As a result, hemp has a long history in Kentucky. From its first recorded planting near Danville to its reemergence during World War Two, hemp has figured prominently in the economic, social, and political life of the commonwealth. Early settlers brought hemp into Kentucky in order to have a resource for textile production. For these pioneers, hemp--along with flax and wool--was one of the best options for fabric in regions where cotton did not grow well. Little did these early settlers know that Kentucky is also located on the 37th-parallel, the same latitude as the famous Hindu Kush (mountain range, where all indica strains of cannabis originated). Kentucky and the Hindu Kush share the same light cycles, which cannabis plants use to determine when to begin flowering and when to produce the resin that contains CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids. At Kentucky’s latitude, hemp is able to grow in its natural vegetative state for three to four months each season prior to the shortening fall light cycle triggers the plant to flower. This directly translates into larger Kentucky plants and yields.2
Kentucky climate and soil Kentucky is ideal for growing hemp. The counties that produced the most hemp were located in the “bluegrass region” and were either near or along the Kentucky River. The “bluegrass region” covers approximately 1/5 of the entire state or about 8,000 square miles and includes over half the states population. With the perfect variable climate and nutrient rich soil cast over an ancient sea bed of limestone, the Bluegrass Region is world renowned as the best place to grow high quality Hemp. Fayette, Woodford, Shelby, Clark, Scott, Bourbon, Jessamine, Mason, Franklin, Boyle and Lincoln proved to be the largest hemp-producing counties during the nineteenth century. It is not a coincidence that these counties also held the state’s largest slave populations. Hemp, like tobacco and cotton, was a labor-intensive crop and still is to this day. Farmers using mechanized planting and harvesting processes are typically constrained to growing strains of hemp that produce less than 6% CBD potency since the higher resinous (sticky icky) varieties will gum up the harvesting equipment. Although back in the day hemp did not require the year-round attention that cotton and tobacco demanded, the planting, harvesting, and processing of the crop demanded significant amounts of manual labor, especially in “breaking” the stalks and “hackling” the fibers. Historian James Hopkins writes, “Without hemp, slavery might have not flourished in Kentucky, since other agricultural products of the state were not conducive to the extensive use of bondsmen. On the hemp farm and in the hemp factories the need for laborers was filled to a large extent by the use of Negro slaves”.
From the beginning, Kentuckians who farmed hemp manufactured or processed it into many marketable products. The largest use of hemp was in making rope and the woven bagging that bundled cotton bales. Ropewalks turned out thousands of yards of hemp cordage, and factory looms in Lexington, Danville, and Frankfort wove the bagging. Another significant consumer of Kentucky hemp was the United States Navy, which used the rope for ships’ rigging.3 Henry Clay the Senator from Lexington, Kentucky introduced legislation in the 1800s to promote the use of US and Kentucky grown hemp in high quality rope for our Navy battleships. Today, the majority of hemp grow in Kentucky is for CBD extraction for use in making medicinal or wellness products.
As a result of Kentucky’s perfect natural recipe for growing hemp, the state dominated hemp production during the 19th and 20th century, responsible for 75% of the total hemp output in the U.S. When hemp farming peaked in 1917, almost 18,000 acres were planted throughout the Bluegrass and later transformed into marketable products by Kentuckians. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 abolished the taxation approach of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act and effectively made all Cannabis cultivation illegal. This completely silenced the Kentucky industry, which already declined due to the introduction of cheap synthetic fibers and tobacco raised as substitute crop.
The Federal Agricultural Act of 2014 empowered Kentucky license holders with the State Department of Agriculture to grow hemp and conduct research. This program sparked a resurgence in production of nature’s healing leaf. Since the program’s inception in Kentucky, the production rapidly scaled up. In the first year of the program, farmers planted 33 acres and succeeded with a modest harvest. In 2015, over 900 acres were planted and about 500 were successfully harvested. In 2016 we had reports of over 2,300 acres planted and about 2,000 acres harvested. The 2017 growing season saw another increase in hemp acreage in Kentucky with more than 3,200 acres planted. In 2018, licensed growers planted 6,700 acres and harvested about 6,000 acres. In 2019, Kentucky farmers planted more than 26,500 acres of hemp.4,5
The KDA reported that in 2020 Kentucky farmers made plans to grow up to 32,000 acreage, which is far higher than what was cultivated, only 5,000 acres. In 2020, some 210 processors reported paying farmers $51.3 million, a big increase from $17.75 million the prior year. Processors and handlers reported $193.9 million in gross product sales in 2019, which more than tripled over nearly $58 million in gross sales from 2018. Processors reported spending $207.3 million on capital investment projects in 2019, compared to $23.4 million in 2018, the KDA said. Hemp processors said they employed 1,304 people in 2019, up from 459 in the previous year. No employment figures were provided for farm operations.6
Evercure Farms is nestled in Oldham County Kentucky, which lies in the Outer Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. 7
As part of the original strain of high CBD, low THC cannabis brought to the state in 2014, our first field in 2017 was planted in RX Cherry. Since then we have experimented growing three additional strains: Sweeten/Otto, T1 Improved (Trump), and Spectrum. At Evercure Farms we always plant all female clones in a high-yield organic, sustainable production model that consists of crooked rows of biodegradable plastic mulch film with irrigated drip tape underlayment. These rows are proven to produce the largest, fruitiest buds and farm aromas every September. Evercure sinsemilla flowers are among the highest valued hemp biomass sold in the market and the stickiest! Based on our farm recipe and grow methodology, we generate five times more CBD per acre than farmers growing European farm varieties in a mechanical row crop scale model. Less is truly more when your Evercure CBD products are Kentucky Fine, Bluegrass Made.
SOURCES 1. https://thehia.org/History/ 2. https://www.charlottestories.com/ 3. https://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/ 4. https://www.kyagr.com/marketing/hemp-overview.html 5. https://www.kyagr.com/marketing/hemp-overview.html 6. https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2020/06/01/kentucky-hemp-farmers-steer-clear-after-2019-tumult 7. https://www.kyatlas.com/kentucky-atlasp.html