News & Reports

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s First Commercial Hemp Fiber Processor in Wythe County

October 31, 2019

Appalachian Biomass Processing to meet demand in fast-growing industrial hemp sector

WYTHEVILLE, VA:  Governor Ralph Northam was in Wythe County this morning to announce that Vitality Farms LLC is establishing Virginia’s first industrial hemp fiber processing facility that will operate as Appalachian Biomass Processing.

Flanked by project principals Susan and Christopher Moore, the Governor told the assembled guests that agriculture remains Virginia’s number one economic sector and that there are over 1,100 registered hemp growers in the Commonwealth currently.

“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,” said Governor Northam. “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.”

Accompanying Governor Northam was Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. She commented, “Industrial hemp holds the potential to be an important crop for our farmers, especially those in the southern and southwestern regions of Virginia. Having the infrastructure to process industrial hemp and strong markets in which to sell it are critical to seizing its potential.”

Appalachian Biomass Processing will use a specialized decorticator to process bales of hemp stalks into two raw agricultural products. 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, company founder Susan Moore has cultivated substantial industry knowledge and relationships through experience conducting research in partnership with VDACS and the University of Virginia.

Appalachian Biomass Processing represents an investment of over $890,000 and is slated to create 13 jobs. In support of the project, the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industry Development grant program (AFID) awarded the project $25,00 and that amount was matched by the Wythe County Board of Supervisors. The Joint Industrial Development Authority of Wythe County (Joint IDA) worked with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) in securing the funding for the project.

Chairman of Wythe County’s Board of Supervisors, Timothy A. Reeves, Sr., in his remarks to the guests said, “Research and forward-thinking legislation brought this possibility about and without the work of our public universities partnering with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and farmers like the Moore family, this project would be just a dream. While ABP will be processing hemp fiber here, they will also be supplying the global marketplace. This proves that Southwest Virginia can compete anywhere.”
“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.”

“Wythe County has a rich agricultural heritage and today’s announcement represents the best of old and new. It’s both innovative and sustainable. Hemp was a successful industry in Virginia for hundreds of years and today represents progress toward its revitalization, especially with the many uses of the fiber products. We’re happy the Moores and Appalachian Biomass Processing invested here, helping us put this community on the map as the center of fiber processing in the Eastern US,” commented Joint IDA Executive Director David Manley.

Joint IDA Chairman David Kause said to the assembled eighty-plus guests, “In economic development, public-private partnerships bring out the best of both worlds and this is a prime example. We could not be happier that Wythe County’s agribusiness sector continues to thrive, and we look forward to more growth and success in the years to come.”

Wythe County Administrator Stephen Bear commented, “I have known Christopher and Susan Moore and their extended families for many years.  They are hardworking, knowledgeable, motivated individuals that are well respected for their work in their respective medical, educational, and agricultural endeavors.  I am excited to see their entrepreneurship in developing Virginia’s first industrial hemp processing facility in Wythe County.”

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