Mike Lewis, Hemp Farmer, Kentucky

“People from all walks of life are working together to create solutions.”

What led you to choose hemp as a crop?

I previously worked as a Family Farm Advocate, focusing on adding farm gate revenue to rural communities. At a meeting with Commissioner Comer we discussed the potential for Hemp as an economic driver for farm gate revenue. It turns out hemp is an accurate way to usher new business into the commonwealth that we are now using today.

What varieties of hemp did you grow in 2014?

We raised Futura 75 in 2014.

What soil and environmental conditions did you grow in?

We grew our hemp crop on a traditional Appalachian Tobacco farm. Sloped ground with average fertility. We averaged about 1 inch of rain a week during the growing season.

Did you grow in conjunction with an institution of higher learning?

We did not. We functioned as an independent researcher with a pilot through the Kentucky State Department of Agriculture. We shared our research with all universities who asked.

As this was a pilot crop, what qualities were you testing?

The bulk of our focus was on the artisan textile markets. Understanding the retting process and the end uses of the crop helped to shape our understanding of how to best process the crop and achieve maximum value for the family farm.

Were you able to utilize your 2014 crop? How?

Our first hemp crop was used for research and development with Fibershed and Patagonia. The bulk of our crop from 2014 will be transformed into Veteran-grown and hand-processed American Flags.

What varieties and how many acres of hemp will you grow in 2015?

Our capacity will increase a bit. We are growing roughly 100 acres and testing over 8 varieties in varied climates and conditions, from fertile bottom land to reclaimed coal sites in the heart of Appalachia.

Are the soil and environmental conditions expected to be the same?

Certainly not. Different varieties will perform differently in each soil. We are testing dozens of different methods and soils for production.

What is the planned use for your 2015 crop?

Our company is sponsoring research at several universities and colleges in Kentucky but our main crop is independent of that so in that respect we support their work but are operating independent from them.

Will this be a pilot crop? What qualities will you test?

This is a pilot crop. We are testing growth habit, yields and processing techniques in order to find the best fit for farmers.

What is the planned use for your 2015 crop?

We have multiple uses for this crop this year. The majority will be sewn for fibers, and health and wellness products, however we are working or supporting work around all aspects of this plant.

What has been your biggest success(es) in farming hemp to date?

People. The relationships have really been meaningful. It is important that people learn to work together – for the future of all humanity. That’s the reason I remain involved. People from all walks of life are working together to create solutions. That is important and meaningful.