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Kentucky’s Great Hemp Experiment

The Shell Farms & Greenhouses is an expansive 1,000-acre property in Garrard County, 37 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. The five-generation family farm is operated by 31-year-old Giles Shell and his 60-year-old father, Gary. The two are whizzes at making ornamental flowers flourish, and like most farmers in the area, the family has grown tobacco for years.

For decades, tobacco helped farmers here keep their families clothed and fed. But that’s changing. Tobacco production facilities have slowly migrated to North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee due to consolidation within the industry, which has resulted in an ever-shrinking demand for the crop in Kentucky. There’s a replacement crop starting to come in, though: The Shell greenhouses that once nurtured thousands of tobacco plants are now home to 3,200 industrial hemp plants.

It’s been close to 70 years since anyone in Kentucky—or anywhere in the U.S.— attempted to legally cultivate industrial hemp in massive quantities. But today, the Shells and other skilled farmers are taking up the cash crop yet again, under the auspices of the five-year pilot Industrial Hemp Research Program. [Read more at Newsweek]

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