Forest-Grown Ginseng in Tennessee
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Thomas Tatum
Posted on: October 16, 2006

I was wondering if you knew of any ginseng brokers around the Tennessee area. This would be for wild simulated woods grown.

Some of the ginseng is over 20 years old. My dad began growing ginseng in 1980 as cultivated. Since then, he has been taking the berries and throwing them in the woods.

Do seeds from a cultivated plant equal cultivated ginseng, even though they have been dispersed in the manner described above? No fertilizer has been added and no work whatsoever has been done to raise these plants.

Some of the berries must have landed where my dad used to keep chickens. I dug a root the other day that probably weighed 1/4 of a pound. Is there a market for such roots? There are more there, but I do not want to dig them unless I can sell them. If there is no market, I will leave them as seed producers.

I have just started a family and was hoping to make enough money for a downpayment on a house.

I saw on the internet where you had offered to act as a representative to someone in Tennessee in 2003. I am curious if you are still doing this as I really need some help. I have 4 screens of root drying right now, with plenty more to dig.

I think it is GREAT that you are teaching your students how to supplement their incomes by example. That’s how we all learn it, but these skills are fast becoming a lost art. Do your students have a required two weeks at camp in fourth grade? They still do that out here in Washington and Oregon.

Let’s start with some basics. Wild Ginseng is not forest-grown, because it does not have a paper-trail (COG papers). But, a 20-year old root is worth a great deal of money to the right buyer. Most forest-grown ginseng is harvested in the 4th year, and just does not look the same. A good farmer can deliver chemistry, but one-half the markets for the wild root is its appearance.

I personally have not sold wild ginseng in almost 15 years. Most of my buyers require paper-trails for manufacturing. The largest group of buyers for the wild ginsengs are the Chinese (Asian and North American). If you want top dollar, go visit Chinatown in either New York or Vancouver, British Columbia. They will get down on their knees for this kind of sale, and buy right on the spot.

My primary contact for this kind of root would be Jeff Swackhammer, in Edmonton, Kentucky. He can be reached after work at home at 270-428-2329.

[Ginseng is a CITES controlled herb which means that you have to get a CITES permit in order to export the roots. This is an important consideration in choosing where to market your roots. Also, you should be sure that you comply with state controls on digging ginseng. Although your plants derive from what your father planted years ago, you may need some paperwork from the government to protect you from contravening state wild plant protection laws. -Ed.]

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