Partnership: Mountain State University, Beckley, WV
AFSRC Contact: Dr. Joyce Foster
Objective: The goal of the project is to develop propagation and cultivation techniques, new products and applications, and marketing strategies for medicinal plants to enhance farm product diversification and the economic status of small farms in Appalachia.
Approach: The Appalachian Medicinal Botanical Project is a joint research, education, and outreach project between the Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center (AFSRC) and Mountain State University (MSU), located in Beckley, West Virginia. To promote the medicinal plants industry, the AFSRC is investigating plant materials to include in pastures and feed supplements for small ruminants to improve nutrient-use efficiency, carcass yield, and meat quality; control gastrointestinal parasites; and support the animals’ immune system and tolerance of stress. MSU student interns assist with field and laboratory studies involving medicinal plants, acquiring experience while networking with Appalachian communities and contributing to the ARS research effort. The MSU School of Business conducts market analyses and develops strategies for marketing medicinal plant products. Creation of a regional medicinal plant processing facility by MSU is envisioned as a means to translate research results into marketable products. Together, the AFSRC and MSU conduct seminars, workshops, and an annual symposium to communicate information about medicinal plant production, processing, marketing, and agricultural and clinical applications. The university’s publication of an electronic medicinal plants newsletter, establishment of medicinal plant walking trails in association with the West Virginia Economic Development and Tourism Authority, and implementation of conservation activities to rescue native medicinal plants from mining, timbering, and construction sites facilitate technology transfer. Advancing the medicinal plant industry through education, both formal and informal, supports farmers growing herbs as a cash crop, entrepreneurs who aim to develop value-added products for market, livestock producers seeking natural approaches for management of animal health, land managers trying to improve resource utilization, and students preparing for careers in herbal sciences.