InvestSWVA launches first project; Farmers growing barley for craft beverages

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SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA, (WJHL)- Invest Southwest Virginia is focused on supporting local economic development and marketing in the region.

InvestSWVA is working with local farmers, helping them earn money in new ways.

One of those initiatives is growing malted barley, a new crop in Southwest Virginia that’s putting money in farmers pockets.

“Farmers have been growing feed quality barley for years, but our team of farmers part of this InvestSWVA regional marketing initiative are the first to grow malted quality barley meant to supply craft breweries and distilleries not just locally but all around Virginia,” said Will Payne, Project lead for InvestSWVA and managing partner of Coalfield Strategies, LLC.

Currently, most malted barley is imported to the region from the Dakotas and Canada.

This new initiative is hoping to keep farmers and entrepreneurs working together in the region.

“Project Thoroughbred is all about pride in Southwest Virginia that our grain can stand up to anyone else’s and that we can be a significant player in the craft beverage industry. Which means new jobs and investments,” said Payne.

The project is in the pilot stages right now, but farmers are starting to grow 35 acres of grain in both Lee and Scott Counties.

The malted barley is a key component in the process of making craft beverages.

“We plant it now and we will actually harvest it in June. At the malt house, they try to get it to basically germinate and then stop the germination, and by doing that they produce an enzyme and that enzyme is used to make the beer and actually to deal with the sugar and the yeast. So it’s a pretty crucial part in making beer,” said Amy Byington, Lee County’s Agriculture Extension Agent.

InvestSWVA sees the potential for both farmers and entrepreneurs.

“The craft beverage industry in other parts of Virginia I think are booming and I think that in Southwest Virginia we’re ready for an explosion in distilleries and breweries,” said Payne.