Farmers flock to KSU farm to learn about hemp

Josh Bergeron / State Journal – A crowd of people mills around behind a row of hemp plants at Kentucky State University’s Harold R. Benson Research and Demonstration Farm. The farm hosted an event in September 2018 organized by the Organic Association of Kentucky that drew dozens of farmers from across the state and focused on hemp’s potential as a cash crop.

Frankfort’s first hemp trade show will come to the Capital Plaza Hotel later this month, highlighting the future of hemp and CBD products in Kentucky. 

Carmine De Santo, who is the promoter of comic convention FrankfortCon, is leading the Kentucky Hemp Trade Show. The show will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15. Vendors with a variety of hemp and CBD products will be present throughout the day. Educational panels, cooking demonstrations and more are scheduled. 

“We want to educate the consumer and the businesses that cannabis, hemp, CBD is a whole new world when it comes to the world of medicine, healing and wellness,” De Santo said. “It’s a whole new world out there with products like oils, lotions, pills, everything— even food.” 

The Kentucky legislature passed a bill in 2013 that allows licenses for hemp farmers. According to Think Kentucky, hemp is now grown in 73 of 120 Kentucky counties. 

Hemp and CBD products are cannabis-derived plants but have very little to no THC, which is the compound that gives marijuana users a high. De Santo said that hemp and CBD products are more about having a healthy lifestyle, not seeking a high. For those who are skeptical, he encouraged them to attend the trade show to learn more. 

“They should explore it first before they assume and understand the word ‘cannabis’ is made of two worlds. There’s hemp/ CBD and then there’s THC. What we’re showcasing has nothing to do with THC,” he said. 

Vendors from all over the United States will be represented, De Santo said. All Things Hemp, a Downtown Frankfort store that opened last year will be in attendance at the Kentucky Hemp Trade Show, said owner Ryann Maddox. She said that she hopes the business can help educate others about hemp and CBD as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.

"Hemp is used in a lot of other applications that marijuana couldn't possibly be used in, like dietary and nutritional stuff, skin products, clothing, accessories," Maddox said. "It can also be used for building material and to clean the soil. Hemp all-around is just a great asset."

She said many of her products are locally-sourced, with one one CBD oil that is not Kentucky Proud, meaning it was produced within the state. Maddox predicted that hemp and CBD will become a staple in the state's industry. As for Frankfort, having a show like this could bring in others from outside of the town, she said. 

Among the panels scheduled during the trade show, representatives from Kentucky State University will discuss its organic agriculture and industrial hemp research program, as well as markets, policy and processing at 3 p.m. The university has had a pilot industrial hemp program since 2015.

De Santo said that he hopes to continue having the trade show in years to come. FrankfortCon held its fourth show last month. Because of his experience organizing that show, De Santo said he chose Frankfort to have the hemp trade show. He also cited its close proximity to lawmakers who can affect hemp and CBD production. 

The Kentucky Hemp Trade Show is open to adults who are at least 21 years old. Tickets are $10. Attendees will need a valid government-issued ID to enter the show. Visit kentuckyhemptradeshow.com for more information. 

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