MAYFIELD -- Heading north from Mayfield on U.S. 45, massive concrete panels, poured on site and set into place by a colossal crane, have formed GenCanna's Jackson Purchase hemp production facility, which will be the next step for some 4,500 acres of hemp plants being grown on local farmlands.
GenCanna executive chairman Steve Bevan recently provided a tour for The Mayfield Messenger to describe the flow of the operation to extract CBD (cannabidiol) from the hemp floral material to produce popular oils, lotions and powders.
With eyes on a mid-October first harvest, the process from delivery, drying, processing, extraction and refining at the new plant facility is a speedy one, according to Bevan, because, in farming, time is of the essence.
Along with the construction of the physical plant has been the work of a new entranceway onto the site from U.S. 45 for farmers to transport their harvest to the site. The structure nearest the highway is a weigh station, similar to other crop processing and holding facilities. But along with weight, the station will also have a probe to check the contents' moisture and CBD levels.
Once checked, the transport moves to a four-bay building to transfer the hemp by conveyer to large silos. There, it will be placed in motion inside the silos before pneumatic tubes move the hemp into dryers heated by three large steam boilers in the middle of the plant facility, with capacity for more.
After drying, Bevan explained, the hemp product is fed through grinders to break up the material before being moved into one of a four-silo set for storage all within a 24-hour period.
The GenCanna facility was originally announced at $40 million in February, but later that figure expanded to more than $60 million by company chief operating officer Richard Drennen during a Graves County Economic Development announcement of local investments in May.
It typifies what can possibly grow from hemp, GenCanna and Graves County.
"We're building all this and we might not need a couple of these things, but it provides us with better capacity going forward," Bevan said.
Based in Winchester, Kentucky, GenCanna is connected with local farmers.
The Mayfield production facility has 56 family farm partners under contract this initial growing year. Bevan said that there is still planting underway due to wet conditions earlier in the season, but the company and farmers have taken a pro rata approach.
"That's why you've seen guys plant here one week and another week and another week," he said to try and mitigate any problem from affecting the whole harvest. "That's really important we let the farmers have a positive first experience. It's hard enough farming, let alone a brand new crop."
But it is a crop with potential. Bevan said countries around the world have used hemp for fiber products but haven't made floral products; so American products are being sought after on an international scale.
With CBD products leading the way, ancillary byproducts may go into protein from hemp seeds, fibers and even plastics and biomass products.
"There's so much to learn and so much to grow, literally and figuratively," he said.