Fresh crop: Wilson among Kentucky’s new hemp farmers

Chad WilsonChad Wilson of Cave City stands next a row of industrial hemp he is growing on his farm called the Sacred Seed Farm. He is growing hemp for the cannabidiol or CDB, which is extracted from the plant and can be used to treat certain illnesses. Gina Kinslow / Glasgow Daily Times

BY GINA KINSLOW gkinslow@glasgowdailytimes.com

CAVE CITY – Seven years ago, Chad Wilson was anti-industrial hemp, but that’s mostly because he didn’t really know what it was. He thought industrial hemp and marijuana were the same thing.

But they’re not. Industrial hemp is different from marijuana, even though they are part of the same plant family.

“All my life I was told to stay away from the Devil’s lettuce, and that’s what I did as a good southern boy,” he said. “I didn’t understand that hemp wasn’t marijuana.”

The major difference between the two is that industrial hemp contains a much lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, than marijuana.

THC is the hallucinogenic that is found in marijuana.

“There is no getting high off industrial hemp,” he said.

After seven years, Wilson has come a long way. He has gone from being anti-industrial hemp to being an industrial hemp farmer. He is also now a cannabis activist.

He grows hemp on land in Cave City he calls the Sacred Seed Farm, and says he got into industrial hemp farming by accident.

“I was doing organic farming on a little two acre plot in Bowling Green. I realized my son did not know how to grow his own food and seeds. At that point I was just doing traditional gardening, so I got into finding ways to teach him and stumbled across some stuff on hemp and the nutritional value,” he said.

Then he discovered that studies are showing an extract of industrial hemp can be used to aid in the treatment of certain illnesses, even epilepsy. He also learned that industrial hemp can be used to make biodiesel fuel and clothing, among other things.

Wilson planted a little more than nine acres of industrial hemp this year. He is one of two hemp farmers in Barren County, and one of many across the state.

“In order to be a hemp producer, it is a permitting process and that process is handled by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in cooperation with law enforcement so that everybody is on the same page. They know where every hemp production is,” said Chris Schalk, Barren County’s Agriculture Extension Agent. “I guess this is probably the second or third year for the permitting process.”

The federal farm bill of 2014 allowed state departments of agriculture to create industrial hemp research pilot programs.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles hosted a roundtable discussion for Barren County producers in October at the Barren County Cooperative Extension Service’s office off West Main Street, and during his talk he mentioned industrial hemp.

“Industrial hemp obviously gets a lot of publicity. We have a very strong industrial research hemp program here. We want to remind people that this may not be a silver bullet for tobacco, but it might be something that works for some farmers. It may not work for others,” he said. “My family used to grow it in World War II because the government asked them to for the U.S. Navy. For some people we believe this could be a profitable market.”

On Wilson’s Sacred Seed Farm, he grows industrial hemp for the cannabidiol or CDB, a natural plant compound with significant medical benefits.

Wilson is co-owner of a Louisville-based business called Green Remedy.

“We buy the hemp from the farmers and then we take it into our facility and we have a CO2 extraction where we extract the CDB and then we make the tinctures and the capsules and the isolets and all the different kinds of products, and it is a Kentucky Proud Product,” he said.

Wilson is also owner of another business called Modern Concepts, which is located on the Sacred Seed Farm in Cave City.

“This is about a 4-year-old business that I moved from Bowling Green because I wanted to get back to small town America. I wanted to get back to country living and back home to the country,” Wilson said. “We’re losing farm families every day across the state and my family was one of the ones who lost their farm in the early ’80s due to the economics of farming. For me, it’s personal and it’s about getting my boys back to the farm and living simpler.”

Modern Concepts is a garden supply center that will offer organic, hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponicly grown plants.

“We’re also a distributor for a “Shark Tank’ product – the Tree-T-Pee. What we’re doing is basically going out and finding the specialty product for this industry and bringing it to Cave City,” he said.

Industrial hemp farming has become an economically viable business for many producers.

“There’s not a lot crops out there right now that can bring the economic hope to the small Kentucky farm like this plant can right now,” Wilson said.

Despite all the things industrial hemp has going for it, it is considered to be a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, along with other varieties of cannabis. But that is something U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, is hoping to change.

“I have a bill that I’m working on … that will address all of the updates that are needed with the hemp industry. And that’s the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017,” Comer said.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017 will do a lot of things, but the main thing it will do is reclassify industrial hemp from a controlled substance to an agriculture crop.

“That will solve a lot of the problems right there,” he said.

Comer, a former Kentucky commissioner of agriculture, referred to industrial hemp as being “a huge success story.”

