From Kentucky to New York, Appalachia’s Hemp Industry is Growing Strong 

Over a hundred years ago, hemp was a major commercial crop in Kentucky, and the Commonwealth was one of the nation’s leading hemp producers. By mid-century, Kentucky’s commercial hemp production market started to drop. Now, decades later, local businesses and entrepreneurs are driving initiatives to renew growth and production of the versatile crop. Hemp can be used to manufacture over 25,000 products from clothing and food to building materials and pharmaceuticals. A recent USDA report, found that Kentucky and Tennessee were among the top six states nationwide in hemp production, with many other Appalachian states not far behind.

Across the region, communities are seriously pursuing hemp. New York, for example, launched its Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot program in 2015, which allowed a limited number of education institutions to research and produce industrial hemp. With ARC support, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County in partnership with the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, regional New York State Farm Bureau, and other local partners are developing an integrated economic development strategy to position southwestern New York as an industrial hemp cluster economy.  Included in the scope of work is research on storage, processing and marketing needs, and testing of different varieties of industrial hemp cultivars that will inform planting strategies for the region. The partnership is also planning for a Southern Tier Hemp Expo and Trade Show which will provide a networking opportunity for manufacturers, farmers and landowners interesting in the hemp industry.  Over the next two years, these efforts are anticipated to serve 60 businesses, create 12 new businesses, as well as create 60 jobs.