Gov. Northam awards grants to Pulaski, Roanoke counties to advance agriculture, forestry initiatives

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Gov. Ralph Northam visited the Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center on Thursday, Dec. 10, where he toured the facility and highlighted one of the three projects receiving AFIC Planning Grants. (Photo: Courtesy Office of Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

Gov. Ralph Northam visited the Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center on Thursday, Dec. 10, where he toured the facility and highlighted one of the three projects receiving AFIC Planning Grants. (Photo: Courtesy Office of Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

CATAWBA, Va. (WFXR) — On Thursday morning, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that three counties — Fauquier County, Pulaski County, and Roanoke County — will each receive a grant of $20,000 in order to support local agriculture and forestry initiatives amid the pandemic.

In addition, these grants — which are funded by the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Planning Grant program — will be matched by more than $67,000 in additional funding from the applicant communities, non-profit organizations, and local governments, according to a statement released by the governor’s office on Thursday, Dec. 10.

Officials say this announcement comes on the heels of Northam’s visit to the Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center Thursday, highlighting one of the three projects receiving AFID Planning Grants.

“As Virginia’s first and third largest industries, agriculture and forestry are vital to the health of our economy, and they have been upended by the pandemic,” said Northam. “I commend Fauquier, Pulaski, and Roanoke Counties for identifying innovative ways to support local farm and forest producers in responding to immediate challenges from the current health crisis and creating sustainable industry growth. This assistance will go a long way in moving our recovery forward.”

Of the two local counties receiving the grants, the governor’s office says Pulaski County will create the Lena Huckstep Community Kitchen at the Calfee Community and Cultural Center (CCCC) using the funds.

“The CCCC is a multi-faceted project that is transforming an historic African American school in Pulaski into a new community center, while preserving and honoring its history. Named after the school’s beloved cook, the community kitchen will include space for local food producers to create value-added products and expand their businesses,” Thursday’s statement said. “The funds will also support cold storage for a new mobile market, providing immediate support to Pulaski citizens experiencing food access challenges during the pandemic and growing connections between local producers and consumers.”

Meanwhile, Roanoke County will reportedly use the funding to expand the production of medicinal and edible forest plants in the Commonwealth.

For example, officials say the Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center will partner with forest farmers to provide site assessments, technical assistance, and support for products that are in high demand — such as black cohosh and goldenseal — thus helping help local producers access markets and further develop a pipeline of products for forest farmed medicinal plants on a local and national level.

“In these unprecedented times, it is important to support our local food system, agriculture and forest products industries, and our citizens with both immediate and long-term solutions and improvements,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased these localities have been able to identify creative ways to support agriculture, forestry, and agroforestry, and I am proud that VDACS can play a role.”

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