As a lifelong resident of Kentucky, I know there are only few things the state is known for: bluegrass, horses, bourbon and college basketball. Not that I’m complaining; I like all of those things, especially my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats’ b-ball team.
But what Kentucky is becoming known for these days is more important to the rest of the world than the things listed above (sorry horse enthusiasts and bourbon drinkers). These days, Kentucky is getting a reputation as a pioneer in the legal hemp industry.
More than 200 growers in over 70 counties in Kentucky are growing hemp in 2018 and the state’s Agriculture Department is looking for more growers for next year. But growers are not the only part of the industrial hemp industry finding room in Kentucky; the state is also home to more than 70 legal processors.
One of those processors is Kentucky Naturals, LLC, which operates in Florence, Kentucky, less than 20 miles from the Cincinnati, Ohio metro area. I recently visited Kentucky Naturals’ factory in Florence and spoke to the owner, Amy Miles.
Amy’s company has generated some press in the area, including an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Her production capacity is not to full strength yet, but she is producing CBD tinctures at a time when CBD is a much-discussed topic and information about CBD products is a hot commodity.
Kentucky Naturals is something that Amy has been working on creating for a couple of years. “I started talking to a few people about how to get into it [the hemp industry],” Amy told The Marijuana Times. “The process for applying as a processor was fairly basic and easy for me.”
Amy’s previous experience in manufacturing meant she was very familiar with licensing and standard business practices in the industry; what Amy needed to learn about was hemp itself.
In April of 2016, Amy and her son took a trip to Colorado to visit the NOCO Expo, a hemp exposition and trade show held annually in Denver. They talked with many people in the hemp industry, from processors to retailers, to get a better feel for what it would take to build a successful CBD business.
After deciding on using alcohol for extraction and clearing various zoning hurdles – as well as taking another trip to Colorado to learn more about hemp processing – Amy was ready for business. “Most people think you can jump into this industry and everyone is making a million dollars,” Amy said. But that’s not the case. Building a business that is becoming crowded with competitors is a long, slow climb.
Amy got her first processing permit in 2017 and says she feels Kentucky is “fairly progressive” when it comes to their licensing system, allowing companies to get multiple-year permits as long as they participate in annual “training” and submit annual business and research reports.
Like thousands of business owners across the U.S., Amy is navigating a very new and ever-changing industry. When it comes to hemp, she’s fortunate to operate in a state like Kentucky, one that has seemingly embraced industrial hemp as a crop and a commodity that officials in the state want to promote and nurture.
And if there is one thing that the CBD/hemp industry needs, it’s experienced people like Amy making quality products, people who care about what their customers are ingesting and care if their products are actually helping people.