Home » Hemp planted at Henry Clay Estate for first time since 19th century

Hemp planted at Henry Clay Estate for first time since 19th century

Will be used to educate visitors about the crop

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 3, 2016) — A historic hemp planting took place today at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate off Richmond Road in Lexington. It was the first hemp planted on Ashland property since the late 19th century. The small demonstration plot will be used to educate Ashland visitors about the crop and it’s significance to the state throughout the season.

Ashland was once a 600-acre plantation and home of Kentucky’s favorite son, Henry Clay. Clay grew thousands of pounds of hemp at his Ashland Estate, having it manufactured primarily into rope and cotton bagging. Today, The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation owns and operates Ashland, maintaining the estate as a national historic landmark and educational center for the cultural and social history of the 19th century and specifically, interprets the life and times of Henry Clay, the Clay Family and other residents of the estate for the public.

“The return of hemp to Ashland is timely and underscores Clay’s foresight as an entrepreneurial farmer and visionary politician,” said Jim Clark, executive director of the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation.

Hemp was a principal element of Henry Clay’s personal economy and it greatly influenced his public career. It even inspired major elements of his political plan called The American System.

“There can be no doubt that hemp played a central role in Henry Clay’s life and that he was key to the Kentucky industry in the antebellum period,” said Ashland curator Eric Brooks. “Clay was the staunchest and most recognized supporter of the industry and he was known to work tirelessly for ‘American Hemp—Kentucky Hemp— Ashland Hemp.’”

Even after Clay’s death, Ashland continued as one of Lexington’s esteemed establishments by be- coming the first campus of the University of Kentucky. This year will be the 150th anniversary since the estate opened as the administration building for the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College.

“The University of Kentucky is beginning its third year of industrial hemp research and one of the most challenging things for us is to get people to understand that this plant is very different from it notorious cousin,” said UK agronomist Rich Mundell, lead researcher on the project. “We are excited to be a part of a project that has a unique historical significance, the predecessor of UK found its beginning at the estate, but more importantly a project that could potentially educate the many people that visit the estate about the benefits that hemp could bring to the economy of Kentucky.”

The project is facilitated by United Hemp Industries, a company licensed through the hemp program to conduct small scale, on-farm processing. UHI will be assisting in project maintenance throughout the season, and will process the crop after it’s harvested. Kentucky Hempsters, a marketing subsid- iary of UHI, has partnered with the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation and the University of Kentucky to create this historical hemp experience.

“It’s important for us to shed light on our hemp heritage as the crop begins to flourish once again. Not only does our history give us an opportunity to discuss what hemp is and how it can be used, but it helps put into perspective how significant the industry could be to us today,” said Kentucky Hempsters co-founder and UHI principal, Alyssa Erickson. “We’re grateful to be a part of this historic educational opportunity, and to commemorate Henry Clay’s legacy as ‘the prince of hemp.’”

On June 11, the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation and Kentucky Hempsters will host Henry Clay’s Hemp Symposium to revisit this important legacy and consider the future of this crop in the Blue- grass state. The symposium will include historical speakers, hemp advocates, and people involved in the current hemp revival in Kentucky. We will also formally unveil the new hemp plot at Ashland, the first planted on the estate in over 130 years.