Herbs For Economic Health?

Some new grant money can help farmers diversify. Richard Davis

Published on: Feb 9, 2004

With attested benefits ranging from weight loss to youth enhancement and remedies for colds, flu and other ailments, medicinal herbs have swept the nation. In addition to the promised improvements for physical health, the herbs also offer potential for improving the economic health of the farmers who grow them.

That kind of diversification may be just what the doctor ordered for tobacco and row crop farmers in the Mid-South and Southeastern states.

Now the North Carolina Specialty Crops Program can help a limited number of farmers who are delving into this new market with grants of up to $5,000. The money comes from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program in a program designed to help offset the costs of getting started.

The cooperative effort will provide as many as 17 such grants to farmers, with 10 grants going to tobacco farmers and seven grants to growers of other commercial crops.

In addition to the money, grantees will also receive technical support in the production and marketing of medicinal herbs.

For information on grant requirements visit www.ncspecialtycrops.org or call Jackie Greenfield at N.C. State University at (828) 684-3462, extension 157.

But hurry. Applications must be postmarked by February 14, 2004.