Appalachian Stewards Project

Appalachian Stewards, Not Outlaws

Ginseng, goldenseal, and ramps, all commercially valuable native herbs, are declining throughout Appalachian Ohio and larger portions of their range due to illegal poaching and habitat destruction. Interest in ginseng harvesting in Ohio has increased dramatically in the past two years. This interest has been fueled by reality style television shows, such as the History Channel’s Appalachian Outlaws, and National Geographic’s Smoky Mountain Money. Unfortunately these shows exaggerate the ease and profitability of growing and harvesting ginseng, as well as encourage unethical and illegal harvesting from both public and private lands.

In response, beginning in 2016 Rural Action developed a hands-on forest herb curriculum to Appalachian students across the region, focused around American ginseng, goldenseal, and ramps. We partner with local schools to teach both in the classroom and outside, bringing seeds, roots, and transplant bulbs for students to plant at their own schools or in another forest. The lessons are adaptable depending on grade level, but topics covered generally include preferred habitat, conservation, plant biology and reproduction, plant history, uses, planting techniques and, for older students, the basic economics for these commercially valuable herb species.

Rural Action is continuing to develop the Appalachian Stewards program. For more information, or if you’re a teacher interested in the Appalachian Steward programming for your school, contact the director of Environmental Education, Joe Brehm, at joe@ruralaction.org, or the Environmental Education Program Manager, Sarah Fisher, at sarah@ruralaction.org.