Here you will find an assortment of videos, publications, and archived newsletters with information on different things related to forest farming.
Youtube Video Series
Spring is the time to plant ramps, a popular forest vegetable in the eastern United States. This savory plant is a member of the onion family and is closely related to leeks. In early spring, ramps send up smooth, broad, lily-of-the-valley like leaves that disappear by summer before the white flowers appear. The whole plant is edible, has a garlic-like aroma, and is usually three or more years old when harvested.
Forest Farming Fiddlehead Ostrich Ferns
Ostrich fern fiddleheads come up in early spring when forsythia and daffodils begin to bloom. This video series takes a look at where ostrich fern fiddleheads grow, when to harvest them and how to identify them. We discuss the importance of sustainable harvest and proper cleaning and cooking of fiddlehead ferns before consumption. Finally, we take a look at Farmington Maine’s Fiddlehead Fern Festival and explore NorCliff Farms, the largest ostrich fiddlehead fern producer and distributor in North America.
Forest Farming Mushrooms Using Totems and Woodchips
Grow your own oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms using totems and incorporate wood chip beds beneath your forest canopy or in your garden to grow stropharia, also known as red wine cap mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are easy to grow on tulip poplar, willow, cotton wood, and box elder while lion’s mane cultivation requires sugar maple or American beech totems. This video series provides simple step-by-step instructions on how to assemble and inoculate your totems and wood chip beds.
Forest Farming Wasabi
Wasabi was traditionally eaten with sushi due to it’s ability to calm food poisoning that used to occur with eating raw fish. Today, real wasabi is expensive and therefore difficult to find in restaurants. Joe Hollis, founder of Mountain Gardens, explains how to collect wasabi seeds, plant them, produce new plants through rhizomes and finally, how to harvest wasabi. We discuss the differences between seed-grown wasabi and wasabi cultivated through tissue cultures. Hollis explains the difference between Japanese varieties and cultivation and American varieties. Wasabi roots can be grated fresh and the leaves can be consumed as well.
Forest Farming Shiitake Mushrooms
Dr. Kenneth Mudge with Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture reviews the stages of shiitake log preparation, inoculation, resting positions, shocking and harvesting. Every step of the process, including site evaluation, is thoroughly explained so that you will have all of the knowledge necessary to forest farm shiitake mushrooms at home.
Forest Farming Bee Keeping Series
Jon Christie, owner of Wild Mountain Bees, takes us through the steps of bee keeping in this video series. We discuss everything from hive placement to honey collection. Jon removes several frames from the hive to find the queen and shows us the difference between comb filled with brood and capped comb filled with honey. Bees kept on the edge of Appalachian hardwood forests can greatly benefit from the vast amounts of nectar found in tulip poplar, sour wood, and locust blooms.
Herbalist Ben Kitchen explains what goldenseal is, where it grows best and how to plant it in the forest. Goldenseal is valued for its potent medicinal properties. It is ingested and used as a topical agent for its antimicrobial properties. Goldenseal can be propagated through rhizome division, seeds and fibers.
Forest Farming Ginseng
Ginseng expert, Bob Beyfuss, explains the different varieties of ginseng, how each variety is grown and the resulting value. We take a look at the forest types that ginseng prefers and note the herbaceous perennials that indicate whether the site is beneficial for growing ginseng or not. Bob explains how ginseng is planted in a wild-simulated situation and we take a look at the life cycle of ginseng.
Forest Farming Medicinal and Decorative Plants for Market Sale
Growing forest medicinal and decorative plants as nursery stock for market sale can often be more profitable than selling just the root. We take a look at the process of growing and transplanting seedlings for market sale with Robert Eidus, owner of Eagle Feather Organic Farm, and we review the importance of knowing your market and creating a business plan beforehand.
Methods of Seed Collection and Stratification
Forest farmer, Dave Carmen, demonstrates some innovative ways to protect seed from mice, turkeys and insects. He experiments with ginseng plants that send up ripe seed berries early. By separating early seed from stratification with seed that ripens later in the season, he was able to bypass an entire year of the stratification process. Early seed was planted immediately and germinated the following spring instead of two springs later. Dave demonstrates the stratification process with ginseng seed which helps to protect the seed over the course of the first winter. By burying the seed with sand in a mesh bag, the seed stays moist and protected until the following year when it is dug up and washed for planting.
Enchanter’s Garden Native Plant Series
Wild edible plants, medicinal herbs and decorative plants can all be grown under the forest canopy. In this series, we take a look at the different aspects of forest farming with woodland beds. Ian Caton and Peter Heus, Proprietor and Founder of Enchanter’s Garden in Hinton, West Virginia explain the differences in seed among various plant species. We look at different ways to propagate plants and discuss the problem of invasive species. Ian and Peter use controlled burns to eradicate invasive species and to improve forest conditions in favor of fire-dependent species like white or variegated milkweed. We also take a look at soil composition and review the steps to creating a healthy leaf compost.
