For the Health of It
Asheville Botanical Alliance will pioneer a program for medicinal-herb growers
What the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has done for the appreciation and consumption of local food, the Appalachian Botanical Alliance hopes to do for medicinal-herb growers.
“There has been sustained effort to produce and buy local food but confoundingly less effort to produce local medicine. We believe ‘let food be your medicine and medicine be your food,’ so we are working to make local medicine a reality,” says Amy Hamilton, one of four farming women who comprise the ABA. An additional three members, also women, will be an acupuncturist who grows herbs; a buyer/herbalist; and an NCSU research associate/marketing specialist.
“The Appalachian mountains have long been a source of medicine from plants, so we are bridging the generational gap between traditional wild-crafting and a future of growing our medicines on a larger scale, intentionally,” explains Hamilton. “A growing population, particularly one that is engaged in the empowering experience of taking an active role in their own healthcare, is unknowingly putting many wild-grown medicines at risk. Over-harvesting combined with loss of habitat will be the demise of many traditional medicinal plants, if we don’t address the situation now, and start farming them. This is not just happening in Appalachia — it is happening all over the world.
“The time when you could gather enough plant material from the wild to heal everyone in need,” she says. “is over.”
Naturally, then, the group is excited to have been awarded an $8,000 grant from WNC AgOptions, a program funded by the N.C. Tobacco Trust that distributes money to grower-entrepreneurs who will diversify land once used for raising tobacco. In all, 23 farmers received $150,000. Beyond research and marketing efforts, Hamilton’s group hopes to construct a climate-controlled warehouse and packing space. The long-term vision of the group includes uniting medicinal-plant growers, herbalists and traditional wildcrafters. And although WNC has long been ripe with folks who support alternative medicine, the Asheville Botanical Alliance knows it has a long time to grow before it can rest on its laurels.
“This area is blessed with many wise and effective healers. But education [of the public] is absolutely a critical piece of our vision.”