West Virginia landowners and ginseng growers are responding to federal and state regulations they believe are undermining the growth of the states $2 million ginseng industry by holding an action-focused regional forum Saturday, Oct. 15, at Coopers Rock State Forest.

Grower Challenges from State and Federal Management Decisions: A Forumruns from 9 a.m.4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the WVU Forest Resource Building in Coopers Rock State Forest, Bruceton Mills, near Morgantown. The forum is open to the public. But pre-registration is required.

Among the strategies slated for discussion at the forum is the formation of a national growers association to strengthen forest farmings economic future.

A meeting like this has never been held before. This is truly a pivotal time for the West Virginia ginseng industry,according to David Cooke, an Extension agent in the Kanawha County office of the West Virginia University Extension Service.

The forum is actually the fall meeting of the West Virginia Ginseng Growers Association (WVGGA). The meeting assumed its regional status to begin tackling the complex state and federal issues impeding forest farming of ginseng in the eastern United States.

American ginseng is a perennial herb native to the deciduous forests of the eastern U.S. The herb is prized in the Orient for its purported curative properties.

Working with presenters and participants from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states, organizers plan to gather critically needed perspectives and ideas for improving management and regulation of the industry.

Cooke said that West Virginia has more than 200 ginseng growers�€with the potential for many more. He began working with growers 13 years ago and helped them organize the WVGGA about five years ago.

West Virginia is the nations second largest exporter of ginseng,Cooke said. But he noted that ginseng is the statesmost neglected avenue of resource development.

Additional growth is possible, he said.

West Virginia ginseng is valued in China as among the very best in the world,Cooke noted.That Chinese market is enormous and expanding. Ginseng is worth over $2 million dollars a year to residents of the Mountain State, and the potential sales could realistically be 20 times that amount.

Growers and all others interested in American ginseng are invited to attend the forum to share opinions, ideas and experiences through a variety of activities, including panel and group discussions facilitated by industry leaders and Extension educators.

The first session of the forum will cover sustainable production techniques for novice and experienced growers. The remainder of the day will revolve around the new federal regulations concerning ginseng, how they are affecting West Virginia landholders and wildcrafters, and how those stakeholders might organize for mutual benefits in the future.

Joining WVGGA and the WVU Extension Service in sponsoring the forum are the Center for Sustainable Resources, Roots of Appalachia Growers Association, Appalachian Forest Resource Center, Rural Action and Pennsylvania State University School of Forest Resources.

The session is supported by Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (U.S. Department of Agriculture) grant funds.

Though pre-registration is required, the forum and the luncheon are free. To register and to learn more about the program, contact Fred Hays at 304-548-7117.