U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced almost $600,000 in federal funding for a Virginia Tech project to expand the impact of the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition (ABFFC) by increasing membership and improving opportunities and capabilities among forest farmers.
This funding follows a strong push by Sen. Warner, who has urged continued investment in this project by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The funding was awarded through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) at NIFA, which provides grants to support education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers.
The ABFFC is a network of forestland owners, universities, and governmental and non-governmental organizations that share a common goal of improving medicinal plant forest farming among forest farmers.” The Coalition was originally established in 2015 with funding from the BFRDP as a result of collaborative stakeholder roundtable discussions begun in 2013. This new funding award supports the continued growth and expansion of ABFFC and impactful forest farming efforts.
Forest farming is an agroforestry practice that cultivates herbal, edible, decorative, and handicraft non-timber forest products (NTFP) under a forest canopy modified or maintained to provide shade levels and habitats that favor growth and enhance production. Forest farming allows farmers to produce and sell raw material that is traceable, unadulterated, and sustainable. In 2016, consumers spent an estimated $7.45 billion on herbal supplements, an increase of approximately $530 million from 2013.