• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

History, hemp and horses on Woodford County Farm Tour

Reminders of Woodford County’s agriculture history were everywhere on the 54th annual farm tour Monday morning. A stop at the Jack Jouett House historic site and its hemp plot gave tour visitors an opportunity to learn why that crop was so vital to Kentucky’s farming economy during the 19th century and why its versatility offers a lot of potential in the future. “Really, the potential is unlimited,” said Alyssa Erickson, founder of the Kentucky Hemp Heritage Alliance and co-founder of Kentucky Hempsters. “… We’re so excited to be teaching you about hemp and bringing this crop back” to Kentucky. Jack Jouett House’s small demonstration plot – one of 20 stops on the Heritage Hemp Trail in Kentucky – gave tour visitors an opportunity to learn more about this crop with deep historical roots. About 90 percent of the hemp produced in America came out of the Bluegrass Region in 1890, “and Woodford County was a leading hemp producer,” Erickson said. Hemp remained an important part of Kentucky’s agriculture economy until tobacco took over and “became king” at the turn of the century, Erickson said. The market for hemp pretty much disappeared after World War II and growing the crop became illegal in 1970, she added. A provision in the 2014 Farm Bill allowed hemp to return as a research and development pilot program, which enabled Kentucky to lead the effort to prove the economic viability of the crop, Erickson said. “There are about 10,000 uses for hemp,” she explained, “and of course we just wanted to make sure that was in fact the case – and I think that we have (proven that) over the last five years.” Hemp fiber can be used for more than textiles and rope, and hemp seed and oil also have many uses, Erickson said. “It’s very versatile” she explained. “The global footprint is all over,” but varieties and what’s being produced from hemp are very different from one country to another. “Now that hemp is legal (to grow in Kentucky),” she said, “we’re having more opportunities to see more investment and infrastructure put into those other (hemp) markets.” The Jouett House’s herb garden allowed tour visitors to gain a better understanding of why “this was your pharmacy” 200 years when “farming was a much more diverse operation,” said Sharon Hughes, director of the historic site on Craigs Creek Road. “We were striving to have an example of what they (Jouett’s family) might’ve grown,” said Missie Wood of the Woodford Herbalists. The organization maintains the herb garden on the five-acre historic site that brings awareness to Capt. Jack Jouett’s historic 40-mile horseback ride to warn Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature about approaching British troops in June 1781. A stop at Lakeview Farm, where the Jolly family raises cattle, gave tour visitors an opportunity to learn about managing a farm pond from Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife fisheries biologist Jeff Crosby. He explained how their boat, equipped with a generator, converts electricity in order to stun fish to get a sample of a pond’s population. Crosby talked about the population in Lakeview Farm’s pond while Woodford County’s wildlife biologist Joe Lacefield held up examples of the fish that populate its water. “We’re number three in the U. S. on the number of fish species we have in the state. We have over 260 species in the state,” said Crosby. He said Fish & Wildlife recommends stocking farm ponds with large mouth bass and bluegill. Over at Sunrise Stable on Delaney Ferry Road, Melissa Moore talked about her farm’s Saddlebred horse training and breeding operation. “We have 30 acres here,” Moore said. “We train American Saddlebreds, Hackney ponies, Dutch harness horses … so we have a little bit of everything.” Although most of the training and workouts occur indoors, she said, “there’s a .75-mile track around the perimeter of the farm and “a small track out back …” Prompted by a question, Moore talked about her parents and their involvement in the American Saddlebred business and horse shows. “They’re the reason so many people do what they do today. They’re the reason I do what I do,” she said. Her mom, Donna Moore, has been credited with paving the way for women in the show horse industry. “My dad (Tom Moore) “actually won every world championship that was possible to win. So he was pretty amazing, and he was a great guy too,” said Melissa Moore, garnering applause from her farm tour visitors. Family was also at the heart of Andrew Coyle’s welcome to lunch at the Coyle Family Farm in Nonesuch. His father, former Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle, had talked about hosting the farm tour in recent years, before he died last November. The Coyle family made sure his desire became reality. “Dad loved Woodford County,” Andrew Coyle told those gathered in a historic barn – built in 1894 as Nonesuch Christian Church. “I feel closest to my dad in this barn,” he said. “I learned to hang tobacco in this barn. … I can hear daddy now, ‘Boys, let it shingle down, let it shingle down.’” Andrew Coyle said he and his three brothers could always count on their dad to say something funny to make them laugh, “even though it gets miserably hot in this barn ...”

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