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Hemp crops flourish at two Kentucky historic sites

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Visitors at two Kentucky historic sites now have the opportunity to witness hemp history in the re-making. Hemp crops at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate and Farmington Historic Plantation are in full bloom and open to the public through the remainder of the season.

Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate (Lexington)

Ashland was once a 600-acre plantation and home of Kentucky’s favorite son, Henry Clay. Clay grew thousands of pounds of hemp at his Ashland Estate, having it manufactured primarily into rope and cotton bagging. Hemp became such a principal element of Henry Clay’s personal economy that it greatly influenced his public career. It even inspired major elements of his political plan called The American System.

Today, the historic estate is owned and operated by The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation which maintains the estate as a national historic landmark and educational center for the cultural and social history of the 19th century, while interpreting the life and times of Henry Clay, the Clay Family and other residents of the estate for the public.

Last May, hemp returned to Ashland for the first time since the late 1800s as part of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. The 20 x 20 ft. demonstration plot, facilitated by United Hemp Industries (UHI) for The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, featured two varieties planted by agronomists at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. Throughout the season, guests could visit the estate to see the progress of the project and learn about its historical significance to the state. The crop was also featured at several events, including a symposium and five-course hemp-infused dining experience.

This year, United Hemp Industries (UHI) partnered with the UK College of Agriculture and Schiavi Seeds, LLC to plant a second hemp crop at Ashland. The collaborative project showcases a fiber variety regarded as the best in the world. Carmagnola is a dioecious landrace grown in north east Italy, originating from the town of Carmagnola, and is very similar to varieties that would have historically been grown at Ashland to make ropes and sails for the US Navy. Schiavi Seeds, LLC. is a Lexington-based company and the sole importer of this remarkable landrace in USA and Canada holding its exclusive rights from the Italian Department of Agriculture.

Farmington Historic Plantation (Louisville)

Farmington was once a 550-acre hemp plantation owned by John and Lucy Speed. The historic home, which still stands, was built in 1816. A rope walk and waving house once stood on the property where the hemp was processed for sale. The plantation was worked by slaves who lived at Farmington, and maintained the farm and house.

United Hemp Industries also facilitated the first hemp crop at Farmington last season in an effort to bring awareness to the sites history and the re-emerging industry. The project was approximately 1/8 an acre and featured two varieties. Like the Ashland crop, it was featured at several events, including Hemp Discovery Day which was open to the public and gave visitors a glimpse into the uses and potential applications of industrial hemp.

This year, the project expanded to a full 1/2 acre divided into two plots featuring a single variety with varying applications of organic nutrients. The research is facilitied by UHI and sponsored by Sustane Natural Fertilizers® in an effort to study organic grain production on dual-purpose crops and will be harvested for grain at the end of the season.


Both projects are now part of the Heritage Hemp Trail, a historic tour featuring locations with significance to the early Kentucky hemp industry. The Heritage Hemp Trail is a collaborative initiative of the Kentucky Hemp Heritage Alliance, a newly developed organization dedicating to preserving and promoting the history of hemp in Kentucky. Click here for more information.

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