Central Kentucky pioneer in natural foods now making hemp chocolates

WINCHESTER, Ky. (WKYT)- If there is one place Laura Freeman feels most at home, it’s the farm.

“Hello guys,” said Laura Freeman.

Freeman grew a small, family cattle operation at Mt. Folly Farm in Clark County into a multimillion-dollar beef company. She started it when she was just 22-years-old.

“After I graduated from college I was a little bit of a hippy and organic farmer,” said Freeman.

Freeman became a pioneer with her company in 1985, choosing to raise antibiotic and hormone free cattle, which was unheard of at the time.

“And I thought, you know if people really knew about this they would change. So we started Laura’s Natural Beef, but it didn’t sell, and that was back in the time everyone was trying to reduce their fat content, and we changed the name to Laura’s Lean Beef,” Freeman explained.

She manned the business for 23 years until selling Laura’s Lean Beef in 2008 and retiring to Martha’s Vineyard. She realized though she still had more ideas to harvest and made the decision to come home to Kentucky. Her daughter, who she says is much like her, had already planted the seed of what might be next.

“She is a hippy like you wouldn’t believe, and so she had gotten the whole farm certified organic, and she had gotten us in the hemp program,” said Freeman.

The first crop, Freeman says was a gamble and the harvest wasn’t much, but it was enough to get her thinking. She went back to what she knew, food.

“So I took a look at the hemp seeds, their nutritional profile and realized that maybe I could make healthy chocolate and healthy candy like healthy beef,” said Freeman.

After some trial and error, a little experimenting and a lot of taste testing she found herself at Ruth Hunt in Mt. Sterling making Laura’s Hemp Chocolates.

“People are a little suspicious about the hemp, is it going to make me high and am I going to fail a drug test? I say no, it’s hemp grain. It is omega 3’s, omega 6’s, antioxidants, but it’s not marijuana,” said Freeman.

Her first batch of candy made of hemp seed, chocolate, cranberries, and raspberries hit store shelves in 2016.

“It’s a big stretch from beef to chocolate, or is it a stretch,” questions Amber Philpott.

“It’s not because you know in both situations I took something that people like, but is not particularly healthy and in our chocolate, I’m using no milk chocolate, no high sugar,” said Freeman.

Healthy sweet treats are just the start for Freeman.

She has renovated a 1785 cabin on the farm and turned it into a B & B, powered by new age solar panels. She has opened Laura’s Mercantile to sell her goods both on the farm and online, and she has one more plan coming for Clark County.

“Then I bought some property in downtown Winchester which we are making into a distillery,” said Freeman.

Next up growing heritage grains that will be used to make the moonshine for the distillery. And eventually, she says she will offer tours to promote agri-tourism.

Laura Freeman paved the way for organic farmers long before it was hip, decades later this self-proclaimed hippy turned successful businesswoman is still putting the environment first.

“I like a good fight, and it’s a fight you need to be in right now, we’ve got to fight for the Earth,” said Freeman.

Laura Freeman says she has another idea up her sleeve for another edible, maybe a candy bar she says. Her candy can be found at Kroger, online and at Ruth Hunt. As for that moonshine distillery, she hopes to have it up and running this coming spring, and she has created the moonshine trail that she hopes will be an economic engine in our area.

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