Final Report for LNE05-218

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $103,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Dennis Hosack
Rural Action- Appalachian Forest Resource Center
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Project Information

Summary:

This project was designed to educate forest landowners about the economic potential of cultivating ginseng, goldenseal, and other forest grown medicinals. By attending workshops, forest landowners were trained in sustainable and ecological production practices, specifically focusing on wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides or other chemicals. Trainings were designed to target growers, collectors, and researchers at on-farm field days, workshops, and multi-stakeholder events conducted throughout West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Introduction:

The forest ecosystems of Appalachia are rich with biodiversity, and represent some of the most productive lands in the eastern United States. Due to increasing demands placed on the financial resources of Appalachian families, and a decreasing job market, many landowners are attempting to find viable livelihoods in regions with limited economic assets, and limited employment. Collecting ginseng, goldenseal, and other roots from the wild has been a long-time cultural tradition for many families in the region, and continues to be an important source of income today. Increasing pressure on wild populations and increasing state and federal regulations placing restrictions on wild harvesting, has created the need for more sustainable methods of production.
This project used outreach, education, and research-linked activities to create more profitable and diversified small farms in the region by using forest-grown medicinal plants as a catalyst. Project goals were to:

· Establish a multi-stakeholder planning committee with representatives from regional organizations, including universities with research and extension staff, non-profit organizations, and growers associations. The purpose of this committee was to assist in planning the regional multi-stakeholder roundtable and related educational activities.
· Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing quality and marketing potential.
· Provide follow-ups, on-site technical assistance, and phone consultations, designed to aid new and experienced growers. in the identification and selection of proper forest microclimates best suited for ginseng and goldenseal production, and assist veteran growers with insect and disease management, as well as post-harvest handling and marketing.
· Produce a market report to update growers on prices of conventional, certified organic, and wild-simulated medicinal herbs.
· Create a web page with research and marketing information for fifteen of the most commonly cultivated forest medicinals. Available at: http://www.appalachianforest.org/Plants_to_watch_index.html
· Convene a reception involving 50 growers, researchers and other stakeholders.
· Convene a multi-stakeholder roundtable designed to connect growers, collectors, and researchers.
· Conduct a series of workshops targeting new growers in Pennsylvania focusing on wild-simulated cultivation, site identification, planting, crop maintenance, collection guidelines, and forest management.

Performance Target:

Objective # 1:
Out of 300 small and mid-sized producers, 60 will diversify their incomes and improve profitability by cultivating one or more forest medicinal plants (e.g., ginseng, goldenseal, or experimenting with others).

Results:
A total of 349 participants attended events in Pennsylvania and West Virginia between 2005 and 2008. Pre and post-conference surveys collected during the course of this project indicated sharp increases in the intent to begin cultivating, or increase production of these crops in the coming season. These results indicate that this objective was fulfilled.

Objective # 2:
Out of 300 participating producers, 30 who are already cultivating ginseng will change their production system by moving to wild-simulated ginseng production, including phase-out of fungicide use.

Results:
This objective was difficult to quantify because workshop evaluations did not specifically address this question, and follow-ups with growers were not reported. But evidence suggests that new growers are almost exclusively pursuing wild-simulated methods. It is much harder to quantify the number of traditional growers who have transitioned to wild simulated production. At the start of this project many producers had already made this transition. Although one traditional grower who participated in a workshop in West Virginia reported that he only sprayed fungicides on his crop three times in 2006, where he was previously trained to spray every week. It is clear that progress was made towards achieving this objective, but it may have been unrealistic to document 30 traditional growers transitioning to wild-simulated production due to the fact that many producers had already made the switch.

Objective # 3:
Out of the 25 researchers and service providers participating in the multi-stakeholder roundtables, 15 will undertake research based on the needs of producers and will communicate results to growers through appropriate channels (i.e., not research journals).

Results:
When this project was originally proposed it is possible that this objective was overstated, and may not have been completely understood. Between 2005 and 2008 30 researchers and service providers were engaged in project activities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Significant progress towards achieving this objective was made, but unfortunately it is unclear if any of them were able to pursue applicable research, largely due to circumstances beyond their control. Four researchers participating in the 2008 multi-stakeholder roundtable in Pennsylvania stated that it is difficult for them to secure funding to conduct long-term research on production systems for forest grown medicinals. According to these four researchers there is a common misconception among funders that extensive research on the subject has already been done. Aside from the applied research portion of this objective, a stronger network between growers and researchers has been created. Researchers who participated in the “Forest Farming” roundtable in April 2008 have a continuing desire to network with growers, and produce educational publications to assist growers in their development. These indicators suggest that this objective was met.

