UK Happenings

‘From the field to the finished product’ — hemp plants made into flooring at North Farm

 Bob Pearce
Finished floor
image of hempwood press

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 28, 2024) – Hemp fibers are among the strongest materials grown in Kentucky. Developments have allowed farmers to experiment with making hemp into rope, even clothing. At the University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s North Farm, UK Cooperative Extension Professor Bob Pearce led a project to turn their hemp crop into flooring.

Pearce had worked with Kentucky company HempWood in the past and seen its flooring product up close. He knew quickly he wanted to bring this process to North Farm so his students could participate and learn alongside him.

“In a lot of the work we do, once the product is sold off the farm, we don’t see what happens to it,” Pearce said. “In this instance we were able to see it go from the field to the finished product.”

In 2022, North Farm had some large hemp plantings, which inspired Pearce to reach out to HempWood. Now, every day when he walks into work, he is reminded of the fruits of his and his students’ labor.

To create the flooring, the hemp stalk is crushed to open the cell structure, then dipped into a soy glue. It is then dried like tobacco and pressed into a block shape, resulting in a dense block. The pattern of the floor is determined by the method the blocks are cut; horizontally results in a live sawn grain and vertically in a rift & quarter sawn grain. It is then laid up on a PureBond® plywood backer using soy glue to make a durable flooring 20% harder than hickory.

"We're proud to partner with University of Kentucky, to use Kentucky hemp grown by Kentucky farmers and flooring manufactured right here in the Bluegrass State for our schools," said Greg Wilson, CEO of HempWood. "It's been a dream working with the team at UK as our values for creating a safe, healthy space for students and educators are perfectly aligned. As the 2024 Coolest Thing Made in Kentucky, we take pride in being the sustainable, luxury flooring option helping to create a safe atmosphere for UK's students and educators."

Pearce’s career in agriculture has been mostly centered around tobacco. While he still works in that space, hemp has been pleasantly surprising him. He notes it is exciting, wondering what uses we will find next for hemp.

“Kentucky ag is not static,” Pearce said. “It is evolving, and crops are emerging as new enterprises for growers to tap into. It’s fun to be a part of that process on the research farm.”


As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.