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

2006 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 region's 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 farm opportunities in the region using forest medicinal plants. Activities include a multi-stakeholder planning meeting of regional organizations and producers; three educational field days 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 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).


This report covers five workshops in West Virginia and one workshop in Pennsylvania for the period of January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2006. On June 15 2006, The Center for Sustainable Resources in West Virginia hosted a workshop in Kanawha County with 43 people in attendance; this was the first in a series of five workshops held in WV in 2006. The June 15th workshop was hosted by the Center for Sustainable Resources and had many field components, which allowed participants to get a firsthand look at different production methods. The second workshop of the year took place on August 19th in Eldred, PA. The title of this workshop was "Plant yer own patch! Guidelines for establishing and growing ginseng and other native forest medicinal plants." This workshop focus was on propagation methods and forest cultivation. Topics covered include botany, biology, ecology, markets, growing options, propagation techniques, and management issues (pests, diseases, theft, etc). This workshop also had a field component with a visit to a local ginseng grower's farm to see a working operation. Forty-two participants attended this workshop and the evaluations indicate that this workshop was effective in achieving key project goals encouraging forest cultivation and diversification of native Appalachian forest medicinal plants.

The third workshop, "Wild Simulated Ginseng Production For Profit," was held on October 14, 2006 in a small community called Union, WV and had 14 in attendance. A fourth workshop in Dodridge County, was held on November 15 with six new growers present. On November 16, a workshop was held in Romney WV with 17 in attendance and on December 7th, 2006, our last workshop of the year was co-sponsored by WVU Extension and held in Moundsville, WV with 14 in attendance. The five meetings in West Virginia served close to 100 participants. All of the workshops covered improving practices for growers, the economics of certain grower practices, managing a forest stand as a whole, and assessing land for potential production. All workshops also included a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session with experienced growers.

Some individuals have become new growers while some existing growers are beginning to alter their strategies of production. This thinking has extended to ginseng dealers, with these dealers presenting their case for changing the way they view the final ginseng product.

Daily phone conversations concerning questions and extended follow-ups about production have happened during this period. An average of nine hours per month of phone consultation regarding ginseng practices and three hours spent on emails per week has occurred during 2006. The purchase of seed in WV this season went up by one third compared to last year with more people planting more seed as a result of increased exposure to modern growing techniques with less inputs of soil amendments and chemicals. Another goal of this project is to encourage forest growers to shift from reliance on pesticides to low-input (organic or IPM) practices. The effectiveness of this workshop in promoting these goals is indicated by participant before/after “skill” self-evaluations. Specifically, organic and IPM methods were covered within the topics of forest site evaluation, forest cultivation practices, forest management decisions, caring for planting stock, and stand density requirements. According to participant evaluations of these topics, skills were improved at the conclusion of the workshop, indicating greater awareness of how pest problems develop and low-input options for management/control.

One traditional grower recently reported that he only sprayed fungicides on his crop three times this year. This is progress considering that previously he was taught to spray every week.

Planning for the 2007 Roundtable event in Pennsylvania also began in 2006. Committees have taken steps to identify participants and begin the agenda development. Planning is also already underway for another series of tow or three workshops to be held in PA in 2007 as well as two more workshops in early 2007 in WV.

In PA, work is in the final stages of analyzing and preparing for publication (both for peer-review and public consumption) production budgets and market trends for 13 native medicinal forest plants. These results were already shared with August 2006 PA workshop participants but the final results will be more broadly shared in 2007 via the project coordinator and all project partners.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

A total of 136 Growers have attended workshops in WV and PA in 2006 to learn more about best practices, markets, production and other related issues.

Early indications seem to point towards a shift in thinking with regards to traditional cultivation and marketing practices.

Growers now have a support network available and publicized in both PA and WV as a result of publicity, workshops, field days, and other events sponsored by this Northeast SARE grant. This is a huge outcome for on-the-ground growers who typically are operating on their own and under the radar. For growers to have this support network really legitimizes their work and lends a sense of empowerment to them.

A website dedicated to current research, cultivation and market information for many forest grown medicinals was also completed in 2006. The Plants to Watch website which can be found at: