Story by Sabra Jackson, Staff writer
Nearly 100 people from around the state attended the first Agricultural Hemp Idea Festival hosted by Murray State Sept. 19.
The day started with a fish fry at noon, followed by three discussion panels and a harvest demonstration.
The main portion of the day was the discussion panels. These included a research panel, a processor panel and a growers panel.
Because hemp is a new crop to this part of the world, the processor and growers panel were focused on informing and giving advice with how it is changing and adapting to the soil in the Western Kentucky area.
“It kind of created a niche for Murray State to be leaders in research when. traditionally, research is not an enormous part of what we do,” Brian Parr, assistant dean in the Hutson School of Agriculture, said. “Getting involved in it early helped us to get out and learn some things other people were just not involved in.”
Parr said this was the first idea festival, but there have been other demonstrations in the past. The event offered more learning experiences.
The use of the new crop creates educational opportunities for the university. Animal science, agronomy and other science classes are studying not only the chicken research side of the hemp projects, but the soil matter and production of the hemp as well.
Cheyenne Hooks, Patrick Hooks and Cheryl Shi are conducting research as well as working closely with other departments on campus to help with finding the results of their projects.
Cheyenne Hooks, graduate student from Ashlyn City, Tennessee, was part of the research panel. She was able to answer questions thers had about the research projects the students were doing with the hemp.
While there are some statistics found from the research, not much is finalized yet. This means that while the students can give rough estimates, they were unable to present numbers. However, they were able to discuss how the projects went and answer specifics about the trials.
Hooks said the festival helped the program receive more publicity within the community and region.
“One of the panel [producers] discussions was just some of the difficulties they’ve had in growing hemp, some of the advice they would give people about growing it and some of the stuff that has gone good with it,” Cheyenne Hooks said.
Cheyenne Hooks said she hopes to see a growth in education to the public about how hemp can cause a positive influence.
“With all the press and everything that we have been getting from it, I think it will slowly start doing that,” Cheyenne Hooks said. “It will open up a bunch of different gates and even more knowledge for the public.”
Cheyenne Hooks said she sees the future research projects being geared more toward weed prevention as well as the growth of hemp.
Patrick Hooks, graduate student from Owensboro, Kentucky, said he believes the festival went really well.
“I think it showed Murray State what we are doing and that we are willing to work with producers and companies,” Patrick Hooks said.
Patrick Hooks said he believes the festival gave the community a good opportunity to know that hemp is not the same as marijuana and that hemp production is slowly making its way into Kentucky.