Kentucky lawmakers have gone back and forth on the issue of whether to ban or to allow farmers to grow hemp.
With the growing popularity of CBD oil, which comes from hemp, two Kentucky farmers are jumping on the hemp-trend through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s industrial hemp pilot program.
Surrounded by acres of corn and soybeans, Greenman Gardens’ co-founders Alex Russell and Michael Johns, are growing thousands of hemp plants on Johns’ family farm in Henderson.
Hemp looks, smells, and tastes like it’s botanical cousin marijuana, but Russell and Johns said hemp has health and wellness benefits without the high.
Workers harvest hemp plants at Greenman Gardens in Henderson, Kentucky
“The plant is just incredible and to be able to say I’m a hemp farmer. I’m pretty proud to say that,” Johns said.
The couple started growing hemp on four acres of the family farm two years ago and support their product wholeheartedly.
“This could revolutionize farming as we know it,” Russell said.
Michael Johns, Co-Founder of Greenman Gardens alongside her boyfriend Alex Russell, grew up working on her family farm in Henderson and moved to Florida hoping to get away from farming. Now, she’s back in Henderson with Russell, farming hemp. She said although she never thought this would be her reality, she is very grateful and proud of their business. “If I’m gonna grow anything this is gonna be it. It’s gonna change everything. To be able to grow something that does so many things for others… it can even replace coal which is incredible!,” Johns said.
Greenman Gardens is the first to grow hemp in Henderson County but Russell is working to help other farmers and aspiring growers succeed in hemp growing too. He is passionate about the benefits hemp farming can have on the rural farming economy.
“We’re doing what we love and what we believe in, which is American grown industrial hemp. And this plant has benefits across the board and especially for the local community right here from farmers all the way to end users,” he said.
Hemp can be used to make products we use everyday, replacing materials like plastic, concrete, paper, and coal.
But what really excites Russell and Johns is the health benefits.
“Especially medicinally speaking it can remedy so many ailments and illnesses that we currently try to treat with man made pharmaceuticals, whereas this plant can naturally do that,” Russell said.
“It’s just wild the things we’re learning that it can do along with the things you read and hear and see you know migraines, epilepsy, helping sleep through the night or different pains or ailments,” Johns explained.
She compares hemp to non-alcoholic beer.
“You can drink all the O’Dooles you want but you’re not gonna experience any kind of buzz,” Johns said.
Alex Russell, Co-Founder of Greenman Gardens stands in front of a truckload full of harvested hemp plants. CBD oil will be extracted from the hemp flowers and then bottled and sold.
Russell also explained that there are also side effects of CBD oil are “really almost non-existent” compared to prescription medication or pharmaceuticals.
He said he takes CBD oil twice a day, most of the time just out of the bottle.
Greenman Gardens harvests the entire hemp plant and that none of it goes to waste because all of it can be used for something.
Right now, hemp is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug and through the state program, farmers can only grow what’s called a test plot.
But the most recent farm bill in congress could change that, and allow hemp farmers to expand their operations. Right now, Russell said the limitations on their product makes running their hemp business even more challenging.
“Right now we’re pretty limited with banking, insurance, financing… we can’t take credit cards so it’s very difficult to operate a normal business when you can’t take a credit card,” Russell explained.
Co-Founder of Greenman Gardens, Alex Russell, checks his hemp plants to see if they are ready to be harvested.
Russell anticipates the bill passing within the next month or two and said that the current classification of hemp as a Schedule 1 drug are outdated.
“Schedule 1 means by definition no medical benefit and highly likely to be abused. Well we’re 0-2 with that because there is a medical benefit and there’s no likelihood of abuse because there’s no euphoria,” Russell said about hemp and CBD oil.
“Passage of the farm bill would be incredible for us and this industry. It’s gonna allow more growers and allow them to produce and operate like a normal business,” he said.