Research

Materials and methods:

Outreach and networking were used to engage participants in this project. Key groups were identified as collaborative partners, which included herb buyers, herb growers associations, non-profit organizations, universities, and extension agencies. Peer-to-peer networking, direct mailing, and advertising on the Internet and in organizational newsletters were all used to attract participants. All forms of outreach were effective in participant recruitment, but direct mailing after peer-to-peer solicitation was most effective.

Research results and discussion:

June 2005

Activity: Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing the quality and marketing potential of roots.

Milestone: One On farm field day conducted by Fred Hays in Elkview, West Virginia with 50 participants.

Results: Participants were trained in sustainable wild-simulated cultivation and proper post-harvest handling of roots to ensure the best quality. A comparison and contrast of wild-simulated and woods cultivated production systems led to a discussion of diseases, potential treatments for each disease, and preventative measures that can be taken to eliminate the need for chemical treatments. Service foresters from the West Virginia Division of Forestry (WVDOF) were trained to assist landowners with inquiries pertaining to ginseng cultivation and other NTFP’s. Growers discussed the management of American ginseng with agency professionals, and as discussed proposed legislation that would have a drastic effect on ginseng and the forest products industry in West Virginia.

October 2005
Activity: Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing the quality and marketing potential of roots.

Milestone: One workshop conducted by Fred Hays at Cooper’s Rock near Morgantown, West Virginia with 45 participants.

Results: Participants were trained to sustainably cultivate American ginseng by using the wild-simulated method. Licensed buyers were on hand to discuss the varying quality and characteristics of roots produced by different cultivation methods. Ten academic researchers from West Virginia University, Cornell University Extension, and Penn State University Extension were in attendance, and networking with growers. This represented the beginning of a national collaboration between the ginseng farming industry and academic research.

Conclusion 2005: Based on data reported from 2005, project development and participation were on target with the initial project outcomes. During 2005, 95 participants were engaged in project activities, including 10 academic researchers.

June 2006

Activity: Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing the quality and marketing potential of roots.

Milestone: One workshop conducted by Fred Hays in Kanawha County, West Virginia with 43 participants.

Results: Participants were trained in wild-simulated production practices without the use of herbicides or other chemicals. Participants were able to view a successful wild-simulated operation, and compare it with other propagation methods. Several local service providers were in attendance including soil and water officials, and members of the West Virginia Division of Forestry. By training service providers from multiple agencies, they essentially become an extension of this project, and increase the potential for landowners to receive this information.

October 2006

Activity: Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing the quality and marketing potential of roots.

Milestone: One workshop conducted by Fred Hays titled “Wild Simulated Ginseng Production For Profit,” in Union, West Virginia with 14 participants

Results: Participants were trained in sustainable management practices and the wild-simulated approach, economics of various production methods, forest management, and site selection and evaluation. Licensed buyers were on hand to examine participant’s roots and discussed their varying characteristics and quality, which will help growers as they enter the market place.

November 15, 2006

Activity: Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing the quality and marketing potential of roots.

Milestone: One workshop conducted by Fred Hays in Doddridge County, West Virginia. Number of participants was un-reported.

Results: Six new growers attended this training and were educated about sustainable management practices, economics of production, and were able to view and establish wild-simulated operation. It is important to note that there were several new growers in attendance, which will ensure that they have the most up to date information regarding sustainable cultivation. Information detailing the number of service providers and agency personnel in attendance was lost due to flooding.

November 16, 2006

Activity: Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing the quality and marketing potential of roots.

Milestone: One workshop conducted by Fred Hays in Romney, West Virginia with 17 participants.

Results: Participants were able to tour an established wild-simulated ginseng operation, and were trained in sustainable cultivation methods. Information detailing the number of service providers and agency personnel in attendance was lost due to flooding.

December 2006

Activity: Host on farm-field days in West Virginia showcasing wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides, and proper post harvest handling for maximizing the quality and marketing potential of roots.

