Sylvia Crum, director of communications and development for ASD, said the program, called the herb hub, is designed to help these farmers earn more money on their herbs, which could foster more economic development for the region.
“Some of these herb manufacturers are paying $1,000 a pound for certain herbs, depending, so if we can get growers a lot of money, it’s better for them,” Crum said. “Our job is to get them the most money we can so that they can stay on their farms in the region.”
The herb hub was launched at a press conference at Appalachian Harvest in Duffield. The hub features new equipment for processing herbs, such as a commercial root washer and dryer and a moisture meter, and offers farmers the chance to sell in high-value markets that they might not have been able to access on their own.
During the press conference, Appalachian Harvest staff and forest farmers demonstrated how to process black cohosh, an herb that is commonly used in medications for women. Two batches of the herb — a fresh and a dried one — were processed and prepared for shipment to the buyer, Mountain Rose Herbs.
Ryan Huish, a farmer from Duffield who processed the fresh batch of black cohosh, said the herb hub has simplified the task of processing herbs to meet buyers’ standards.
“It’s a lot easier with this herb hub, because I’ve been doing this all at home and making sure we’ve followed all of the guidelines and specifications,” Huish said. “It’s just easier to go somewhere where they already have the guidelines in place, they’ve already had things cleaned up and organized how it needs to be.”
In addition to connecting herb farmers with buyers, the herb hub is also intended to teach farmers how to grow their herbs at a sustainable rate, helping them to make a living in the future.
“There’s already a lot of knowledge for this type of work in this area,” said Katie Commender, regional marketing and logistics coordinator for ASD. “We’re just looking at trying to identify markets that’ll pay a little bit more for the herbs, so this way it can actually be a sustainable living wage, an alternative opportunity for income.”
The herb hub is available to any local forest farmer who is willing to comply with food safety regulations. For more information, visit www.asdevelop.org or call (276) 623-1121.