Ginseng is the most famous forest botanical and also the most valuable, but there are many other woodland plants that can be grown and harvested on forested property to earn income off of what might otherwise be marginal agricultural land.

Appalachian Sustainable Development has received funding for a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program targeted at training new and existing growers in forest farming.  They are hosting a conference August 26-28 at Cherokee Cove Campground in Johnson County, TN.  Workshops will cover propagation, cultivation, harvesting and processing of woodland plants including ginseng, goldenseal, black cohosh, ramps and more.

The conference will focus on new marketing opportunities for forest botanicals.  While the market for ginseng is still hot, many of the other plants do not have high profit margins when sold through traditional channels.  However, better prices can be gained through on farm value added processing, selling directly to consumers, or selling to wholesale buyers looking for growers with sustainable practices.  The conference will include a discussion on processing techniques for better quality and how to create value by turning raw materials into teas and tinctures.

A representative from PCO (Pennsylvania Certified Organic) will discuss their new Forest Grown Verification Program that will certify growers’ sustainable practices.  This is a stand alone program, and growers do not need to be certified organic to qualify, although many choose to also pursue organic certification.  Many valuable woodland plants are in danger of becoming over harvested in the wild and some buyers are willing to pay more for Forest Grown Verified plants.

Beyond the classroom, this conference represents opportunities for new growers to network with experienced growers in the region as well as other experts in the industry.  Jeanine Davis of NC State, Eric Burkhart of Penn State, and Ed Fletcher, an NC herb buyer, will be leading plant walks, demonstrations and discussions.

Appalachian Sustainable Development also offers assistance to people looking to get started in forest farming.  They offer business planning and will help crunch numbers to see if it will be profitable to grow these crops on your land.  Many of these crops need specific growing conditions and can take several years from planting to harvest.  They represent a long term business investment for new growers.  With careful planning, however, forest farming can be a profitable venture for beginning farmers and landowners.

Space is limited at this conference, but other training opportunities will occur throughout 2017.  For more information on this conference or the Forest Farming program in general, contact Emily Lachniet of ASD at 276-623-1121 or or visit