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Kentucky Hempsters provide hemp education to Lexington freshman at Ashland Living History event

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Some of you may be keeping up with our historic hemp plot at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate. In late August we harvested it, and within the following weeks we strip and shocked it for display.

A hemp shock is historically how hemp is prepared for retting. Retting is the process of exposing the crop to weathering to rot the lignin within the plant to help loosen the fibers from the stalk (hurd) and improve its quality. There are many difference ways crops were retted and throughout history it is a subject of debate, however many records discuss cutting the crop, letting it dry for several weeks in the field, then stripping and shocking stalks to remain through the winter. So, that's what we did.

After we pulled the plants (to preserve the roots) we laid the stalks on the ground and let them dry for three weeks. Then we stripped and collected all of the plants of the seeds and leaf material, putting the remaining stalks into bundles, and arranging them into the hemp shock (as seen below.)

Hemp shock from this year's hemp crop at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate.

This was the perfect addition to the annual Ashland Living History event held at the Henry Clay Estate on September 24th and 25th. Our hemp shock stood to the left of the house (looking at it directly) that Henry Clay himself once called home. Click here to learn more about Henry Clay and his hemp legacy.

Friday, Sept. 24 close to 600 freshmen from Henry Clay High School came to the estate throughout the day. We presented to groups of 20-30 several times and had the opportunity to touch on Henry Clay's influence on the early Kentucky industry, Kentucky hemp history, and today's modern uses of the hemp crop.

Co-founder Alyssa Erickson demonstrating the historic hemp brake.

The students also saw a hemp brake which is what was used to separate the fiber from the hurd after retting the following Spring. This puts into perspective the exhausting labor that was need to prepare this crop and helps us understand the necessities for harvesting and processing innovations as we re-welcome the industry back into the state.

Saturday, Sept. 25 was open to the public. Lucky for us, we ran into many of the locals who have kept up with the project throughout the season and enjoying seeing its progress! We loved hearing such great feedback and look forward to continuing the project going forward. This also gave us a chance to show off and brag on our amazing sponsors who've made all of our educational efforts possible this season!

Thank you Ashland for including us in this event, and collaborating with us this season! We look forward to continuing this project going forward.

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