“That’s something I was glad to be a part of in a big way and that’s kind of the issue that I’m identified with. When we passed it in 2013 in Kentucky, nobody would have predicted that here we are four years later and we are the leading hemp producing state in the nation,” he said. “It’s just been a real good success story. There’s a lot of hemp being grown in Kentucky. A lot of companies that are coming into the state are making a big private investment, so I think the future looks very bright for the hemp industry in Kentucky.”

Extracting CDB from industrial hemp is not the only thing that can be done with the plant.

“It is being used as fiber in textiles. It is being used as a heavy duty fiber in a lot of the tarps that is used in the military. We’ve got companies trying to use the fiber to make components for the automotive industry for mainly the dashboards and door panels for cars in Europe,” Comer said

Industrial hemp is also being grown for livestock feed.

“Murray State University is doing a lot of research on hemp from that aspect because it yields so much more per acre than fescue hay,” he said. “And they are testing the digestibility and the nutrient content. Cattle eat it. That’s for sure.”

Comer continued that he thinks more and more uses will surface for industrial hemp because it is a plant than can be used in so many ways.

“It can be used in bioenergy. It can be used in textiles. It can be used in pharmaceuticals. It can be used in construction. There seems like for every potential use of hemp there is interest in companies to come into the state and make an investment and start processing the hemp here in Kentucky, which would be good,” he said. “It would be good for farmers. It would be good for job creation.

“I think that once we can get legislation on the federal level that deregulates hemp, I think you’ll see more private dollars flow in and more processing facilities come online and therefore more farmers will grow it.”

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Lab Testing Reveals Enviro Textile’s Hemp Fabric Stops the Spread of Staph Bacteria

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

June 19th, 2013


Glenwood Springs, CO

Lab Testing Reveals EnviroTextile’s Hemp Fabric Stops the Spread of Staph Bacteria

Hemp Marches Towards Military and Health Care Applications

Rampant staph infections continue to cost lives unnecessarily.  One powerful weapon to fight this scourge is being successfully deployed by China’s military: industrial hemp.  Staph is spread by direct contact and by touching items that are contaminated such as towels, sheets, privacy curtains, and clothing.  As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “It is estimated that each year 2 million Americans become infected during hospital stays, and at least 90,000 of them die.  MRSA (an antibiotic resistant strain of staph) is a leading cause of hospital-borne infections.”  One of the most important recent discoveries is hemp’s ability to kill surface bacteria, while cotton, polyester, and polyethylene allow it to remain on their surfaces for up to months at a time.

Unknown to many, hemp fabrics exist in today’s market that can replace each of these transmission prone hospital items.  Technological improvements for hemp textile development began in the early 90s when EnviroTextile’s lead textile engineer, Barbara Filippone, began working with hemp in China.  To date, the company has over 100 hemp and hemp blended fabrics available to suit any traditional fabric application.  In addition to staph resistance, other tests show hemp fabrics superior resistance to UV and infrared wavelengths, providing multiple applications for military use.

Hemp fabric was tested against two bacteria strains, Staphylococcus Aureus (staph) and Klebsiella Pneumoniae (pneumonia).  The fabric tested was a hemp blend, 60% hemp and 40% rayon.  The staph test sample was already 98.5% bacteria free during the first measurement of the testing, while the pneumonia fabric sample was 65.1% bacteria free.  These results, even prior to the tests completion, clearly display the fabrics unique capability at killing bacteria and reducing their spread.  This is especially imperative for healthcare facilities. 

For infrared testing, the same hemp blend was analyzed resulting in a test result of 0.893, or nearly 90% resistant.  Different blended fabrics have the potential to increase the percentage of this initial test, especially fabrics with a higher percentage of hemp.  Many of hemp’s applications will benefit our military, and EnviroTextile’s hemp fabrics have recently been approved by the USDA as Federally Preferred for Procurement under their BioPreferred Program. 

Thirty one states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and 19 have passed pro-hemp legislation.  The potential for military and national adoption of hemp appears to be moving forward expeditiously considering a decade’s long ban.  As science continues to “rediscover” the benefits of hemp for society, the solution is emerging from the fog of prohibition.  Hemp is no longer an ancient fiber and it is well on its way to be the future of fabric. 

EnviroTextiles is woman-owned industrial hemp and natural fiber manufacturing company with their headquarters in Glenwood Springs, CO, and is the largest manufacturer/importer of hemp and natural fiber textiles and products in the United States. EnviroTextiles proudly sells their products in the U.S. and to over 70 countries worldwide.  The company presently has their presence in the US, China, and Mexico, and focuses on natural fiber resources and economic development in regions with commodity levels of various natural fibers.

