Kentucky's First Legal Hemp Crop in Decades Harvested at UK Research Farm

Sep 23, 2014

For the first time in decades, hemp has been legally harvested from Kentucky soil. The cutting of the test plot happened Tuesday on a University of Kentucky farm.

Hemp researchers planted the pilot crop in late May as part of the state's examination into re-introducing the fiber rich plant in the Commonwealth.

Credit Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

The hemp seeds didn't go into the ground easily. The federal government held the seeds at the Louisville airport for a week before releasing them to researchers.

Co-project coordinator David Williams says harvesting hemp is similar to cutting hay.

"A farmer on a larger scale would probably bale this with a round baler and deliver it to a processor, but just like hay or any other crop, it has to be dry to a certain level before you can bale it," said Williams.

Williams says soil moisture was good this growing season, but researchers did wrestle with some weed issues. If hemp eventually becomes available on a wider scale, Williams believes farmers could manage weed worries.

Farmer Peg Taylor made the trip to Lexington from McCreary County to witness the harvest.

"Well I'm hopeful to grow a crop of hemp on my small farm in McCreary County and I'm very interested in the entrepreneurial outcomes of growing hemp in Kentucky for crafters, for bio fuel, for industrial purposes," said Taylor.

Taylor's application to grow hemp is one of about 200 filed with the State Department of Agriculture.

Industrial Hemp Program Coordinator Adam Watson says farmers like Taylor could be planting next spring.

"We look at a number of different characteristics when evaluating potential cooperators. So, it is a possibility for anyone that has an application in that they might be able to grow next year," said Taylor.

Researchers will now analyze the cut hemp to determine the variety best suited for the state.

The UK study is conducted in conjunction with Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University.