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Interview with a forest farmer Larry Harding

September 6, 2019


I would say I became interested in forest
farming back when I was a little kid. My dad used to take us out hunting the wild
ginseng. Me and my four brothers would go along and
we’d go out and he’d say, “Okay, well I found one.” We’d all scramble around trying to find, trying
to find the root in front of one another. We’d always bring the seed and the rootlets
home and plant them under the grape harbor. The grape harbor is actually shade so we grew
it right here in the town that I grew up in, Friendsville. We started raising it under the grape harbor
and outgrew the grape harbor, um, my dad purchased this piece of property so we moved some here. We got too big for the grape harbor so we
moved up here, started growing it up here, grew this out and had to purchase a piece
of property that adjoined here so we’re just moving on out to that. I’d say that’s when I got interested. When we started growing ginseng, it’s always
been really good to us. It was profitable. I’d say that ginseng and goldenseal are two
of the primary roots that we grow. We began forest farming as a business in the
mid-80’s. We’d harvest and then sell to the dealers,
because back then that’s all we sold to was just the dealers around and we’d seen that
it was really profitable so we had to hire people to come in and dig the root that we
planted. It had become real profitable so I’d say that’s
when we picked it up saying that’s something we need to do and move forward with. We sell mostly over the internet now. Years ago we always went to, again, we always
sold to the dealers, but now we’re selling on the internet and it seems to be a wider
variety of customers that we sell to and we’ve actually sold overseas as well. I’d say we modified our business over the
years from going to front-end rototillers to larger tillers on the back of tractors
to cultivators and just going and trying to do it an easier way. We used to make beds and um, it’s a lot of
work to make the beds so we went from that to non-beds and even went from the little
seeders, little single row garden seeders to just broadcasting by hand. The challenges that we’re facing today is
mainly the weather. The weather is more unpredictable now-a-days
then it was thirty years ago. The weather I would say is probably the biggest
challenge and you have you have your thieves, you know, the people that come in and steal
off of you because when you’re growing ginseng, that’s always a threat. You’ve got your deer, turkeys, you’ve got
your voles, you’ve got disease. So there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of challenges
now that we’re facing that you didn’t face thirty years ago, forty years ago. Forest farming is important to me now more
than ever. The wild ginseng is becoming so endangered,
so scarce and you know, when we’re able to grow a root very similar to wild, it quite
possibly could take the pressure off of wild ginseng, and the other thing is that ever
since Appalachian Outlaws had aired there’s been a ginseng explosion. There’s more people now that’s more interested
in growing ginseng than ever before and you know I enjoy helping people grow and so it’s
fun to me to be able to talk to people and go through some of the things that I went
through over the years and try to express it to them to where they can become a better
grower faster and not have to go through all the things that I went through. It kind of, it helps a little bit.

8 Comments

  • Reply goodh2o11 July 31, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Great info, provides good product and guidance.

  • Reply Josh Roudebush August 4, 2017 at 3:36 am

    Do they sell seeds?

  • Reply irishbreakfast April 13, 2018 at 6:42 am

    SELL YOUR FRESH ROOTS ON EBAY AND MAKE A KILLING AT TOP DOLLAR!!

  • Reply Jennifer Robinson August 8, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    My great grandpa and great aunt's grew it on their farm in VA they we're were very old and could eat anything they all loved to be in their 100's. I would love to plant my own for health reasons. God Bless you

  • Reply Damian Church August 8, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    great video and lifestyle bud, im starting my first little forest garden with Chinese panax in New Zealand.

  • Reply John Roduik December 6, 2018 at 5:32 am

    Great video and thank you for the time and effort of putting this out there. I just recently purchased my first home and it is on 4 acres of wooded property and have been looking for some ideas of what I may do with the land. Never even considered forest farming.

  • Reply regularfarming January 4, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    Could it be planted this spring? Or is it the fall

  • Reply Kenny Morton July 7, 2019 at 2:55 am

    So really you don't have to dig down in the dirt to plant just throw it out on top of the soil

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