References:

  1. Survival of Enterococci and Staphylococci on Hospital Fabrics and Plastic – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC86187/
  2. San Francisco Chronicle, “HEALTH / High staph infection rates in hospitals stun public health officials / New study reports lethal drug-resistant bacteria widespread” – http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/HEALTH-High-staph-infection-rates-in-hospitals-2554708.php

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UofL’s ‘energy crops’ harvested for research

ky hemp

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Nov, 1, 2017) – Someday, a 3-D printed medical implant made from hemp oil may save your life, or a hemp-based biofuel may power your vehicle.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg of possible outcomes of work being done at the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research, where on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 students and staff harvested “energy crops” planted near the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

2017 marked the second year that hemp and kenaf, an African fiber plant, were planted near Phoenix House, the Conn Center’s solar-powered administrative office building. The plants were an unusual site along the Eastern Parkway overpass, where they were sown in May and were the background of many a selfie.

The plants, both highly suitable to Kentucky’s growing conditions, are part of the Conn Center’s research into biofuels and biomass conversions. The UofL crop was one of eight at Kentucky colleges and universities grown as part of the state’s pilot program into field-scale industrial hemp, but the only one that will be used for energy research.

Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species of marijuana. However it doesn’t contain high levels of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana that causes the marijuana high. Both hemp and marijuana are classified as Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, and are illegal to produce in the United States.

In Kentucky, only those who are part of a Department of Agriculture research program into field-scale industrial hemp production may grow hemp. More than 3,200 acres of industrial hemp was grown in Kentucky in 2017, the department said.

The Conn Center’s hemp/kenaf crops were planted near Eastern Parkway, making an unusual sight for those walking along the path to and from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

The Conn Center’s hemp/kenaf crops were planted near Eastern Parkway, making an unusual sight for those walking along the path to and from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

The UofL crop expanded this year to a total area of just over one tenth of an acre, said Andrew Marsh, assistant director of the Conn Center.

The Conn Center’s hemp/kenaf crops were planted near Eastern Parkway, making an unusual sight for those walking along the path to and from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

Marsh planted the seeds in three plantings beginning in May. He had help from groundskeepers from Physical Plant and researchers from the University of Kentucky’s industrial hemp program.

After cutting down the plants, Marsh and students bundled and transported them to the Conn Center’s Science & Innovation Garage for Manufacturing Advancement, where they will dry.

“Once dried, the Conn Center’s Biofuels & Biomass Conversion group, led by Jagannadh Satyavolu, and faculty from chemical engineering, such as Noppadon Sathitsuksanoh, will work with the biomass,” Marsh said.

Marsh said the center plans to expand the crop in 2018 and hopes to improve soil quality to ensure the plants do well in their urban environment.

Nick Marsh

Nick Marsh

“In 2016 and 2017, the tendencies of different seed types to prosper in our climate and soil conditions over those that do not have become apparent,” Marsh said. “So far, we have been growing in unconditioned ‘urban clay,’ not farm soils. This year gave a better look at the nutrient deficiencies, so 2018 will include soil-conditioning strategies. There are hemp varieties that we grew that just didn’t do very well with our mix of soil, available nutrient and water, but others did great. We’ll be diversifying our seed types next year too, looking for greater yield with minimal soil modifications. This was our first full season of growing, and the results are pretty good for both kenaf and hemp.”

The state’s hemp research program is looking into whether hemp can once again become an economic driver in the state, where it was once grown primarily for making rope.

Satyavolu, the center’s leader for biofuels and biomass conversion, along with assistant chemical engineering professor Sathitsuksanoh and students, are studying whether hurd, the innor core of the hemp plant stem, has potential for use in fuels, chemicals and polymers. Hurd is a byproduct after the outer fibers of the hemp are removed.

The Conn Center research is specifically focused on:

  • Converting hemp into high value, functionalized carbons that can be used as catalyst supports and energy storage media
  • Transforming hemp seed oil into biocompatible resins for 3-D printed medical implants
  • Extracting sugars from hemp to convert into diesel additives and other chemicals

In collaboration with the state, UofL established the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering in 2009. The center leads research that increases homegrown energy sources to meet the national need while reducing energy consumption and dependence on foreign oil. The center promotes partnerships among Kentucky’s colleges and universities, private industries and non-profit organizations to actively pursue federally and privately funded R&D resources dedicated to renewable energy solutions.

Researchers at the Conn Center are studying advanced energy materials manufacturing; solar energy conversion; renewable energy storage; biofuels/biomass conversions; and energy efficiency and conservation.

Mahendra Sunkara is director of the center, named in honor of Henry “Hank” and Rebecca Conn, who pledged $20 million for its formation. Hank Conn is a UofL alumnus who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the Speed School and also an MBA from the College of Business.

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