The medicinal herb market has increased for the 16th consecutive year, by a record-breaking 17.3% in 2020, according to the American Botanical Council’s market report. In 2020, the report shows forest botanicals like black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) ranked respectively as the 17th, 12th and 30th top-selling herbal supplements in the U.S. As demand grows, conscientious consumers and companies are becoming acutely aware of the sustainability concerns surrounding the forest botanical trade from overharvesting and habitat loss, and are seeking traceable sources of supply to ensure the longevity of the supply chain.
To address these concerns, Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) and Virginia Tech (VT) seek to increase the competitiveness, sustainability, and profitability of forest botanicals by implementing a Point of Harvest (PoH) workforce development and continuing education program for wild harvesters of forest botanicals. Over the next two years, the program will be piloted in Virginia, then refined and replicated throughout Appalachia. During that time, ASD and VT hope to provide free training to certify PoH instructors and PoH wild harvesters.
The PoH program will provide many benefits to wild harvesters. For example, certified harvesters will gain access to premium-priced PoH markets developed for sustainably and legally harvested forest botanicals. In addition to market development, ASD and VT plan to work with large landholders to increase land access for PoH certified harvesters. The goal is to build recognition among the herbal products industry and large landholders to help reduce land accessibility barriers for legal harvest, and increase the profitability and ethical sourcing of sustainably harvested forest botanicals.
Potential PoH training topics include, among others: safety, technology, sustainable harvest techniques, plant identification and propagation, raw material storage, processing methods, marketing, bookkeeping, and more. ASD and VT are currently seeking input from wild harvesters and buyers of woodland roots, barks, and herbs to help shape the program and its curriculum to best meet the needs of this community. To learn more about PoH and to take a short online survey to provide feedback to help inform the program, please visit https://www.appalachianforestfarmers.org/point-of-harvest.
*Funding for ASD’s Point-of-Harvest (PoH) Continuing Education Program for Wild Harvesters project was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 2021-520. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.