UK harvests one of Kentucky's first legal hemp crops since 1940s - WDRB 41 Louisville News

UK harvests one of Kentucky's first legal hemp crops since 1940s

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Kentucky made history Tuesday on a small plot of land at its Spindletop Research Farm; the harvest of one of Kentucky's first legal hemp crops in more than 60 years.

The crop was planted back in May and grew to more than 10-feet tall.

It was certainly one of Kentucky's most anticipated harvests in recent memory. A group of curious farmers showed up to have a look as UK's first experimental hemp crop fell to the ground.

"We just want to see if it's profitable," said Bill Juett of Franklin County.

It took just minutes to cut down the small research plot, but it has yielded valuable information.

"There's a great possibility that it could become a viable crop in Kentucky. It's not the most complicated plant to grow for farmers. I think they would pick up on it immediately," said UK Agronomist David Williams.

This particular strain is grown for its fiber. It's one of more than a dozen research projects across the state testing hemp's variety of uses, including fiber and oil. Bill Polyniak is growing it for use in medical trials.

"Everything that we've seen in the state of Kentucky happen since Day One has been promising on every level," said Polyniak.

Lura and Wink Starnes own a farm in Madison County. They say they'll likely apply to grow hemp next year.

"This has been a really good learning experience. When you have a farm, you always want to keep an open mind, to keep the options open for what's coming in the future," said Lura Starnes.

But if hemp is to have a future in Kentucky, it must still overcome some major legal obstacles. Though the state has legalized it, the federal government still considers hemp a controlled substance.

"Without a change in federal law, all we'll have is good research data, but nothing that we can use it for," said Adam Watson of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

But beyond the politics, the first season of hemp has sprouted optimism.

"We didn't have any major issues at all. We had a very good growing season, and we're very happy with the results," said Williams.

UK says it should know soon about next year, whether it will grow hemp and, if so, what variety. There is still much to be learned.

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