The first AppalachiCanna Fest, held in Morehead this past weekend, wasn't just about hemp and cannabis. It also featured music and musical instrument makers, information about keeping goats and bees, Kentucky made beer from Sawstone Brewery, and other products that feature Kentucky agriculture.

But the cannabis plant featured largely in many of the products and services on offer, and those interested in growing cannabis or using cannabis in what they produce were able to network with those already established in the industry.

Tim Smith, who operates as the HempSmith, said that he collected contact information from farmers that represented over a thousand acres or more of land for cultivation. Smith explained that the HempSmith works as a co-operative organization for those interested in growing hemp or cannabis for CBD products, helping them increase their purchase power by pooling their acreage and buying seed in bulk.

He said he had developed a relationship that weekend with Chad Wilson, who was set-up in the booth next to him, and would be working with his farm to provide other farmers with clones.

Teresa Johnson, owner and producer of the Lexington-based SoulRebeLex Body Care products, said she sources as many ingredients as possible from Kentucky farmers for her lotions, deodorants, soaps, and other items, which carry the Kentucky Proud label. She has a line of body butters that includes CBD and other anti-inflammatory or relaxing ingredients, depending on the blend, and said she had made contact with folks like Max Hammond of AppalachiCanna to purchase the CBD she uses from more Kentucky growers as well.

Johnson, who also operates SoulRebeLex as a yoga studio, said working with Kentucky growers is all about “raising the vibration” across the state and region.

Though he uses different terms, Hammond also talks about improving conditions and opportunities for the entire Appalachian region as a key component of his business endeavors and the festival. Hammond said there is a multiplier effect for a region when entrepreneurs purchase their raw ingredients and produce their products locally, rather than purchasing and selling raw materials from those outside the area. It helps keep the money in and circulating through the community, he explained.

Hammond and his partners, Arch Johnson and Eddie Martin, are committed to this in their newest endeavor, the Olive Hill-based AppalachiCanna CBD products. AppalachiCanna – which sponsored the event along with Magic Hollow, another Kentucky based CBD producer – purchases all the plants used in the production of their salves and Kentucky Stag CBD oil from regional farmers.

Though he is committed to purchasing local for philosophical reasons, Hammond said Kentucky is also ideal for growing cannabis and that there is no reason the state can't become a leading region in the production of cannabis and hemp products, comparing it to the state's reputation in specialty artisanal products like bourbon and the state's previous premiere agricultural product, tobacco.

“We're world renowned for being great farmers here in eastern Kentucky,” Hammond said in conversations before the fest. “Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds would come to these tobacco warehouses in eastern Kentucky and buy what they thought was the world's very best burley tobacco. They could pick up a leaf of it and could tell you if it was grown east of Winchester, Kentucky, and it brought a premium (price).”

That's the kind of reputation he hopes to help build for hemp and other emerging agricultural products by working with Kentucky farmers and producers. Like fine French champagne, he said, when people think of Kentucky honey, or maple syrup, or – yes – cannabis, he wants them to think of premium and unparalleled products from “sun kissed and mountain misted” Kentucky farms.

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