Steve Caccamo, President of Next Generation Maple Products, demonstrates maple sugaring for the backyard maple hobbyist. In this short series, we take a look at small-scale sap collection and evaporation. Steve collects sap from trees that are only a few miles from his home. After transporting the sap with his trailer, he boils it down in an evaporator in his backyard.
Forest Farming Maple Syrup on a Large Scale
Cornell University’s Director of the Uihlein Forest, Michael Farrell, takes us through the sugaring process step by step. First, we identify a sugar maple tree, then move to tapping and collecting the sap in three different ways. Michael explains the techniques and new technologies of large-scale sugaring operations all while delivering information that is valuable to a sugaring production on any scale. We finish this series with a look at tap hole maple, a previously undervalued forest product that is gaining new recognition for its exhibition of the character and stories behind the sugaring process.
Reverse Osmosis Process for Maple Syrup Production
Cornell University’s Maple Specialist, Steve Childs, explains the process of using reverse osmosis membranes with maple syrup production. Reverse osmosis membranes allow certain particles to pass through them while denying other particles. By putting maple sap under pressure and forcing it through the membrane, water molecules go through and are removed from the system while sugar molecules are left behind and are ejected back into the sap container. The sap is run through repeatedly and more water is removed with each pass through the RO membrane. The end result is concentrated sap that is then boiled in the evaporator until the sugar content reaches a minimum of 66 Brix (or percent) at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Forest Farming Walnut Syrup
Mike Farrell, Cornell University’s maple specialist, points out the characteristics of walnut trees and demonstrates the tapping process. Unlike maple trees which are composed predominately of white sapwood, walnut trees quickly turn their sapwood into heartwood. Walnut trees can therefore be tapped at a younger age, before the sapwood turns to heartwood and diminishes the amount of sap that can be collected. Other differences between the two species are in the sap itself. Walnut sap has more pectin in it which makes it difficult to filter. It is also suggested that people with nut allergies should avoid walnut syrup until further research can be conducted on whether or not those allergenic properties are denatured during the boiling process.
Paul Strauss, owner and herbalist at Equinox Botanicals, demonstrates the creation of a salve using goldenseal and other forest botanicals along with beeswax and propolis.
Asheville Tea Company
In order to provide a complete overview of the herbal industry from the forest to the finished product, we visited Jessie Dean, owner of the Asheville Tea Company. She sources field and forest grown herbs from local farmers in North Carolina. The availability of ingredients informs her recipes and keeps tea formulas seasonal.
Donna La Pre, natural perfumer and herbal products creator, harvests elderflowers and creates an elderflower hydrosol in this value-added product demonstration.
Susan Leopold and Teresa Boardwine make elderberry syrup at the Indian Pipe Botanical Sanctuary. Elderberry syrup is considered an immune booster and is easy to make.
Susan Leopold, Director of the United Plant Savers, began the Paris Apothecary to carry a variety of herbal remedies and elixirs made both in the region and beyond. The apothecary is also a great place to educate consumers about herbal tonics, the plants used to create them, and how those plants are cultivated and harvested.
Blue Ridge Food Ventures
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Blue Ridge Food Ventures provides facilities and guidance for small businesses to create and market value-added products.
Mountains to Sea
How does a business get off the ground? We joined a small start-up in Western North Carolina to film the production of an all-natural body scrub made with locally sourced ingredients. Incubator kitchens like Blue Ridge Food Ventures provide a clean, regulated space for small businesses to produce and package items ranging from hot sauces to dog treats. Co-owner of Mountains to Sea, Amanda Vickers, walks us through the process of creating a salt scrub at Blue Ridge Food Ventures.
A botanical raw ingredient supplier gives a behind-the-scenes tour of their facility in North Carolina.
Bill Chioffi, Vice President of Global Sourcing at Gaia Herbs in Brevard, North Carolina, explains the importance of harvest times and post-harvest handling practices of plant material. We take a look at a hawthorn leaf and flower harvest and then get a peak behind the scenes at Gaia Herbs liquid phyto-cap production.
Essential Oil Distillation Process
Essential oil is produced when steam rises through plant material and is then cooled back into liquid. A glass essencier collects the distillate and separates the oil from the hydrosol. This video features Blue Ridge Aromatics and its founder, Ian Montgomery. Ian walks us through the process of distillation, points out the various components of the still, and finishes by bottling the essential oil. Please be sure to watch the companion video, Blue Ridge Aromatics Q&A for an important discussion on safety and sustainability of essential oil production.
Blue Ridge Aromatics Q&A
In this video, we speak with Ian Montgomery, owner of Blue Ridge Aromatics. Ian explains how he sustainably sources material to distill and answers several other questions about the distillation process.
Tincture Preparation at Maryland University of Integrative Health
We explore the process of tincture-making at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. A tincture extracts desirable compounds of a plant through a solvent which can be either alcohol or glycerin. In this video, we make a tincture with ashwagandha root.