Milestone: – One workshop conducted by Fred Hays in Moundsville, West Virginia with 14 participants.

Results: Participants were able to tour an established wild-simulated ginseng operation, and were trained in sustainable cultivation methods. Veteran growers reported that they were beginning to alter their production methods by using less chemical intensive methods. Information detailing the number of service providers and agency personnel in attendance was lost due to flooding.

August 2006

Activity: Series of workshops targeting new growers in Pennsylvania where attendees are trained in wild-simulated cultivation, site identification, planting, crop maintenance, collection guidelines, and forest management.

Milestone: – One workshop conducted by Eric Burkhart in Eldred, Pennsylvania titled “Plant yer own patch! Guidelines for establishing and growing ginseng and other native forest medicinal plants,” and had 42 participants.

Results: Workshop participants were trained in sustainable cultivation practices, including the botany, biology, and ecology of American ginseng and goldenseal, marketing, propagation techniques, and how to deal with pests, diseases, and theft. Workshop evaluations indicated a 52% increase in participant knowledge about proper collection guidelines, a 60% increase regarding forest cultivation practices, and a 44% increase in the number of participants who planned to cultivate ginseng in the coming season.

Activity: Create a web page with research and marketing information for fifteen of the most commonly cultivated forest medicinals.

Milestone: “Plants to Watch” website created

Results: Detailed information regarding the cultivation, marketing, history, and ecology of 15 of the most frequently cultivated herbs is now available to the public free of charge. http://www.appalachianforest.org/Plants_to_watch_index.html

Activity: Establish a multi-stakeholder planning committee with representatives from regional organizations, including universities with research and extension staff, non-profit organizations, and growers associations.

Milestone: Multi-stakeholder planning committee was formed to assist with planning of the multi-stakeholder roundtable and other workshop activities.

Results: Planning activities and preliminary steps were taken in preparation for the multi-stakeholder event.

Activity: Produce a market report to update growers on prices of conventional, certified organic, and wild-simulated medicinal herbs.

Milestone: Herb market update completed and published by Eric Burkhart and the Penn State School of Forest Resources, titled “Non-Timber Forest Products from Pennsylvania: Goldenseal.

Results: Growers were updated and informed about current market prices and trends for goldenseal. This information will assist growers as they enter the market place, helping ensure that they can produce products that will cater to buyers.

Activity: Provide follow-ups, on-site technical assistance, and phone consultations.

Milestone: Daily phone conversations and follow-ups occurred during 2006. On a weekly basis, an average of 2.25 hours were spent on phone consultations, as well as three hours spent on emails.

Results: Growers were provided with additional literature and information to help develop forest-farming operations, and new growers were assisted with site identification for ginseng and goldenseal production.

Conclusion 2006: Surveys and other data collected from these 6 events indicate that project development and participation were on target with the initial project outcomes. During 2006, 136 participants were engaged in project activities in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There are strong indicators that new growers are beginning to pursue forest-farming opportunities, and veteran growers are transitioning to more sustainable production methods.

June 9&10, 2007

Activity: Conduct a series of workshops targeting new growers in Pennsylvania where attendees are trained in wild-simulated cultivation, site identification, planting, crop maintenance, collection guidelines, and forest management.

Milestone: –Two workshops conducted by Eric Burkhart in Coudersport, Pennsylvania with 56 participants. Both workshops were co-sponsored by Penn State School of Forest Resources, Penn State Cooperative Extension, and the Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Results: Participants were trained in medicinal plant identification, commerce and marketing, sustainable cultivation, and responsible collection practices. Both workshops had a field component where participants were able to tour existing operations to address site selection and planting. Workshop evaluations from these events show sharp increases in participant knowledge, including a 60% increase in those who expressed considerable knowledge about site evaluation criteria, and a 40% increase in those who expressed considerable knowledge about forest cultivation practices. Surveyed participants also showed a 73% increase in the intent to plant ginseng or goldenseal the following year.

Adjustments: An initial goal of this project was to convene a 150-person conference. Instead several smaller events were held in its place. Even though the original plan was altered, these two events were sufficient in helping achieve key project objectives.

September 2007

Activity: Conduct a series of workshops targeting new growers in Pennsylvania where attendees are trained in wild-simulated cultivation, site identification, planting, crop maintenance, collection guidelines, and forest management.

