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In Conversation with Joseph Hickey Sr.: Trailblazer of the Hemp Industry

joseph hickey discusses hemp industry on the qredible broadcast
In a recent Qredible Broadcast episode, we had the privilege of sitting down with Joseph Hickey Sr., a true pioneer and advocate for the hemp farming industry in Kentucky and across America. With decades of experience under his belt, Joseph shared his remarkable journey and insights into the past, present, and future of this versatile crop. You can read about the interview below or watch the full episode on YouTube.

Rediscovering Hemp’s Rich History

Joseph’s foray into the world of hemp began serendipitously when he stumbled upon a bound collection of 1942 newspapers from Lexington, Kentucky. Among the pages, he discovered an article mentioning the resignation of F.G. Clay from the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association. This revelation struck a chord as Joseph realized the state’s deep-rooted history with hemp cultivation, a narrative that had been largely forgotten. “It just hit me like a ton of bricks because back in ’92, hemp and marijuana were the same thing in people’s minds. There was no difference between them,” Joseph recalled. “I started collecting this information and found out that France had been growing hemp for a while.”

Reviving the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association

Fueled by his newfound knowledge, Joseph embarked on a mission to revive the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association. He sought out allies, including Andy Graves, the son of a retired banker who had grown hemp on his family’s farm, and Dave Sparing, a University of Kentucky employee with connections to local farmers. Together, they reincorporated the association, with Andy as the president, Joseph as the CEO, and Dave as the secretary and treasurer. Remarkably, they even secured the support of Andy’s father, Jake Graves, who had firsthand experience weighing hemp as a 16-year-old boy, lending credibility to their endeavor.

Overcoming Obstacles and Gaining Momentum

Joseph’s journey was not without its challenges. In the early days, the stigma surrounding hemp was deeply ingrained, and even influential figures like Mitch McConnell were hesitant to associate with the cause, fearing it would be misconstrued as an attempt to legalize marijuana. However, Joseph’s perseverance paid off when he had the opportunity to present his findings to Governor Brereton Jones. Through a compelling demonstration involving hemp paper and a match, Joseph convinced the governor of the potential benefits of reviving the hemp industry in Kentucky. “He looked at me and said, ‘Joe, I think you’re exactly right,’ and he looked over at Jim, his guy, and said, ‘I want you to work with Joe. Let’s do this,'” Joseph recounted. “That was kind of what started the ball rolling.”

The Future of Hemp: Separating Fact from Fiction

As the conversation turned to the present and future of the hemp industry, Joseph emphasized the crucial distinction between industrial hemp and cannabis grown for cannabinoids like CBD or THC. He stressed the need for regulatory frameworks that recognize industrial hemp as an agricultural crop, treated similarly to corn or soybeans, rather than a horticultural crop subject to stringent regulations. “People have to understand that industrial hemp is a completely different animal when it comes to the horticultural and agricultural aspects of it,” Joseph explained. “If you’re growing for cannabinoids, you’re growing as a horticultural crop, taking care of each plant. If you’re growing as an agricultural crop, you’re growing large acreages of it.” Joseph Hickey’s insights shed light on the challenges faced by farmers who wish to cultivate hemp for fiber or other industrial purposes but are deterred by the current regulatory landscape. He advocated for a more sensible approach that recognizes the inherent differences between industrial hemp and cannabis grown for cannabinoids. As the interview concluded, Joseph’s passion and dedication to reviving the American hemp industry were evident. His remarkable journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of preserving and reviving our agricultural heritage.
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