Bamboo farming could change Alabama agriculture

Published 8:00 am Monday, June 26, 2023

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For thousands of years, Native American farmers grew bamboo and used it for everything from food, to clothing, construction materials and medical supplies. Early settlers set about exterminating bamboo in favor of other, more familiar crops, but new research suggests that the Temperate Henon strain has the potential to regenerate Alabama agriculture and yield high returns for the state’s farmers.

A Newton corporation, Alabamboo, Inc., aims to help farmers discover the benefits of growing and selling bamboo, a crop Alabamboo, Inc. Director of Sales Cedric Coley said can yield between $14K and $22K per acre.

“Bamboo is a $72 billion industry worldwide,” Coley said. “China and other Asian countries have been [growing] bamboo for thousands of years. Most of their construction and their food is based on bamboo. Most of the world considers it a superfood.”

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According to Coley, rich Blackbelt soil is well-suited for growing and maximizing bamboo crops. Alabamboo was founded by farmers who came from a lineage of third and fourth generation farmers who understand potential bamboo growers need information and education about the benefits of bamboo farming.

“This is generational wealth,” Coley said. “Once you go through a series of steps, maintaining it like a well-groomed garden, most of your labor is downhill. From there, the bamboo will last for at least 80 years.”

In addition to bringing high-yield agricultural opportunities to counties like Lowdnes, Butler, and Crenshaw, Coley said the bamboo industry will support warehouses and packing plants, bringing jobs to agricultural communities.

Tucson Roberts with the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission, said bamboo cultivation will enhance each county’s economic development.

“What [Alabamboo] has got is a concept of growing bamboo that works,” Roberts said. “They know how to grow it and they know there is a market for it.”

Alabamboo partners farmers with Only Moso, a corporation which purchases bamboo from “farmer partners.” Farmers can contract with Alabamboo for training services and gain access to a guaranteed market for the product for ten years.

“We are able to now only set a good price for our farmer partners, but we can also provide our farmers with a 10-year, buy-back renewable agreement,” Coley said. “We walk hand-in-hand with farmers providing consultation and, if needed, services related to funding.”

Coley said farmers who partner with Alabamboo and Only Moso can choose the level of services they prefer. For around $10,800 per acre, farmers acquire seedlings and maintain their own fields. More extensive contracts, ranging up to around $22,000, can include a more hands-off approach for farmers who prefer to contract with Alabamboo to manage the crop.

Coley said organizers hope to connect with agricultural communities in Lowndes, Butler, and Crenshaw counties about the benefits and opportunities of bamboo farming.

“We are excited about future engagements with the people of Lowndes County and Tri-County areas,” Coley said. “We know through commercially farming Bamboo, we can assist in generating economic growth and creating generational wealth.”

For more information, call Coley at (334) 441-1004 or email him at