Milestone: Workshop conducted by Eric Burkhart in Eldred, Pennsylvania with 40 participants.

Results: Participants were trained in medicinal plant identification, commerce and marketing, sustainable cultivation, and responsible collection practices. This event included a field component where participants were able to tour an existing operation to address site selection and planting. Evaluations collected from this event show sharp increases in participant knowledge regarding forest cultivation practices, and the intent to plant ginseng or goldenseal in the coming year with 60% and 36% increases respectively.

Adjustments: An initial goal of this project was to convene a 150-person conference. Instead several smaller events were held in its place. Even though the original plan was altered, this event was sufficient in helping achieve project objectives.

December 2007

Activity: Establish a multi-stakeholder planning committee with representatives from regional organizations, including universities with research and extension staff, non-profit organizations, and growers associations.

Milestone: – Multi-stakeholder planning committee convened

Results: Discussed development of the multi-stakeholder roundtable. Agenda items and roundtable format were discussed, and potential speakers and sources of participants were identified. Ten members participated in this meeting.

Activity: Produce a market report to update growers on prices of conventional, certified organic, and wild-simulated medicinal herbs.

Milestone: 2007- Herb market update completed and published by Eric Burkhart and the Penn State School of Forest Resources, titled “Forest Finance: Opportunities from Ginseng Husbandry in Pennsylvania.”

Results: Growers were updated and informed about current market prices and trends for American ginseng in 2007. This information will assist growers as they enter the market place, helping ensure that they can produce products that will cater to buyers.

Conclusion 2007: At the close of 2007 project development was on target with the proposed objectives. Although some adjustments were necessary, they were not detrimental to the continuing development of this project.

January-March 2008

Activity: Establish a multi-stakeholder planning committee with representatives from regional organizations, including universities with research and extension staff, non-profit
organizations, and growers associations.

Milestone: – Convened multi-stakeholder planning committee on four occasions. The committee assisted in participant selection, finalizing the conference agenda, finalizing workshop format, and generating publicity.

Results: Conference planning was completed and participants were selected based on their level of experience, and involvement with ginseng or other ntfp’s.

April 2008

Activity: Convene a reception involving 50 growers, researchers and other stakeholders.

Milestone: Convened a reception involving 50 persons, including growers, academic researchers, industry professionals, and non-profit personnel.

Results: Growers were given the opportunity to directly network with research and industry professionals, as well as other highly experienced growers from across the eastern U.S. By convening this reception growers from across the eastern U.S. were given a chance to network amongst their peers, which is seldomly experienced by many growers.

April 2008

Activity: Convene a multi-stakeholder roundtable designed to connect growers, collectors, and researchers.

Milestone: Convened the multi-stakeholder roundtable at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in central Pennsylvania with 50 participants, including 6 academic researchers, and service providers from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This event was titled “Forest Farming in Eastern North America: connecting growers, collectors, and researchers.

Results: Participants were engaged in detailed discussions regarding ginseng stewardship, management of American ginseng amongst the states, and discussed the latest research findings related to production systems. Growers’ perspectives about challenges facing the ginseng and herbal products industries were documented and discussed. Discussion sessions and presentations will be compiled as part of a proceedings document, and will be made available to conference participants and the public. One important aspect of this event was that 40 participants discussed the formation of a National Ginseng Growers Association, which has not existed in the United States for roughly 100 years. Since this time the community of growers has become decentralized and isolated, but because of work conducted by project beneficiaries, and numerous partners across the eastern U.S., this community has been significantly strengthened. The purpose of this Association will be to function as an educational, advocacy, and support group for grower’s nation wide.

Adjustments: This event was originally planned for 2007, but staffing transitions made it necessary to seek a project extension and postpone the event until 2008. Also at this time funds were merged with a concurrent NC SARE project. By merging these two projects we were able to provide participants with travel vouchers, and ultimately host a more successful event.

