Lexington farm family excited about its reemergence producing industrial hemp

04/20/2015 02:34 PM

LEXINGTON – Seventy years ago, the Graves family of Lexington was one of the top growers of hemp in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

All of that changed when Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 which essentially ended the hemp business in Kentucky and a part of the Graves family livelihood.

However, 66 years later, thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 50 in the General Assembly in 2013 and an amendment by Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to the farm bill of 2013, hemp is making a comeback in Kentucky. The legislation allows farmers to take part in an industrial hemp pilot program.

In preparation for the pilot program which began in 2014, 57-year-old Andrew Graves founded Atalo Holdings, Inc., which contracted five farms to grow hemp in 2014. This year, Atalo has expanded to thirty farms.

“Currently Kentucky is the frontrunner,” Graves said. “Other states are not doing this because they really haven’t watched close enough, kept up with it close enough. But in order to continue to be out in front, we have to give the proper amount of resources to this subject and that’s where private investment and state investment must be realized.”

The reemergence of hemp is particularly satisfying for 88-year-old Jacob Graves III, who remembers as a young boy, the crop being a big part of his family. The elder Graves believes that hemp has some medicinal qualities as well.

“I think it’ll be another rotational crop that now has an added pharmaceutical quality, and an added understanding of its oil qualities which was really developed out of Finland,” he said. “I think it can be grown into an immense use of fiber and the oil and possibly pharmaceutical qualities. Not the narcotic, but the other derivatives that might help with my arthritis or my wife’s tremors.”

Kentucky farmers can submit applications to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to participate in the hemp revival. They must provide production plans to be approved, and pass a background check to appease the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.


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