A Former First Lady Promotes “The New Cotton” in Alabama

Her husband no longer serves as an economic development booster as governor or lieutenant governor in Montgomery, but former first lady Marsha Folsom takes on the role as the promoter with a new agribusiness.

The future for Alabama’s Black Belt Region? In a word, Marsha Folsom says… “bamboo.”

“It’s the new cotton,” Folsom told me this morning on FOX6 News Good Day Alabama, “sustainable, ecological, a very environmentally friendly crop.”

An increased demand for bamboo products has created a shortage in supplier nations primarily based in Asia. Research by Mt. Vernon, Washington biotechnologist Jackie Heinricher created Boo-Shoot Gardens. Folsom’s introduction to Heinricher and her research prompted the Cullman county native to promote bamboo as an Alabama (and Deep South) cash crop.

Currently the University of Alabama has an acre of bamboo growing in Moundville as an example of “what could be” for Black Belt landowners. Northport has a downtown project called Black Belt BamBoost. Then there is Bike Lab in Greensboro. The group focuses on building bicycles made of Alabama bamboo.

Sometime Thursday morning Marc OBrien joins three more Bike Lab teammates for a Hale County to San Francisco trek called Ride Alabamboo.

On a political note, Folsom says her family is enjoying private life since Republicans swept statewide races in November, preventing Jim Folsom Jr. from another term as lieutenant governor. Her husband is the son of two-term governor “Big Jim” Folsom, who served in the 1940′s and 1950′s. “Little Jim,” as he is sometimes called, rose from lieutenant governor to governor in 1993 when Guy Hunt was removed from office. Jim Folsom currently works with an investment firm.

When asked off camera if her now adult children would ever consider entering the family business, she laughed and asked, “investing?”

Read more of Rick Journey’s political blog here.

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