What type of canopy/tree species are required to grow ginseng, goldenseal, and/or black cohosh?

Assuming the species in question are ginseng, goldenseal, and black cohosh, look for a stand of mature hardwoods — typically beech, birch, maple, tulip poplar, oak, and cherry located on north- and northeastern-facing slopes. Some pines can be present but shouldn’t predominate. The site should have dabbled shade (70 to 85 percent) and the soils should be well drained and high in organic matter.

Is forest farming of ginseng, woody florals, ramps possible in hardiness zones of the Midwest using 3 or 5 row shelterbelts (Green ash, Eastern red cedar, Chinese elms)?

Yes. You would need to confirm that conditions in your shelterbelt agree with growing conditions for the plant(s) you want to grow. Ginseng and ramps, best grown in moist hardwood forests, may not be good choices in a Midwest shelterbelt, especially a new planting without deep shade or if the area does not have rich soils high in organic matter. If you are in a forest type (rich, moist and high in organic matter) where you know ginseng grows (or …

Is forest farming of high-value medicinals a potentially profitable business? How much money could I make?

The answer to the first question is, “yes,” but the key word is, “potentially.” As with any business venture, some risk is involved, and other considerations must be factored in before deciding if a business is worthwhile.

A primary consideration before beginning forest farming is the productive range of the medicinal plant. Plants, such as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), do not tend to grow well outside of their …

Can forests with steep gradients be used for forest farming?

Usually, yes. For many plants, slopes are not a problem. It is critical that when cultivating on steep slopes one does not contribute to soil loss or even potentially worse situations, such as landslides. As long as vegetation is currently on the slope, it is possible. Since it is often difficult to access and work on steep slopes, it depends on what plant(s) you are interested in growing and the access to the site.

A practical question will be how

What kinds of trees can be used for log cultivation of mushrooms?

The type of log or tree type to use for cultivation will depend on the type of mushroom you want to grow. Many mushrooms will grow on a variety of hardwoods, i.e., oaks or beech, but some are more specific about what species they will grow on than others. Also, keep in mind that some mushrooms prefer to grow on substrates (sawdust, straw, or composted manure) other than intact wood logs.  

Some examples of commonly produced mushrooms that grow on

Can ostrich fern fiddleheads be forest farmed?

Ostrich fern fiddleheads, Matteuccia struthiopteris, are currently only harvested commercially from the wild, though much research has been done in New Brunswick, Canada, to be able to cultivate ostrich ferns commercially. Wild populations are sufficient at present to make cultivation of fiddleheads uneconomical. Ostrich fern occurs naturally across Canada to Alaska, and in the northcentral and northeastern United States to as far south as Missouri and Virginia. For more information on fiddleheads and their sustainable harvest, see: umaine.edu/publications/2540e/.…

What is agroforestry? What is forest farming?

“Agroforestry” is a broader term for a variety of different land-use practices of which “forest farming” is one. Agroforestry includes a broad group of practices that integrate trees with annual crops and/or livestock on the same unit of land for environmental and economic benefits. Agroforestry practices are designed to meet individual landowner needs. Forest farming is one of five formally recognized agroforestry “practices” in the United States.

Agroforestry has been defined in slightly different ways by different organizations and individuals. …

Where do I get seeds or cuttings to start forest farming?

This is an issue that may frustrate people interested in starting forest farming. You can check with local nurseries that sell native plants or that specialize in the types of plants you want to grow (herbs, medicinal plants, fruits). One great site for herbs is out of North Carolina — start with this one — (www.ces.ncsu.edu). You can also check the USDA National Agroforestry Center for information about forest farming and growing non-timber forest products at www.unl.edu/nac/agroforestrynotes. …

Forest Farming and Non-Timber Forest Products Defined

Basics of Forest Farming

Forest Farming and Non-Timber Forest Products Defined 

Forest farming involves the cultivation or management of understory crops within an established or developing forest.  These systems represent integrated management of timber (which produces the canopy or overstory) and non-timber forest crops (which can be found below the canopy in the understory).  The canopy of the forest is modified and maintained to provide the correct micro-conditions and protection for quality production of the understory or non-timber forest crops.  …