Hemp processing facility planned for Wythe County
Wythe County will be home to Virginia’s first commercial industrial hemp fiber processing facility.
Rural Retreat-based Vitality Farms LLC, operating as Appalachian Biomass Processing, expects to invest $894,000 in the project and create 13 jobs.
Appalachian Biomass plans to purchase more than 6,000 tons of Virginia-grown industrial hemp during the next three years, at a value of more than $1 million.
The company’s founder, Susan Moore, is a native of Wythe County.
State officials said the Appalachian Biomass announcement represents a major step for Virginia’s industrial hemp industry.
“Industrial hemp holds the potential to be an important crop for our farmers, especially those in the southern and southwestern regions of Virginia,” Bettina Ring, Virginia’s secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, said in a 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.”
In March, Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation passed by the General Assembly that legalized the commercial growth and processing of industrial hemp in the commonwealth and conforms Virginia law to the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) worked with Wythe County to secure the project. 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.
Appalachian Biomass will use a specialized decorticator, a machine used to strip plant material, to process bales of hemp stalks into two raw products.
The company will sell bast fiber to a North Carolina company for further processing and sale to the textile industry.
The woody core of the plant, called hurd, will be sold to a Virginia company for use as animal bedding.