WARDELL, Va. — Whether cows or rabbits, hemp or herbs, farmers and others had the chance to learn about opportunities in growing or raising it at the Innovative Agriculture Forum at Southwest Virginia Community College.

Appalachian Sustainable Development joined Friends of Southwest Virginia, the Thompson Charitable Foundation and several businesses in sponsoring the forum and a Skill Swap Nov. 8-9.  The forum drew 40 participants who heard from a variety of speakers.

Al Becker, who raises and sells meat rabbits, Brent Wills, who has heritage breeds of cattle, pigs and chickens, Jamie Ager, pastured pork and chicken and rotational grazing expert Danny Boyer led an hour and a half workshop on diversified markets and innovative practices for stock animals.

Blake Dillman, who produces commercial ginseng, cohosh and goldenseal joined commercial herb buyer Cassandra Black for a workshop on the opportunities and challenges of forest farming and medicinal herbs.  From goat cheese to kitchen incubators and tinctures participant learned about turning raw agricultural goods into marketable products.

John and Andrea Woodworth have the oldest established Grade A Goat milk dairy in southwest Virginia.  They sell cheese without chemical preservatives or artificial coloring and do not use hormones or antibiotics to increase milk production.

Cultivator Tammy Rodriguez, hemp farmer David Wallace and attorney J.C. Lowe provided expert advice to those interested in hemp farming.  Skill swap provided an opportunity to have fun while learning new things.

Chester Crain explained how ginseng grows naturally and how to stratify seeds and grow ginseng. Participants took home roots and seeds.  Inoculating logs to grow mushrooms, growing peppermint, spearmint, apple mint and chocolate mint were other skill swap topics.

There were also sessions on seed saving, birding, massage, yoga and how to make mead from honey.  A popular workshop offered participants the chance to mix up a jar of fire cider, a popular folk remedy.  For those interested in more practical skills there were sessions how to back a trailer, welding and how to use tools such as tillers, pruning saws and a kombi system.

Appalachian Sustainable Development has been around since 1995 and has several programs to teach people how to grow, use and sell their own food. For more information go to www.ASDEVELOP.org.

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