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Ky. Hemp Projects Attracting New Investors

Display touting Kentucky's growing hemp industry
Display touting Kentucky's growing hemp industry

Hemp is back – that was the message echoed by a slew of farmers and producers at a Tuesday event highlighting the crop’s progress in Kentucky.

Shelby Floyd with Freedom Seed and Feed demonstrates an old-fashioned method for processing hemp fibers
Credit Josh James / WUKY
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Shelby Floyd with Freedom Seed and Feed demonstrates an old-fashioned method for processing hemp fibers

Shelby Floyd with Freedom Seed and Feed drags long strands of hemp fiber through a row of metal teeth, separating them from the hurd.

"This is actually based off Thomas Jefferson's patent. He invented this, so this is about as old school as it gets," he explains.

This is what processing looked like back in the mid-1800s when Kentucky experienced its first hemp boom. These days, with thousands of new uses for the reemerging crop, companies are already lining up to restart a long dormant industry - gearing up to make everything from clothing to medicinal oils to American flags.

Among the biggest investors is Andy Graves, CEO of Atalo Holdings, who has already put $1.5 million into production facilities.

"Right now [Kentucky] is the heart of hemp country because we're the only state that's actually growing the crop with private growers. That's key. You see, other states are coming online, but they're only going to have universities," he says.

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says the number of participants in pilot programs across the state will grow to 121 in 2015.

Copyright 2015 WUKY

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now known as Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and Program Director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.