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Southwest Virginia farmers growing barley for craft brewers
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Southwest Virginia farmers growing barley for craft brewers

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Officials are celebrating the development of Southwest Virginia becoming a significant player in the craft beverage industry.

On Wednesday, InvestSWVA hosted a virtual celebration featuring partners of Project Calypso. Working with small, family farms to grow malting quality barley for the first time in the region, Invest SWVA is marketing the “Appalachian Grains” brand to breweries and distilleries across the state and surrounding states.

In the past, Southwest Virginia farmers have grown tobacco, wheat, corn and barley. InvestSWVA and its partners, including Virginia Tech’s Small Grains program, Lee County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, are demonstrating how the region can successfully grow malting quality barley and in significant quantities.

Will Clear, with the Virginia DMME, said Project Calypso goes back to the abandoned mine program. The program has been distributing about $10 million through various efforts, including “Appalachian Grains.”

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Virginia Tech has been studying the development of barley in Southwest Virginia and is working with area farmers in the coalfields region.

“The farmers there are receptive,” said Wade Thomasson of Virginia Tech. “They are looking for new crops. They are looking for new ideas.”

VT Extension Agent Amy Byington said she’s been working with Lee County’s farmers to grow barley. She noted that the county’s farmers had been growing wheat and other crops and transporting them to Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky.

Since growing barley for the craft beverage industry, Byington said local farmers have seen a boost in income, even more than corn and wheat production.

“We want to put more money in the pockets of farmers,” said Will Payne with InvestSWVA.

Payne said the organization wants to help farmers develop barley into a cash crop. They plan to further assist brewers with wheat, rye and corn.

Brent Manning with the Riverbend Malt House in Asheville, North Carolina, said his company obtains resources from across the Southeast. He added that he likes to help small farmers, and he’s happy to help those in Southwest Virginia.

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