Clark County adds stop in self-guided hemp history trail

Published 8:32 am Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life is a highway, and beginning in February a portion of it could be dedicated to hemp.

The Kentucky Hemp Highway, a new free self-guided history tour, will make use of historical markers to map out a framework exploring the role of hemp in Kentucky’s history, including in Clark County.

According to Hemp Highway Kentucky President Daniel Isenstein, the tour will officially begin operation Feb. 1, and maps showing stops will be found in 70 hotels located between Frankfort and Winchester.

In some cases, the roadside historical markers serve as a jumping off point for those on the tour to further explore hemp history. In Clark County, the tour pamphlet also recommends participants visit the courthouse and the Bluegrass Heritage Museum for more information on hemp’s place in the county’s history.

Beyond the recommendations, some exploration could uncover more of hemp’s legacy hiding in plain sight.

“The idea is to get people off the interstate and into towns around Kentucky.”  Isenstein said.

The tour comes at a time when hemp has been making headlines in Kentucky after being largely forgotten for some time.

Many farms and businesses have been taking part in a hemp pilot program began by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in 2014. Through the program, hemp has seen a resurgence in the state.

This creates a unique opportunity for the hemp highway in that participants can visit a historical marker and then eat at a restaurant or visit a business located on the site or even in a building that was once dedicated to the creation of hemp products. He said another opportunity comes from businesses that are making food products out of hemp.

“If afterward people could go to a diner and get something to eat that makes a nice day trip,” Isenstein said. “And they may see some great things in Kentucky that aren’t hemp related but aren’t happening anywhere else.”

Isenstein said that people who participate in the hemp highway tour and share local pieces of hemp history with him on his website — kentuckyhemphighway.com — or social media will be sent free bumper stickers. The website also has T-shirts for sale.

As the hemp highway expands, the stops will become features on the website, he said.

Isenstein said his interest in the hemp industry began in the 1990s, and he has always had a love of history.

After the pilot program began in Kentucky, he said the creation of the highway tour seemed like a good way to meld those interests, since he had no experience as a farmer.

He said that as the business expands, he hopes to enter into partnerships with other organizations to create a strong informational network for the hemp industry — past and future — in Kentucky.