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Murray State, Ag Officials Look Forward to Industrial Hemp’s Future in Kentucky

The man who donated seeds allowing Murray State University to become one of the first to put industrial hemp in Kentucky soil in more than 50 years says he hopes the plant will be an answer to rural economic problems.

US Hemp Oil’s Chris Boucher  is based in California, and he came to MSU’s field to see the plant’s progress and tout its benefits.

“The dream is to have industrial hemp mills, factories seed crushing mills, fiber mills built in rural communities where the unemployment rate is like triple the average,” Boucher said. “You can make a food. You can make clothing out of it. You can make plastics. You can make paints.

“Anything you make from petroleum you can make from a carbohydrate. I think we’re going back to a carbohydrate economy and I think that’s good not only for the economy but also for the environment.”

The seeds are a French variety and Boucher calls it a “no-high” version of the plant.

Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Tony Brannon is also looking forward to the plant’s future in the Commonwealth.

MSU planted the donated seed on a little more than half an acre last month. Brannon says the research project is examining the best ways to grow hemp should it become legal to process and make goods from it in the US.

“We’re looking for the market to develop for the processing, for the harvesting to get us to the next stage. And again, we haven’t gotten to that stage either,” he said. “We look forward to being able to grow a crop and then harvest a crop and process a crop and most importantly sell a crop because if there’s no market then there’s no need to grow it.”

Brannon says MSU is using the seeds to experiment with row spacing and seeding rates, and adds that the batch in the no-till soil currently looks best. The projects results will go to the state by July 2015.

Whitney grew up listening to Car Talk to and from her family’s beach vacation each year, but it wasn’t until a friend introduced her to This American Life that radio really grabbed her attention. She is a recent graduate from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where she studied journalism. When she’s not at WKMS, you can find her working on her backyard compost pile and garden, getting lost on her bicycle or crocheting one massive blanket.