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Virginia Tech awarded nearly $500K to accelerate Appalachia forest farming industry

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Nearly $500,000 from an initiative of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) will fund the start of a project to accelerate Appalachia’s forest farming industry.

Virginia Tech will work with Appalachian Sustainable Development in Duffield, Va. and Mill Creek Creative in Floyd to grow the market for non-timber forest products in Central Appalachia. The market includes medicinal plants, edible products such as mushrooms and honey, ornamental products like garlands and burl, and landscape products like mulch.

ARC funding will establish a plan that examines the economic viability of individual and collective forest farming business ventures across Southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia, and create a roadmap for programs and services to deliver a broad spectrum of market-centered opportunities for Appalachian residents and localities. The funding is awarded through ARC’s Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE), which aims to drive large-scale, regional economic transformation through multistate, collaborative investments.

Funding will also be provided by local sources in the amount of $327,093 in matching funds, and bring the total project funding to $817,740.

“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go towards supporting Appalachian Sustainable Development in its efforts to make Southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia a leader in the NTFP market. This project will cultivate a generation of new forest farmers in Southwest Virginia and help grow a sustainable stock of NTFPs — helping create new economic development opportunities for the region,” Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine said.

Gayle Manchin, the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Federal Co-Chair, said she strongly believes the key to transforming Appalachia’s economic vitality can be found in vision and collaboration across state lines.

“I’m encouraged by the way our newest ARISE grantees have come together to forge plans that will greatly increase workforce development and business ventures in ways that will positively affect the entire region,” Manchin said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.