Multi-stakeholder collaboration for profitable and ecological cultivation of forest medicinals

2005 Annual 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

Multi-stakeholder collaboration for profitable and ecological cultivation of forest medicinals


Extensive forests with great biodiversity are some of the Appalachian regions greatest assets. Due to increasing demands on financial resources of Appalachian families and the decreasing job market, many landowners are attempting to find viable livelihoods in this area of limited economic assets and limited employment. Ginseng, goldenseal, and other forest medicinals are an important income source for many families in Appalachia.

This project focuses on education, extension, and research-linked activities to achieve outcomes for diversifying and creating more profitable small and medium-sized farming in the region using forest medicinal plants, including: a multi-stakeholder planning meeting of regional organizations and producers; three (3) educational field days will be held at farms showcasing successful wild-simulated cultivation without the use of fungicides; follow-up, on-site technical assistance and extensive phone consultation with producers; a market report updating growers on prices of conventional, certified, organically grown, and wild-simulated medicinal herbs; a multi-stakeholder roundtable to connect growers and researchers; a producer reception involving 50 producers participating in dialog with researchers and other growers to identify new information about best cultivation practices; web pages with new research information and market information; and a 150-person conference in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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)

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.

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).


On 25 June 2005, the first of a series of planned outdoor workshops was held in Elkview, WV. The meeting was a huge success with no less than 50 fifty in attendance. The majority of attendees were forest medicinal growers. New forest medicinal plant legislation was discussed with the West Virginia Department of Forestry. New demonstration projects showing methods for ginseng growing were also reviewed. Additionally, a biodiversity issues review, a discussion of decisions made for dealing with ecosystem processes, and a mock ginseng sale also occurred. Workshop attendees had the opportunity to view a comparison of true, wild-simulated ginseng production without the use of soil amendments, chemicals, or fertilizers. Participants followed this viewing with an opportunity to compare it to a site with "woods-grown" ginseng. The woods-grown ginseng produced a healthy discussion of disease problems and the potential chemical treatments for each disease. Ginseng growers were asked to bring a sample of their products to allow review by dealers and fellow growers. This process proved to be very valuable and highly educational as ginseng dealers related what caused differing values associated with wild-simulated production versus other forms of production.

On 15 October 2005, the second in this series of outdoor workshops was held at Cooper's Rock, near Morgantown, WV. This meeting drew 45 attendees, primarily growers and researchers. This workshop covered topics which included: growing ginseng with worm castings as disease protection; research projects to improve ginseng culture; new laws regarding ginseng harvest; United States Fish and Wildlife Service findings and data; ginseng markets; and ginseng plant biology. The workshop was an intense learning experience with many positive comments regarding the workshop agenda. This meeting represented the beginning of a national coalition of the ginseng farming industry and a collaboration of science with many from the ginseng grower's community, a collaboration that had previously not existed. The collaboration that has begun as a result of this workshop will, we hope, permit growers to have a voice in research and regulations regarding forest farming of forest medicinal plants. Also at this workshop, buyers engaged in purchasing ginseng from farmers attending the workshop and a seed distribution activity occurred towards the end of the workshop. This workshop was co-sponsored by Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University, Roots of Appalachia Growers Association, Rural Action, Inc, West Virginia Department of Forestry, West Virginia Ginseng Growers Association, and West Virginia University.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

A total of 75 growers have attended the first two educational field-day workshops that have been held as a result of this Northeast Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program grant.

A total of ten researchers have attended and/or participated in the first two educational field-day workshops associated with this Northeast Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program grant.