Organic Production and Marketing of Forest Medicinals: Building and Supporting a Learning Community Among Growers

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $106,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Dennis Hosack
Rural Action- Appalachian Forest Resource Center

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Education and Training: extension, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture


    The scope of this project was designed to assist the Roots of Appalachia Growers Association (RAGA) develop a learning network among growers, to close the gap between growers and current research activities, and support RAGA entering the marketplace.


    The Appalachian region of Ohio has experienced severe economic distress up to the present day. In the hilly terrain there are very few full-time farmers left, and the land has experienced fragmentation due to development. At the same time reverting tree cover and hills provide prime microclimates for cultivation of high value medicinal plants native to the region.
    With prime growing sites and interest in the region from purchasers of herbal products, sound opportunities exist for ecologically and economically sustainable production of these plants. Properly grown wild-simulated ginseng brings at least $500/pound and is very ecologically sound, whereas improperly grown ginseng can bring only $20/pound and requires constant applications of fungicides. Already ginseng sales generate nearly $2 million per year in Ohio.

    The project team’s focus on ginseng and goldenseal is drawn from the literature on the economics of ginseng and goldenseal production which shows that ginseng produced using wild-simulated methods is more profitable than conventionally cultivated ginseng given the scale of production and availability of natural shaded microclimates (Hankins, Persons, Beyfuss). Our emphasis with goldenseal will be on organic production, processing and marketing of COG goldenseal to companies that are willing to pay a premium as goldenseal can only be profitably grown on a small scale if it is sold for organic prices (OSU, Strategic Reports). RAGA’s focus on ginseng and goldenseal is a result of producer interest.

    Project objectives:

    Short term:

    · Growers will have knowledge of organic growing practices for woodland cultivation of ginseng, goldenseal, and other native medicinal plant crops.

    · Growers will gain knowledge of current market conditions and opportunities around the production of ginseng, goldenseal, and other native medicinal plant crops.

    · Grower knowledge will be shared between growers and shared with researchers along with grower information needs.

    · Over 100 growers will participate in one or more peer learning and education events sponsored by RAGA.

    Intermediate Term:

    · At least 75 growers will have native medicinal plants under woodland cultivation.

    · 25 growers will begin using the best practices suggested by our research results.

    · At least 10 growers will make sales based on market information that we provide and will receive 150% or more of the price paid by local buyers.

    · Membership in RAGA will increase to 100 members by the end of the project.

    Long Term:

    · Our region, led by RAGA as a strong and growing cooperative offering education and marketing services, will have a thriving woodland medicinal plant industry, resulting in increased income and diversification for farmers and increased biodiversity and woodland health.

    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.