A training session for forest farmers was held August 26-28 in Johnson County, TN at the Cherokee Cove Campground. Participants were immersed in a number of topics, including an overview of forest botanicals and how they’re grown, the economics of forest farming and how to add value to products, two woods walks to learn about site evaluation and companion plants, and a tour of the Herbal Ingenuity herb processing center in Wilkesboro, NC. Those attending were eager to stay in touch with each other and with the coalition as they move ahead with their forest farming operations.

 An update on ASD’s planting stock program:

Appalachian Sustainable Development, along with Virginia Highlands Community College, and other partners, is moving forward to teach students and community members about native forest botanical propagation.

The program recently received a donation of ginseng rootlets from Chester Crain, a Virginia Department of Agriculture inspected grower in Saltville, VA. Chester is an enthusiastic supporter of the future generation learning about the plant and how to be a good steward of ginseng populations. He grows rootlets from seed, which he sells locally and on ebay to forest farmers throughout the United States.

Students in the horticulture department of Virginia Highlands Community College and their instructor, Ben Casteel, potted up some of the rootlets for use in 2017 demonstration plantings and plant exchanges using a potting mix that included thoroughly composted pine bark. The students will take care of the plants, overwintering them in a protected location. VHCC students and staff will be establishing on-campus demonstration plantings of black cohosh, goldenseal, wild ginger, and ramps in late fall.

Students in Unaka High School’s Drop Collaborative (Carter County, TN), an experiential agriculture learning program, learned about ginseng and its requirements for forest cultivation, and planted a small patch with the help of Emily Lachniet, ASD program coordinator, and Emily Bidgood with the Appalachian RC&D. The students will also be planting a patch of ramp bulbs and seeds in the spring of 2017.

Michelle Bouton, owner of Appalachian Acupuncture in Johnson City, TN, and co-director of HERBalachia, an Appalachian Herb School, is also partnering with ASD on some demonstration plantings for herb school students and future grower education. In Unicoi County, TN, she will be also be making a late fall planting ginseng seed and rootlets, goldenseal root divisions, black cohosh, and wild ginger. Her vision for the herb school includes establishing a local growers network for the cultivation and sale of forest-grown and chinese medicinal herbs.

Emily Lachniet, program coordinator with Appalachian Sustainable Development, hopes that these demonstration plantings will be cultivated over time and will become a source for future planting stock through plant division and seed collection. In 2017, planting projects will include the distribution of bloodroot plants grown from locally collected seed, local black cohosh root divisions, and ramp seed and bulbs collected sustainably from wild populations. Forest farmers that want to take part in this “living seed bank” project should contact Emily at elachniet@asdevelop.org.