Conclusion 2008: At the close of 2008 project LNE05-218 reached 349 growers, and engaging more than 29 academic researchers and other service providers, exceeding original performance targets for their involvement.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Outreach conducted during this project was designed to recruit project participants. Workshop notices and advertisements were included in program newsletters of partner organizations, and were also mailed electronically over the Roots of Appalachia Growers Association list-serve. Advertisements were included on organizational websites, including the Pennsylvania DCNR and Rural Action. In preparation for the “Forest farming of non-timber forest products” roundtable held in April 2008, participants were contacted by direct mailing. Direct mailing was especially effective at generating a response if it was conducted after initial peer-to-peer contact from a friend or acquaintance.

During the course of this project one publication was produced. Proceedings from the April 2008 roundtable have been completed, which includes transcripts from discussion session, and information presented by speakers. Conference proceedings will be made available to the public upon request in August 2008.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Several positive outcomes have resulted from this project. This project has documented that ginseng growers have begun to pursue more sustainable and ecological methods of cultivation. As previously mentioned participants indicated increased knowledge of wild-simulated cultivation practices, and expressed the desire and intent to plant ginseng in the coming season. Specific increases of 60% were recorded in September 2007, and 73% in June of 2007.
Three hundred and forty-nine growers/farmers and 30 researchers or other service providers have participated in workshops conducted in West Virginia and Pennsylvania since June 2005. Based on the most conservative of estimates, if only half of these growers continues to diversify their agricultural activities with the cultivation of forest medicinals, then there is significant potential to improve the economic livelihood of rural farmers over the next several years. By using the wild-simulated method, growers have fewer inputs of time, labor, and supplies, and produce top dollar roots of superior quality, ultimately increasing their profit potential.
Extension agents and other natural resource professionals have also been effectively trained during this project. By engaging partner agencies, including the West Virginia Division of Forestry, West Virginia University Extension, Penn State University Extension, Cornell University Extension, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Soil and Water District officials we have increased the potential for landowners to obtain this information. If landowners are seeking assistance from one of these groups, there are opportunities for Extension agents or Service Foresters to provide basic literature and training to landowners so they may further explore the economic potential of forest farming. Numerous calls are received from interested landowners inquiring about ginseng cultivation, and other forest farming enterprises. Rural Action has also continued to provide technical assistance to landowners is this capacity via site assessments, and consultation.

Economic Analysis

The economic impacts of forest cultivation on farm viability are variable depending on the size and scale of implementation. Wild-simulated cultivation of American ginseng requires fewer inputs, but generates a higher economic return. There are also additional value-added opportunities that farmers can pursue when cultivating forest medicinals, including seed sales ($50-$75 per pound), and selling young roots for planting stock ($0.50-$1.00 per root).

The economic implications of this project are difficult to quantify because this data was not collected directly from all growers who participated in project activities. Many growers indicated on application forms for the April 2008 roundtable that they derive between 10%-50% of their income from forest grown medicinals. More work is needed to accurately assess the economic impacts of wild-simulated ginseng cultivation. Rural Action in partnership with the Roots of Appalachia Growers Association has recently submitted a pre-proposal to survey growers in Ohio in an attempt to calculate these figures.

Farmer Adoption

Upon completion of this project it is evident that a stronger community of growers has been developed in the NE SARE region, especially in Pennsylvania and West Virginia where the majority of this project was implemented. The West Virginia Ginseng Growers Association (WVGGA) has greatly expanded its membership over the last few years, and some of this growth can be attributed to the workshops conducted around the state by Fred Hays. The WVGGA has continued to develop into an active force in the state, and has achieved great accomplishments. One of the most important accomplishments was the recent passage of state legislation in partnership with the WV Division of Forestry, creating a ginseng growers certification program.

Eric Burkhart has also made several advances towards creating an official growers association in Pennsylvania. Through his doctoral research examining ginseng husbandry in Pennsylvania, and conducting workshops for this project, Eric has helped create a strong network of growers that are working towards becoming an official association. Rural Action also continues to play an important role in fostering a strong community of growers in Ohio. For the next two years funding provided by the Ohio Environmental Education Fund will be dedicated to conducting site-assessments/evaluations for landowners, as well as offering consultations.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Throughout the course of this project some areas in need of additional study have been identified. One of the primary concerns arising from the April 2008 roundtable is the lack of funding available to researchers for agro-forestry research, and forest farming production systems. Strong production systems are essential for supporting farmers/growers in the development of these enterprises. Secondly, it is necessary to conduct further economic analysis and data gathering to determine the actual impacts that forest farming can have on farm profitability.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.