MURRAY — Murray State finds itself at what its top agriculture official has said is the epicenter of industrial hemp activity in the United States.
Having been the first American college/university to grow the crop that had been outlawed since the 1930s, Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture put itself in position to be a leader in the resurrection of this multi-faceted plant. In fact, during Wednesday’s kickoff celebration of the new Center for Agricultural Hemp on the campus, Kentucky 1st District Congressman James Comer said Murray State is the leading research facility on industrial hemp in the nation.
“And that is a big deal,” Comer said in his remarks in front of a large crowd at the CFSB Center’s Murray Room, noting how the center, created in only the past few months, seems to be showing the way in another area. “As we move forward, if you look at the university business model, a lot of universities are struggling because the fact is the amount of state and federal funding for postsecondary education has been decreasing and it’s not showing signs of getting any better.
“So as we move forward, universities, particularly our regional universities, are going to have to adapt to a new business model, and Murray State University is doing that. Funding in the future is going to have to come from private companies and other interests, and private companies aren’t going to donate money to universities if they’re not doing the type of things that are beneficial to those industries. Murray State University is a leader, therefore you have companies in the private sector stepping up to make donations because they believe in the research they’re doing and believe in what the university is doing to move the industry forward, and that, too, is a big deal.”
Five companies have taken that step to provide the financial backing necessary for the center project to take flight. They are CV Sciences, Vertical Wellness, GenCanna Global, Unified Ag Holdings Inc. and Fibonacci HempWood.
“We’re doing something pretty special, but it’s something that certainly depends on good partners,” said Dr. Brian Parr, the Hutson School’s assistant dean. “It’s funny how every now and then, somebody will call and ask about a possible project for us to do here, then they’ll kind of misunderstand how it works. They think that we have all of the resources and money to support that project. Well, we don’t.
“This is a great example of a public-private partnership where our partners realize that in order for us to provide the synergy, to provide the research, provide the information for our farmers that will be disseminated into this industry for the good of the commonwealth and our agriculture industry, it’s good to pool resources.”
Parr then listed the foundational partners one by one.
“Even before there was even the thought of this center, there was CV Sciences’ support for the project and we’re very thankful for what they’ve done. Also, unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere lately, you’ve probably heard the name GenCanna because they are constructing a multi-million-dollar facility (in Graves County, north of Mayfield) and we appreciate their support and commitment for this center,” he said, moving to the next three partners.
“As we looked for more foundational partners, we had another one step up to the plate and they came across both lakes to get here (Vertical Wellness, based in Cadiz). In fact, we’ve had (COO Drew Milburn) here on campus several times and you wouldn’t believe the interest that generated with our students. We’ve had about four of our students take internship positions or become permanent workers there.
“Also, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, you might’ve heard that there are some guys making boards out of hemp. (Fibonacci founder) Greg Wilson says he makes logs out of whatever and hemp was a good thing, so this is a group specializing in hardwood flooring that establishing a company on the eastern side of the county. Also we have Unified and this is a company just beginning to move into town, so to speak, that is setting up shop in the Hazel area.”