CYNTHIANA, Ky. (WKYT)- Since the federal farm bill last year, growing hemp in Kentucky has become the new gold rush on the farm.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture tells me there are more than 978 licensed growers in the state right now.
More and more farmers are looking to grow the crop hoping it’s profit margin will make up for what has been lost in the tobacco patch.
Now, one eighth generation Harrison County farmer is hoping a new facility will help growers get those crops to market and see a better return.
“This is where my heart is,” says Brian Furnish of Gen 8 Farms.
Eighth generation farmer, Brian Furnish is busy these days, if he’s not on his phone fielding calls, he is where he’s most at home in the actual field mowing down one crop to get ready for the next.
Furnish cut his teeth on tobacco, but his fields now are full of another crop set to hopefully take its place in Kentucky.
“Cause tobacco is on its way out, no matter what we say about tobacco less people in the world consume tobacco every day,” said Furnish.
In his sixth year of growing hemp on his Harrison County farms, Furnish and his brothers have taken what they know about tobacco and applied it to hemp.
“We’ve done everything from grow it for seed, for fiber for cannabinoid production,” said Furnish.
We first introduced you to Furnish last July when we toured his state of the art processing plant producing CBD, but Furnish says the market is so much bigger for growers.
“Everybody is talking about CBD, and cannabinoids, but the future of hemp is not CBD, the future of hemp is fiber and food,” said Furnish.
“See these little buds, that’s all just developed in the last week,” said Furnish.
And that’s good news for this lifelong Harrison Co. farmer, you name it Mac Darnell has grown it.
“My son and I farm about 250 acres, we do soybeans, corn and tobacco and cattle,” said Mac Darnell.
Hemp though is changing the game and the future of what Darnell’s farm may look like.
“The appeal of that hemp profit margin on the hemp sounded really good, so next year we are going to apply for a license and do that ourselves,” said Mac Darnell.
It’s one thing to grow it, but what about getting it to market and seeing that profit.
At about $3 a plant and hundreds of acres, it cost money to make money, but then what?
That’s where Furnish hopes to help new farmers like Darnell.
“You have a lot of farmers that have hemp in the field and have not received any money for it, now they are getting ready to harvest it and they have no money to harvest it with and don’t know what to do with it,” said Furnish.
In December Furnish will re-open a warehouse once home to the Burley Co-Op for tobacco as a new hemp grower’s service center outside Cynthiana.
It’s meant to make the marketing process easier for both sellers and buyers.
“What are trying to do is offer and alternative that we’ll bring the hemp in, we’ll process it, get it into a good form that we can sell all over the world,” said Furnish.
While the Kentucky Hemp Service Center won’t pay money on the spot, it will serve as the middle man.
“Well there are plenty of brands out here that need a home, they need green material to fill their brands because it’s difficult if you have an international brand right now of filling up what the consumers want,” said Furnish.
The center will help get a growers processed crop to the right buyer and company.
It’s relief to new growers like Mac Darnell.
“It gives me a little ease of mind knowing that I’m going to have a place to market the hemp when we grow it,” said Darnell.
Hemp was once king in Kentucky and while Furnish admits it’s a bit of a gold rush now.
“I have a mission in life to help farmers,” said Furnish.
And maybe it’s why it’s just as important to grow them as it is a successful crop.
According to the Kentucky Department of Ag, farmers in Kentucky have planted more than 50,000 acres of industrial hemp this year.
The Kentucky Hemp Service Center should be open by December 1, 2019 and is considered the first of its kind.