N.C. Ginseng Association expo digs into the plant’s profits and possibilities

GROWTH POTENTIAL: Madison County farmer and North Carolina Ginseng Association founder Robert Eidus will host panel discussions about the expanding ginseng market at the organization's March 16 gathering at Warren Wilson College. Photo courtesy of N.C. Ginseng Association

The North Carolina Ginseng Association will host an educational gathering and auction Saturday, March 16, at Warren Wilson College. The purpose of this year’s event is to help promote emerging markets for ginseng in Western North Carolina as well as highlight the diversity of ginseng products available in our area.

Well-known for centuries as a medicinal herb, wild ginseng was first harvested and cultivated in Western North Carolina by the Cherokee. Demand for the plant from China established a lucrative export market early in our country’s history.

Today, the Chinese market still dominates ginseng exports, but the promise of a new domestic market has farmers like Robert Eidus, NCGA founder and president, hopeful. Eidus, who owns Eagle Feather Organic Farm in Marshall, says demand for fresh ginseng root is increasing in the Korean-American community. This growth, he explains, “has already increased the price of fresh ginseng beyond what is affordable to the Chinese markets, which means better prices for the American farmer and domestic ginseng overall.”

The NCGA will explore this topic during a panel led by Eidus with guests including North Carolina licensed ginseng dealers John Kim, Caleb Trivett and Susan Leopold,  United Plant Savers executive director. The afternoon also features a panel discussion on growing wild-simulated ginseng led by NCGA Vice President R.J. Taylor.

Additionally, N.C. Rep. John Ager will discuss his sponsorship of legislation to require licensing for gathering ginseng. He told Xpress via email that he plans to introduce the bill with the intention of reducing illegal poaching of the plant. “I am hoping to get some support from a bipartisan group of legislators from Western North Carolina,” he says, noting that he has previously introduced this legislation, but it has yet to become law.

The expo will also include a silent auction where attendees can bid on wild and cultivated ginseng and ginseng products, and attendees will be able to sample culinary offerings made with ginseng, including honey, cookies and other treats.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own ginseng specimens to be judged in a contest to determine the largest and oldest roots, both of which will both command a cash prize.

The NCGA Ginseng Gathering and Auction takes place 1-5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, in Upper Ransom Hall at Warren Wilson College, 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa. Admission is on a sliding scale of $15-$25 and includes membership to the NCGA. Tickets are available online and at the door. For details, visit facebook.com/NCGinsengAssoc.

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