WYTHEVILLE, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that the Commonwealth’s first commercial industrial hemp fiber processing facility will locate in Wythe County.
Northam said Vitality Farms, LLC, operating as Appalachian Biomass Processing, will invest $894,000, create 13 new jobs, and plans to purchase more than 6,000 tons of Virginia-grown industrial hemp over the next three years, at a value of more than $1 million.
Northam signed legislation in March that was unanimously passed by the General Assembly to legalize the commercial growing and processing of industrial hemp by conforming Virginia law to the 2018 Federal Farm Bill. This is the first economic development announcement for Virginia’s industrial hemp industry.
“I am committed to pursuing every path that will attract economic prosperity to our rural communities, and hemp production opens up a wealth of opportunity to bring new jobs and new business to Virginia,” Northam said in a prepared statement. “We are focused on developing a thriving and sustainable hemp industry in our Commonwealth and by establishing Virginia’s first modern commercial hemp processor, Appalachian Biomass Processing will play a key role in helping to create a highly-anticipated market for our farmers and industrial hemp growers.”
“Industrial hemp holds the potential to be an important crop for our farmers, especially those in the southern and southwestern regions of Virginia,” Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring added in a prepared statement. “Having the infrastructure to process industrial hemp and strong markets in which to sell it are critical to seizing its potential. With more than 1,100 registered industrial hemp growers in Virginia, I am pleased to see the local market for industrial hemp fiber begin to grow.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) worked with Wythe County to secure this project for the Commonwealth. Northam approved a $25,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) fund for the project, which Wythe County will match with local funds.
“Our production model is an internally reproducible model and can expand to meet the demands of the region’s hemp supply chain,” said Susan Moore, owner of Appalachian Biomass Processing. “Our team brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and motivation to see this plan to fruition. By working with state and local economic development allies, we hope to help create an entirely new industry for the region.”
Appalachian Biomass Processing will use a specialized decorticator to process bales of hemp stalks into two raw agricultural products, according to the governor's office. The company will sell bast fiber to a North Carolina company for further processing and sale to the textile industry, while the woody core of the plant, or hurd, will be sold to a Virginia company for use as animal bedding. A native of Wythe County, Northam said company founder Susan Moore has cultivated substantial industry knowledge and relationships through experience conducting research in partnership with VDACS and the University of Virginia.
“Agriculture is a long-standing and vital part of our economy in Wythe County,” said Chairman of the Wythe County Board of Supervisors Timothy A. Reeves, Sr. “The investment being made by Vitality Farms in a state-of-the-art industrial hemp fiber processing facility is an investment in innovation. The team led by Susan Moore can set the standard for sustainability of the family farm and we support this effort fully.”