use the pollen and nectar from plants as a source of food, and in return, bees help plants reproduce by pollination. There are over 20,000 known species of bee in the world, and 4,000 of them are native to North America. Honeybees alone pollinate about one-third of our global food supply, providing us with everything from apples and broccoli to melons and almonds. However, these pollinator communities that our civilization depends on are in grave peril. 

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, more than half of North America’s native bee species are in decline, with one in four species at increasing risk of extinction. The primary drivers of these alarming declines are climate change, habitat destruction, urbanization, monoculture farming, disease, malnutrition, and heavy pesticide use

Year after year, bees continue to face more frequent and intense global challenges, making it essential to develop agroecosystem practices that support and sustain bees and other pollinators.


The Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska founded all of our tribal enterprises––including SOJE and the Ioway Bee Farm––with the mission of healing our lands, promoting biodiversity, and supporting our tribal members and our communities by growing our local economy and improving food security and nutrition. We’re well on the path to accomplishing this and more with a holistic and integrated approach. One example of this holistic synergy is the symbiosis between our hemp and honeybees. 

Along the rolling hills, river bluffs, and pasture lands of our reservation in Northeast Kansas, our honeybees and our hemp work together to bring balance––and life––to the land. 

Can Hemp Help Save Declining Bee Populations?

While hemp is not a floral nectar-producing plant, this versatile crop provides bees with an excellent source of nutrition, particularly in the fall and winter months when floral resources are limited. There is also a growing body of research suggesting that hemp benefits honeybee health. 

One recent study conducted by entomologists at Cornell University entitled “The Bee Community of Cannabis sativa and Corresponding Effects of Landscape Composition” found that hemp attracted up to 16 species of bees. The researchers noted that the diversity of bee species feeding off of hemp flower pollen was much higher than other pollen-producing plants in the area. The researchers also urged farmers to consider growing hemp to help support local bee communities. 

Another recent study on the relationship between bees and hemp flower made the same determination, concluding that “Industrial hemp can play an important role in providing sustained nutritional options for bees during the cropping season.” This further indicates the importance of cultivating hemp flower to support bee diversity. 

How Do the Ioway Bee Farm and SOJE Work Together? 

The Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska strives to cultivate a sustainable, circular economy in which production and consumption are symbiotically linked with the natural environment. We’ve started on this incredible journey within our own community by holistically integrating our hemp farm and bee farm.    

Our hemp is grown on our lands by our tribe using our indigenous regenerative farming practices that were passed down over generations. We also use these sustainable practices for our bee farm, the largest tribal apiary in North America, with 150 hives and 15 million bees on our lands. All of our hives are intentionally placed in areas free from the synthetic chemicals common with traditional agriculture. Instead, our hives are placed within our hemp farms so that they can access some of the pollen from rogue pollen-producing male flowers in addition to the diverse plant life in the area that includes wildflowers, sweet clover, and a variety of tree species. 

After harvesting our hemp flowers, we use the leftover biomass in a variety of creative applications for both SOJE and the Ioway Bee Farm to ensure no part of our crop goes to waste. For SOJE, we use our hemp byproducts to produce 100% biodegradable packaging and shipping materials for our hemp cigarettes. Our hemp cigarette packaging can be composted in as little as seven days. 

Here are just a few of the ways we use our hemp byproducts in our bee farm operations: 

  • Natural Bee Smoker Fuel 

We use our dried hemp fiber (the fibrous area around the stock itself) as fuel in the bee smokers when our beekeepers are tending our hives, and we’ve found that hemp fiber smoke burns cleaner and longer than cotton.

  • CBD Distillates for Tinctures 

We extract full-spectrum CBD distillate from our leftover hemp biomass and use it to craft Ioway Bee Farm tinctures. 

  • Sustainable Shipping Materials

Rather than using environmentally harmful shipping materials (such as foam packing peanuts or bubble wrap), we use hemp hurd for shipping our pure honey products to customers across the U.S.

What is Hemp Hurd?

Hemp hurd is the woody, soft inner-core fiber of the hemp stalks. Due to their woodchip-like consistency, hemp hurd is sometimes called “hemp shives.” The environmental benefits of hemp hurd production are multi-faceted. Not only is hemp a renewable, sustainable, and 100% biodegradable resource, its natural properties make it a much better alternative to raw materials (such as timber and fossil fuels) that are destructive to the planet. 

Hemp hurd can be used in numerous ways, such as construction materials, animal bedding, garden mulch, and shipping materials. 

Does Hemp Hurd Make Effective Shipping Materials?

Nearly 22 billion packages were shipped in the United States in 2021. Twenty-two billion. The monumental amount of waste produced by this vast number of packages is incomprehensible. 

And most of these billions of parcels contain products swaddled or cradled in unsustainable paper, foam, and plastic packing materials. Not to mention that the recyclability of non-biodegradable packaging and shipping materials is often embellished. Less than 14% of the 86 million tons of plastic packaging produced globally is recycled yearly. So, what happens to the rest of it? Alarmingly, the overwhelming majority of packing and shipping waste is incinerated, landfilled, or left to decimate biodiversity and pollute our lands and waters for hundreds (or even thousands) of years to come. 

Our planet is drowning in disposable plastic waste––and we must collectively come together to address it. Hemp provides an Earth-friendly alternative to harmful plastic packaging and shipping materials. 

Hemp hurd is a natural, sustainable, and effective alternative to numerous harmful shipping and packing materials, including plastics, foam, and paper products made from trees. 

Could Other Businesses Incorporate SOJE Hemp Hurd into their Shipping Operations? 

Yes! Our sustainable, high-quality hemp hurd shipping materials can help protect whatever you’re shipping. Our hemp hurd is nature-made, 100% biodegradable, and an Earth-friendly alternative to packing peanuts, plastic bubble wrap, foam packaging, and more. 

Interested in incorporating SOJE’s eco-friendly hemp packaging or shipping materials for your business? Reach out via info@soje.co today! 

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health, wellness, and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog and website are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. SOJE strongly advises all people to seek the care of a physician if and when they decide to quit smoking and follow their advice.