A Day on the Farm with Laura’s Mercantile
There are a lot of misconceptions about Kentucky: we don’t wear shoes, we marry our cousins, we are all insanely good at basketball, etc. Additionally, people seem to think that we’re all country folk that spent our childhoods milking cows instead of reading books. While I may be Kentuckian through and through, I rarely step outside the comforts of my city limits. Louisville is one of the biggest cities in the South (yes I consider Kentucky more Southern than Midwestern, fight me on it later), and while we are surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and farmland, I admit that I haven’t taken advantage of it.
That’s why when Laura’s Mercantile and Mt. Folly Farm reached out to me to invite me onto the farm to check out their hemp (gasp!) production, I considered it a little out of my comfort zone. This event was actually open to the public, and I found that a LOT of people that were interested in the crop were intimately familiar with farming. During the guided tour of the crops, people asked questions loaded with technical farming terms that left me feeling like more of a city slicker than ever before. But what I learned from my visit filled me with such a hope and excitement for the future of Kentucky as a whole, and I knew I just had to share it with all of my readers.
What is hemp?
So first of all, why is this a big deal? Well if you’re uninformed like I was, hemp looks very similar to a certain plant that starred in all of your elementary school D.A.R.E sessions. Yes, hemp and marijuana are cousins. This has lead to hemp being federally classified as a controlled substance, despite the agricultural and manufactural benefits that can be derived from it.
Some people (especially in Kentucky) are pushing for the de-restriction of hemp on the grounds of it being different enough to avoid it being a “drug.” Indeed, biologists and plant breeders have created strains of hemp that contain less than .3% of THC (which is the compound in marijuana that causes the feeling of being high). The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has actually set .3% as the legal limit that a hemp plant can produce in order for it to be grown and utilized. So while hemp may look and smell similar to marijuana, Mt. Folly Farm’s COO Ben Pasley (who led a guided tour of the crop) assures me that anyone with a hankering to steal and smoke the versatile plant will end up with only a headache and a cough.
Hemp is important for Kentuckians because it’s a historical cash crop. Before the restriction of the plant, Kentucky was first in the nation in hemp growing. Much of it was sold to be made into rope, as the stringy fibers of the plant are strong and can be woven. Now, it’s undergoing a resurgence in popularity as not only a fiber, but a health booster.
I can eat this stuff?
Can you eat this stuff? My friend, not only can you, but you should. Laura’s Mercantile was started as an online business in November of 2016, as a way to sell Mt. Folly Farm’s products. One of the first things to sell was a chocolate bark filled with cranberries and omega-filled hemp hearts. Hemp, as it turns out, is a natural anti-inflammatory. The hearts are full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and contain every amino acid that the human body needs. While the hemp hearts are left in chunks to give the bark a distinct texture, Laura’s also has a line of truffles and wafers, which are smoother while still containing the nutrient-rich hemp. All are made with dark chocolate, and no – none of it smells like hemp.
In addition to the line of chocolates, Laura’s recently rolled out a line of CBD tinctures. CBD stands for “cannabinoid,” which are molecules found in hemp and marijuana that give the plants their medical or recreational properties. It’s important to note that THC is a type of cannabinoid, and that is why hemp growers are interested in limiting its levels in their crops. Hemp has virtually no THC, so the cannabinoids left in the plants have no drug-like effects. Instead, hemp-derived cannabinoids can be used to relieve chronic pain or limit the effects of seizures.
Indeed, Laura’s Mercantile started because Laura herself was looking for an alternative to chronic pain medicine. On her website, she writes that having suffered a few horse riding accidents in her life, she was in pain and subscribed to a few different medications. Once she found that CBD could be a natural way to manage her pain, she decided to apply to grow hemp and make her own CBD oils. Because Laura’s uses the hemp flower to extract the CBD oil, it is said to be better-tasting and more effective than others on the market. Ben told the tour group a story of a young boy who had an epileptic disorder and tried Laura’s oils. He claimed it to be the best tasting CBD oil of all his options, and taking it has helped reduce his seizures from several hundred daily to a handful a week. How’s that for anecdotal testimony!
Where can I find this magic potion?
While not a magic potion per se (there are still scientific studies being done on CBD oil, and Laura advises that dosage recommendations are anecdotal and on a case-by-case basis), you can order all of Laura’s products from the online store here. The chocolates and other farm products (not all of which involve hemp – try their BBQ sauce, for instance) are also available at some retailers throughout Kentucky. A full list can be found here. I recommend the truffles, personally, but the bark was a very close second!
Laura’s is on the cusp of something big in the US. A version of the 2018 Farm Bill just passed the US Senate and headed to the House. In this version is language de-restricting hemp and opening the doors for wider distribution of hemp-derived products. CBD oils are becoming more and more popular, and manufacturers are seeing the value in hemp as a fiber. The future of Kentucky farming is looking bright. But don’t forget where its roots are: in the outskirts of Winchester, on a small country road, in a Crooked Farmhouse.
Support local businesses and small farmers, and check out Mt. Folly Farm for yourself! The farm is open for self-guided tours on most Saturdays, and the staff is always available for questions at their emails or Facebook page. The Farm Party that I was invited to was a success, so look out for more community events in the future as well. Thanks for reading, and maybe one day I’ll see you out on the farm!
* Laura’s Mercantile provided me with complimentary product as a thank you for sharing photos of the farm and event. Some product was additionally purchased by me. All opinions expressed are genuine and my own. Any and all research came from Laura’s website and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.