The Yew Mountain Center announces its participation in a partnership, led by Virginia Tech, alongside nine other organizations spanning the Appalachian region. This innovative project aims to expand and accelerate value-added, agricultural clusters within Appalachian communities, promoting sustainable forest farming practices with support from the ARISE award granted by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin expressed her enthusiasm, stating, “I strongly believe that 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.”
The project, titled “Accelerating Forest Farming in Central Appalachia,” focuses on enhancing the economic viability, social well-being, and resource sustainability of individual and collective forest farming business ventures across Central Appalachia. Additionally, it seeks to ensure the long-term viability of value-added and sustainable Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) supply chains.
John Munsell, Project Director for the planning grant, Virginia Tech Associate Professor, and Forest Management Extension Specialist, emphasized, “Appalachia is a global icon in understory woodland product trade. From tree barks and gourmet food to the world’s largest spectrum of salable medicinal botanicals, the region is rich in marketable raw material derived from its biodiverse forests. However, these products and associated producer communities have long been undervalued and underserved. Forest farming is an agroforestry practice involving the intentional production and stewardship of understory woodland crops such as mushrooms, plants, and sap that ensures product quality, reduces market volatility, enhances local enterprise, and increases sustainable commerce, all of which can improve the recognition and reward that Appalachian producers and their communities deserve.”
The Yew Mountain Center is honored to be a part of this collaboration with partners from across the region, expanding opportunities for cultivating Non-Timber Forest Products in Appalachian forests. Erica Marks, Director of The Yew Mountain Center, states, “Our sought-after native botanicals thrive in healthy forests just as our communities are enriched when we manage this resource for sustainable income potential and for conservation.”
This award offers an opportunity to strengthen relationships between institutions of higher learning, community development, research advancement, and sustainable farming and agroforestry in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and North Carolina, with the shared vision of fostering an emerging forest farming industry for the Appalachian region. Entities in each location have already been partnering and implementing practices to bolster the forest farming economy and will now can expand upon this existing work.
The Yew Mountain Center hosts the West Virginia Forest Farming Initiative and operates a forest farm on its 500-acre botanical sanctuary near Hillsboro, WV. It is a destination for learning about cultivating non-timber forest products and offers funding and technical support for beginning forest farmers. In addition to forest farming projects, the nonprofit organization offers a wide range of place-based educational and cultural programs for people of all ages.