Forest Farming Pine Needle Raking and Baling
Associate Professor at Auburn University, Becky Barlow, identifies several different species of pine trees commonly found in the Southern US. We discuss various management techniques for pine forests, in particular longleaf pine forests which have adapted to fire. Managing your pine forest for woody undergrowth will assist with the raking of pine straw which occurs in January and February prior to spring landscaping. Finally, we take a look at a handmade pine straw baler used in small-scale, ecologically oriented pine straw production. This is a great tool for a landowner to begin baling pine straw for local sale at a farmers market.
Forest Products as Art – Making a Pine Needle Basket
Long leaf pine needles are the most prized when it comes to weaving pine needle baskets. The long leaf pine tree is typically found in the Southeast from the east coast of North Carolina to the Florida’s Gulf coast. Nancy Basket walks us through the steps of constructing a pine needle basket in this series. She instructs viewers to remember the term, “feed the end,” which refers to the feeding of more needles into the tail of the needles forming the basket. The long leaf pine needles require less feeding and are used more often in basketry because of this.
Forest Farming Charcoal Production
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Adam Downing, explains what to look for when harvesting wood for charcoal or firewood. Hardwood is more dense and makes a better quality charcoal while pine is lighter and burns hotter. Adam suggests marking desired trees during the summer while they are easier to identify and then returning during the cooler months to harvest the trees. Harvesting trees for charcoal can be done at any time of year, but allowing the cut timber adequate time to dry before burning in the kiln is critical. Allow trees to dry for a minimum of two months. When producing charcoal in a kiln, it’s important to protect your hands with insulated leather gloves. Leather gloves without insulation will not provide enough protection against the heat of the kiln. It’s also important to wear closed-toed shoes., preferably leather work boots. Kilns for charcoal production come in a variety of styles. A common feature of all kilns is the ability to control oxygen. The control of oxygen within the kiln is critical during the charcoal making process as is the ability to “close down the kiln”, i.e., shut off the flow of oxygen to finish the charring process. The kiln used in this demonstration requires a small fire at the base. A long stick placed in the center and protruding through a vent in the kiln allows access to the wood for initially lighting the fire after the kiln is fully loaded. The wood is packed/loaded as densely as possible to maximize the charcoal yield.
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) refer to products other than timber that are harvested from woodlands. NTFPs include plants, parts of plants, fungi, moss, lichen, herbs, vines, shrubs, parts of trees, and other biological material that are either personally used or sold for their commercial value. We eat NTFPs and use them for medicine. We also use them to make decorations and create specialty products. Not only are many NTFPs marketable, they also are critical for healthy woodland ecosystems. Sustainable harvesting and cultivation of NTFPs through forest farming practices can complement overall stewardship of working forests. This webinar series highlights the remarkable and diverse world of non-timber forest products, ranging from an overview of the abundance and diversity of NTFPs to forest farming practices focused on particular marketable products.
Who we are
Larry Harding, Hardings Farm
Paul Strauss, Equinox Botanicals
Jeremy and Stesha, Eliana’s Garden
Value-Added Production Video Series
This video series provides insights into various ways that non-timber forest products can be used to bring further value to the forest farmer. Forest botanical production can be taken a step further by processing different plant parts into medicines, creams, essential oils, salves, teas, and other value-added products. We go behind the scenes to show a glimpse of where these herbal concoctions can be made, how different products are created, and what the business model is for each company we interviewed. Our hope is to provide a broad view behind the herbal products industry, from growing medicinal herbs in the forest as seen in our forest farming videos, to drying and post harvest handling, to finished products that incorporate these forest botanicals.
To View Videos
Value Added Production and Good Agricultural Practices
Western Mass Food Processing Center: Commercial kitchen, plus entrepreneurial and natural products opportunities
Appalachian Center for Economic Networks: Food and business incubator (Ohio)
Athens Business Incubator
Nelsonville Business Center and Food Hub
Eastern Carolina Food Ventures: Incubator Kitchen (Warsaw, SC)
Blue Ridge Food Ventures – A natural product incubator – ‘11,000 square-foot shared use kitchen and natural products manufacturing facility’.
Supports product development, regulation navigation, marketing, equipment for bottling/packaging, etc. (Asheville, NC)
Piedmont Food and Ag Processing Center (Hillsborough, Eastern NC)
Current good manufacturing practice in manufacturing, packaging, labeling, or holding
American Herbal Product Association:
Good Agricultural and Collection Practices
New England Extension Food Safety Consortium: Training and Education opportunities in the NE
Penn State Extension: Food Safety, Food Entrepreneurs courses and resources
NC Cooperative Extension: GAPs for Medicinal Herbs, Jeanine Davis, NCSU Alternative Crops and Organics Publication and Training Videos
Small Business Technology Development Center
Business planning and economic resources for Natural Products small businesses
RootReport at Virginia Tech
People have harvested roots, barks, foliage, fruits and mushrooms from forests for generations. Today these are meaningful traditions and sources of income for families and communities across the country. There is growing interest in cultivating NTFPs and managing forests to produce them, but there is a lack of reliable information about their markets. Our goal is to measure the scope and distribution of NTFP production and its economic impact, and make that research available to people who work with and care about these important species. For more information, visit our website.