Who we are

The Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition (ABFFC) is a network of forest farmers, universities, and governmental and non-governmental organizations that share a common goal of improving agroforestry production opportunities and farming capabilities among forest farmers. The collective aim is to increase awareness, capacity, and long-term viability through education, networking, and conservation.

Recent renewal funding from USDA NIFA has allowed ABFFC to greatly expand membership and exposure by recruiting and training new Appalachian beginning forest farmers and continue its tradition of providing in-depth, multiday training and technical resources for forest farmers on NTFP propagation and management. In addition, over the next three years, ABFFC will help expand the Forest Grown Verification program, increase forest farmer mentorship, and improve propagation and distribution of planting stock for forest farms.

In case it is a new term, forest farming is an agroforestry practice that involves cultivating herbal, edible, decorative, and handicraft non-timber woodland products under a forest canopy that is modified or maintained to provide shade levels and habitat that favor growth and enhance production. Forest farmers intentionally cultivate and rotate marketable non-timber products in the woodlands they own or have access to. They produce and sell raw material that is traceable, unadulterated, and sustainable. This can lead to market share and price-premiums because companies can trace and confidently sell verified NTFP-dependent products to discriminating consumers.

The Coalition represents a diverse group of stakeholders including:
Appalachian Sustainable Development
Rural Action
United Plant Savers
Organic Growers School
The Yew Mountain Center
Warren Wilson College
North Carolina State University
Penn State University
Virginia Tech University
Catawba Sustainability Center

Project Team

The project is funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and is supported in part by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Partners are located from Georgia to Pennsylvania. The team includes five non-governmental organizations (Appalachian Sustainable Development; The Yew Mountain Center; Organic Grower’s School; Rural Action; United Plant Savers), three universities (Virginia TechNorth Carolina State; Penn State), extension (Southern Regional Extension Forestry), three agency partners (National Agroforestry Center; Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry; and US Forest Service’s Southern Research Station), along with forest farmers and other key stakeholders.

Supporting Organizations

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides leadership and funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences. We invest in and support initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. Since the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) authorized its creation, NIFA has taken significant strides toward enhancing the impact of food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences. NIFA applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. NIFA collaborates with leading scientists, policymakers, experts, and educators in organizations throughout the world to find innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global problems. Scientific progress, made through discovery and application:

• Advances the competitiveness of American agriculture
• Bolsters the U.S. economy
• Enhances the safety of the nation’s food supply
• Improves the nutrition and well-being of American citizens
• Sustains natural resources and the environment
• Builds energy independence

In partnership with other federal science agencies, NIFA also serves as a vital contributor to science policy decision-making. Visit nifa.usda.gov for more information.


Appalachian Sustainable Development is working to make a difference in Central Appalachia. Food insecurity, poverty and job loss in the 15 counties they serve are extremely high. So, what are they doing about it? They’re giving Appalachians the tools they need to fight poverty, revitalize their communities and protect their natural resources. In the Appalachian region where ASD operates, there is great need for collaborative strategies that make the most of the limited resources available. In addition to the high rates of poverty, unemployment and lifestyle diseases, the people who live in this beautiful area are often geographically and topographically distant from markets, services, and each other. To learn more about what they do, visit asdevelop.org
The Yew Mountain Center The Yew Mountain Center provides programs that explore Appalachian ecology, culture, and arts while promoting community and personal wellness.

The Yew Mountain Center will show that Appalachian communities who invest in their local economy, honor the cultural heritage of all residents, encourage scientific and artistic discovery, and promote ecological stewardship create prosperity and resilience for all families. To learn more, visit www.yewmountain.org

Rural Action’s mission is to foster social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio. They envision a region of clean streams, healthy forests, thriving family farms, meaningful jobs for everyone, lively towns that remember local history and celebrate their stories, music, arts, and crafts, and people working together to make this vision a reality. Rural Action builds model sustainable development projects and encourages a broad civic conversation around Appalachian Ohio’s assets in order to create sustainable development paths for the region. Although chartered for all 32 counties in the Appalachian Ohio region, Rural Action’s home office is based in northern Athens County. Its members and projects are concentrated in Athens and the six counties surrounding it: Meigs, Vinton, Washington, Hocking, Morgan, and Perry. We also work in Tuscarawas, Stark, and Carroll County. Rural Action gladly responds to requests for partnership and information from around the Appalachian region. Visit ruralaction.org for more information.
United Plant Savers’ mission is to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come. Where once herbal enterprises were few and far between, it is now a competitive marketplace which has increased the demand on wild medicinal plant resources. Furthermore, other countries with an uninterrupted tradition of herbalism are experiencing a severe shortage of medicinal plants and look to the North American continent for supplying these herbs. This increased usage along with habitat destruction is causing an ever-increasing shortage of wild plant resources, including some of our most treasured medicinal species. The work of United Plant Savers involves research, education and conservation of native medicinal plants and their habitats. To join this worthwhile and important mission, visit www.unitedplantsavers.org. UpS is a 501 (C)3 non-profit organization.
Organic Grower’s Schoolis the premiere provider of practical and affordable organic education in the Southern Appalachians, building a vibrant food & farming community by boosting the success of organic home growers and farmers in our region. Our hands-on training, workshops, conferences and partnerships inspire, educate, and support people to farm, garden, and live organically. Visit https://organicgrowersschool.org for more information.
The Sustainable Herbs ProgramThe Sustainable Herbs Project began because we were struck by the disconnect between the philosophy of herbal medicine and the reality of what it takes to produce herbal products on a large scale. This disconnect impacts the efficacy of these medicines. And it calls into question the promise of herbal medicine as safer, less expensive, and healthier for humans and the earth.

Our mission is to create a movement supporting high quality herbal products, sustainable and ethical sourcing, and greater overall transparency in how herbs reach end users.

We work to achieve this by educating end-users and industry about the issues involved and by sharing best practices to inspire more companies to implement higher standards of sustainability. Visit http://sustainableherbsproject.com for more information.

NC Alternative Crops and Organics is an outreach tool for Jeanine Davis in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University to share information from her agricultural research and extension programs on organic farming, medicinal herbs, hops, truffles, and other alternative crops. Visit http://ncherb.org for more information.
Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment is one of the top programs in natural resource management in the United States. Our top-flight education and research focus on the latest applications to uncover the science needed to manage forests and other natural resources. Our programs are diverse and approach critical natural resource issues from many disciplinary perspectives. From protected areas management and economic policy to forest soil productivity, urbanization, and genomics, we seek to discover new knowledge and technology to address the global challenges to come.
Penn State – Shaver’s Creek was founded in 1976 as a resource for the community, and as a field laboratory for Penn State students to get hands-on experience teaching about the natural world. The programs at our Environmental Center, Outdoor School, Raptor Center, and Team Development Center provide a mix of educational and recreational opportunities for families, schools, corporate groups, and Penn State students.
Warren Wilson College – For several decades now at Warren Wilson, students, faculty, and staff have used the College Forest to develop innovative ways to make profitable forestry a reality through non-timber forest products. They are developing innovative, scale-appropriate, entrepreneurial endeavors that landowners can use to bring value to their land until their timber is due. Through these projects, students learn not only sustainable forestry – they gain business and marketing skills as well. Visit www.warren-wilson.edu/about/land-innovation/ for more information.
The USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) accelerates the application of agroforestry through a national network of partners. Together, they conduct research, develop technologies and tools, coordinate demonstrations and training, and provide useful information to natural resource professionals.

Advisory Board