About the ABFFC

The Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition is a network of forestland owners, universities, and governmental and non-governmental organizations that share a common goal of improving agroforestry production opportunities and farming capabilities among forest farmers. Our collective aim is to increase awareness of forest-grown medicinal plants through education and relationship building, and support conservation efforts through stewardship of existing plant populations and forest farming of these native botanicals.

What the ABFFC is All About

Project Goals and Objectives

The coalition hopes to establish an inclusive Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition; educate, train, and support beginning forest farmers; and improve forest farm inventory and medicinal plant habitat management services for beginning forest farmers.

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    Build a coalition of new and beginning forest farmers across Appalachia and beyond.

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    Educate and train new and beginning forest farmers on production, marketing, and sales.

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    Train extension and state agency personnel on resource assessment and habitat management.

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    Technical assistance and training for forest farmers throughout Appalachia.

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    Forest farming training for natural resource professionals at upcoming meetings and events


What is Forest Farming?

Forest farming is an agroforestry practice which cultivates medicinal, edible, decorative, and handicraft crops under a forest canopy that is managed to provide shade levels and habitat which favor growth and enhance production. Forest farming supplies marketable non-timber forest products.

Who Forest Farms?

Forestland owners are incredibly interested in forest farming. Though always high on the list of landowner interests, non-timber forest product and forest farming assistance are generally limited and associated forest resource inventory and habitat management planning services scarce. However, markets for forest farmed products are evolving and forest farming education and networking has increased. Improving management services for interested landowners has never been more important.

What are the benefits?

Market value for forest-based medicinal plant products currently exceeds one billion dollars annually in the United States and is rising. Meanwhile, a growing consumer base interested in medicinal plant product origin, quality, and sustainability, along with new FDA regulations concerning material sourcing and product manufacturing has spurred industry to begin developing organic forest grown medicinal plant product lines for discriminating consumers. Demand for these premium products is improving the financial equation for forest farmers.

What can you grow?

The Appalachian region contains native habitat for more than 15 forest farmable plants and is home to rich ethnobotanical connections to medicinal plants. They are a longstanding part of its social fabric, providing familiar ground upon which forest farmers can work together to build a medicinal plant production corridor. Industry efforts are underway in Appalachia to develop long-term arrangements with forest farmers that supply plants of interest such as Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), Stoneroot (Collinsonia canadensis), Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), and Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) among others.

What do they need?

To develop the operational capacity needed to capitalize on emerging markets, forest farmers need technical, administrative, market sales, and state regulatory training and support related to production using forest grown verification, organic production, and best handling and processing practices. They also need access to extension and state agency personnel that are prepared to assist them with forest resource assessments and medicinal plant habitat management.