Exploring sustainable options for conservation of small woodland parcels through wild-crafting crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $3,583.98
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Lisa Jackson
Growing Obsessions Nursery

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forestry, no-till
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Our area has a large number of old family farms, with small attached woodlots, that are being sold because the family can’t continue to keep paying taxes on land that doesn’t pay for itself. Much of this land is being sold for development and new housing, as this area becomes more tourist centered. These families are looking for a way to keep their small wood plots, but may lack the health, resources, time, or knowledge to do any standard methods of land production. My family has always been strongly concerned with conservation. A significant portion of our woodlands had to be sold off recently, following the death of our mother, as it was decided the woods were too much of a drain on our existing resources. Finding a way to help preserve the woodland plots of the small family farms became very important to me. As I also have some health problems, I am very aware of how frustrating it can be for those not in the peak of health. I needed to find a way that small plot woodlands could be preserved, but did not involve substantial effort, knowledge, or investment. After checking existing SARE grants, I focused on woodland herbs and mushrooms. I found 3 woodland herbs that gave a reasonable market value without being so valuable as to encourage theft. The herbs are Fairywand (Chamaelirium luteum), Virginia Snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria L.), and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.). Ginseng and cohosh were considered, but rejected due to the high degree of theft with ginseng, and the extremely long taproot of cohosh. The reports show that the market for these should continue to increase. The market values in 2008 were $35/lb (fairywand), $50/lb (snakeroot), and $25/lb (goldenseal). They suit the average conditions found here. Just as important, they were easy to grow and dig up. Another SARE grant recipient, David Carmen, instructed me on the wild-crafting method of growing these herbs. This method has a long history of success, is easily taught, and is suitable for most mobility ranges. Recently, I was also informed about the increased marketability and growing interest in mushroom growing. After checking out an assortment of methods and concerns, I found that shiitake mushrooms could also be used, by an inexperienced grower under these conditions. I considered other mushroom varieties, but they either had allergic responses with many people (oyster mushrooms) or did not have an established market (lion's mane). Production is estimated at $16/lb, and 4 lb's per log ideally. The two main answers I’m trying to find are: 1-will these plants grow here using these conditions/method, and 2- will it be financially profitable enough to make a difference. If this works, this could significantly affect woodland conservation not only in our immediate area, but over a wide range. Since there are more average people than farmers, this has the potential to bring conservation to more areas than previously reached. Given the current economy, making better use out of what you already have has become immensely popular. As a nursery owner, I’m seeing more demand for small backyard food crops. The need is out there.

    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.