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Northam highlights innovative agriculture during visit to Catawba farm

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 7:47 PM EST
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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center occupies 377 acres in the Catawba Valley, but when Governor Ralph Northam visited Thursday morning, the focus was a small plot of land and a plant he held in the palm of his hand.

“It’s a goldenseal rhizome,” said Adam Taylor, manager of the Sustainability Center farm. “So this is the point of the grant we’re here to announce, for the propagation of more of this root right here.”

The state has awarded the center a $20,000 grant to expand the production of medicinal plants. The center will partner with farmers to help them access markets, and develop a pipeline for new products.

“You look at these mountain farms, you can run a few cows or do a few crops,” Taylor said. “What we have a lot of is steep marginal land, which is where these species thrive. So if we’re able to incorporate that into those lands, protect our forests, protect our water, then it’s a win-win all around. It might not drive a farm, but it definitely will be supplemental income that could help sustain it.”

“And to really emphasize the importance of agriculture and forestry in our Commonwealth,” Northam said. “Agriculture’s our number one industry. Forestry’s our number three and it’s really what drives our economy.”

Northam said he’s hopeful that innovative ideas, like the ones he heard about in Catawba, will help farmers throughout Virginia survive in challenging times.

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