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

2007 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 three workshops held in northern Pennsylvania beginning with one previously un-reported event on June 10, 2006, and continuing from January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2007. Theses three events were held in place of the 150-person conference scheduled in southwestern Pennsylvania previously mentioned in the project summary.

On June 10, 2006 the Pennsylvania State University School of Forest Resources, in collaboration with the Penn State Cooperative Extension, and the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, hosted the first of two workshops in Coudersport Pennsylvania (Potter County), entitled “Lets talk sang! An introduction to American ginseng in Pennsylvania.” The June 10th workshop had thirty-six participants in attendance, and consisted of educational presentations covering several topics, including identification, commerce and marketing, guidelines for cultivation and responsible collection, as well as an outdoor field component addressing site selection and planting considerations. The second workshop in this series was held in Coudersport (Potter County) on June 9, 2007, with twenty participants in attendance. This workshop was also titled “Lets talk sang! An introduction to American ginseng in Pennsylvania, and followed the same programming guidelines as the previous event. Workshop evaluations indicate that the event was very successful at achieving project goals, with participants committing to pursue wild-simulated cultivation practices.

On September 15th, 2007 in Eldred Pennsylvania (McKean County) the Penn State University School of Forest Resources in collaboration with the Penn State Cooperative Extension, and the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources held the third workshop for this reporting period. This event was the second workshop of a series entitled “Plant yer own patch! Guidelines for establishing and growing ginseng and other native forest medicinal plants.” This workshop focused 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 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 effectiveness of these workshops in promoting the project goals is indicated by participant before/after “skill” self-evaluations. Workshop evaluations workshops indicate that most participants will become involved with sustainable forest cultivation practices, as well as included considerations for ginseng in future forest management decisions.

Planning for the “Forest Farming” roundtable originally scheduled for 2007 is now near completion. The event is titled “Forest farming of non-timber forest products in eastern North America: connecting growers, collectors, and researchers,” and will be held on April 25th and 26th, 2008 at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in central Pennsylvania. The purpose of this event is to bring together experienced growers, planters, and commercial collectors of non-timber forest products with researchers and other industry members. We received fifty-three applications to attend from potential participants. Thirty-five growers/collectors were selected from the pool of applicants based on their experience, expertise, and amount of involvement with cultivating forest medicinals. A planning committee was created to aid in participant selection and development of the conference agenda, which included extension educators, non-timber forest product researchers, agro-forestry researchers, industry professional, and growers. The programming for this event will include two days of educational presentations, and an optional field component scheduled for April 27th. Each presentation will be followed by a group discussion session where additional ideas and concerns may be documented and discussed. Workshop topics will include perspectives on poaching issues, medicinal root handling and storage, an overview of state and federal regulations that apply to growers, the potential for a national growers association, economics, marketing, and research updates. Proceedings from the event will be compiled and distributed to key stakeholders in the forest products industry, and interested growers.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

A total of 96 growers have attended workshops in Pennsylvania during 2007 to learn more about best cultivation practices, markets, production and other related issues. Workshop evaluations indicated that these events have helped achieve a shift toward sustainable wild-simulated cultivation practices, as well as an increased awareness of issues and regulations relating to cultivation/collection and marketing of American ginseng. Prior to the “Plant yer own patch” workshop on September 15, 2007, 56% of participants surveyed said they had no knowledge about forest cultivation practices, but following the event 68% of participants claimed considerable knowledge regarding forest cultivation, with the same amount of participants expressing the intent to cultivate ginseng or other forest medicinals the following year. Likewise, prior to the “Lets talk sang!” program on June 9, 2007, 94% of participants surveyed had minimal to no knowledge about forest cultivation practices, but following the event 93% of participants felt they had gained considerable knowledge about forest cultivation. 73% of these participants also expressed the intent to begin cultivating wild-simulated forest medicinals. Copies of workshop evaluations will be submitted with the final report in June 2008.

By conducting these workshops a strong community of growers has been established across the state of Pennsylvania. This community of growers and their individual contacts has also been instrumental in the development of the April 2008 forest farming roundtable. Having an easily accessible pool of experienced and knowledgeable applicants has helped facilitate the marketing of this event, and the development of programming applicable to growers.