Those of us fortunate enough to live in Southwest Virginia are blessed to live in a very special place. Middle Appalachia is one of the most botanically diverse regions on Earth. Our headquarters are located in Floyd, Virginia, where many different ecosystems, from North and South, East and West, meet and mingle in these ancient mountains.
In Southwest Virginia, we find that our temperate mountain forests have amazing ecological similarities with premier herb growing regions in China. We share sister ecosystems, with similarities in elevation, latitude and species composition. The AHGC provides the opportunity to participate with a network of herb growers in our region of Appalachia, who are focused on developing a sustainable, long term, economically viable approach to growing Chinese Medicinal Herbs. Our herbs are originally sourced from only the most reputable sources, including Peg Shaffer’s Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm and High Falls Gardens. However, as we cultivate our own crops, we are increasingly using seed sourced from our campus gardens. The majority of the herbs grown are perennials and will produce a marketable yield only after three to four years in cultivation.
As medicinal herb growers, we are working to produce the best quality herb, which is not necessarily the same as aiming for the highest output. Healthy perennials planted well in a habitat suited to their native preferences are the most easily cared for plants that produce the highest quality products.
While most of our farms are not Certified Organic or Biodynamic, all of them are held to organic growing standards as a baseline. Further, in attempting to simulate wild cultivation, we are modeling an ecological approach to farming. Ecology is the study of relationships. By necessity, a wild plant lives in constant relationship with other plants, animals and the hidden communities of the soil. Each being becomes a part of the story that is carried by water as it seeps and flows through the land. As we attempt to mimic wild cultivation, we carry the awareness that we are entering into pre-existing relationships between plants and the ecological communities that sustain them. By observing the relationships already present in nature, we inform our cultivation practices over time.