Herb Hub expansion will support agroforestry producers
For Immediate Release
The Plains, Ohio —Rural Action and partners working through the Appalachian RESILIENCY partnership will expand the network of agroforestry product processing centers, referred to in shorthand as herb hubs. Herb hubs will serve as centers for processing, aggregation, and distribution of plant-based materials and products, designed to help landowners and producers connect to markets for long-term financial sustainability. Interns and Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps (AORC) members will receive training and hands-on experience in all aspects of herb hub operations.
Over the past 30 years, Rural Action and its partners have helped grow a network of agroforestry resources and education that reaches thousands of people annually. This work has primarily focused on establishing agroforestry operations. What’s needed now is investment in the infrastructure that will allow agroforestry practitioners to turn their crops into valuable and marketable commodities. The coalition leading Appalachian RESILIENCY includes not only Rural Action, but also Building Bridges to Careers, Hocking College, Coalfield Development, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD), and United Plant Savers.
The Appalachian RESILIENCY project partners have a strong track record of providing processing, aggregation, and distribution services in the food and agriculture sector. The project will expand on this model, by developing similar resources for agroforestry products. The roots and leaves of edible and medicinal herbs such as American ginseng and ramps represent high-value agroforestry products; a pound of dried American ginseng can sell for over $1,000. Elderberry fruit, a native riparian shrub, when grown along stream banks, improves water quality and halts erosion. The market for it is growing rapidly, particularly among beverage producers and distilleries throughout our region. Access to shared-use equipment will allow significant opportunities for producers to add value to their crops, helping to diversify our local economy while protecting the soil and water.
Appalachian RESILIENCY will expand on the model pioneered by Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), building on its strengths and learning from challenges. As a project partner, ASD will expand its Appalachian Harvest Herb Hub (AHHH), provide technical assistance in the creation of additional regional herb hub facilities, assist in developing an integrated network of herb hubs, providing local processing opportunities for agroforestry producers of nuts, berries, and NTFPs and a coordinated supply of high-value agroforestry products to meet growing demand from consumers and herbal product companies across central Appalachia so that producers can sell at a fair price within a few hours’ drive.
Meanwhile, demand for herbal products from medicines to foods is growing both nationally and internationally. Market Research Future estimates that the global herbal medicine market is expected to reach a valuation of more than $129 billion by 2023, with the lack of standardization and consistent sources of high-quality material being among the largest limitations to the sector’s growth. With consumer demand and markets growing, there is a market opportunity for domestically produced material.
Herb hub activities:
- Development: Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) will consult with Rural Action and United Plant Savers on development of herb hubs that meet regulations, buyer specifications and supply chain development. Rural Action and United Plant Savers will purchase, develop and install a suite of agroforestry processing equipment for washing, drying, and cutting herbs; washing, drying and grinding roots; destemming elderberries; and processing chestnuts and other tree crops. ASD will expand processing capabilities and capacity at the Appalachian Harvest Herb Hub.
- Education and Training: Rural Action and United Plant Savers will host educational events for forest landowners and forest farmers to further business opportunities in agroforestry in Appalachia. These will include Herb Hub equipment construction and safe equipment handling as part of Rural Action’s “seed to sale” trainings. These include trainings on plant sourcing to site selection to cultivation, harvesting, processing, and value-adding for a range of non-timber forest product species including medicinal herbs like American ginseng and goldenseal, edible herbs, ramps,mushrooms, and nuts and berries such as elderberry and hazelnut.
- Replication: Appalachian Sustainable Development, Rural Action and United Plant Savers will support the creation of satellite Herb Hubs across the region. Through these new herb hubs the following processing equipment will be purchased: herb washers, herb dryers, herb cutter, root washers, root dryers, root grinders, and elderberry destemmers.
- Business Development: Rural Action will provide technical support, business planning and marketing assistance to producers.
- Value Chain Development: Rural Action and Appalachian Sustainable Development will develop working connections for shipping and logistics lines to facilitate transregional agroforestry product exchange in order to enable small and mid-sized producers to aggregate product to sell into larger markets.
Rural Action is a regional community development organization with a 32-county footprint working with members and community leaders on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. Learn more about Rural Action at www.ruralaction.org
Sustainable Forestry Program Manager