Forest Farming Field Day at The Yew Mountain Center – PT 2


Sage Tanguay: In part one of this story, we were introduced to the Forest Farming Field Day that took place in May at the Yew Mountain Center. Let’s hear more from one of the organizers, as well as an attendee. In the background you will hear Blaine Sprouse on fiddle.


John Munsell: My name is John Munsell. I’m a Forest Management Extension Specialist and professor at Virginia Tech, and I am also the Lead Coordina tor for the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition, which is sponsored by the US Department of Ag’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Today is an opportunity to work with folks that are interested in learning more about forest farming, those that are already practicing but want to come out and learn some additional details regarding some strategies that they can use – and the idea really is for individuals and and families and communities to think about the woodlands in a broader perspective. We have timber as kind of one of the more common uses with respect to production in our Woodlands, but we also have a variety of what we call non-timber forest products

Forest farming is really the strategy of intentionally cultivating those non-timber products as opposed to just finding them in the woodlands where they’re growing in the wild and harvesting them taking the market. So really it is a farming proposition that we are promoting here and digging into some detail.


Sage Tanguay: I asked John what his favorite forest crops were.


John Munsell: All of them actually.  I mean, there’s so much going on in the woodlands and we’ve long used these products as non-timber forest products and and so there’s a whole plethora – and a tradition around these diverse understory species, and those are complements to a healthy, productive, and biodiverse forest.


Sage Tanguay: I also spoke with Darrell who was attending the event


Darrell: I wanted to learn more about forest farming and what I can do with my property to grow plants that benefit our surroundings and my well-being, and make them sustainable for the future for my son for my kids… my son’s here with me and I want him to learn about these things because I think it’s lost and dying art, I guess.  I want these things to continue to be passed down because we lose so much of this stuff throughout the generations. We’re becoming a more mainstream, fast society with technology and we’re getting away from these things that are very important and not so well represented anymore.


Sage Tanguay: Where are you from?


Darrell:  I’m from White Sulphur Springs, WV


Sage Tanguay: Oh, so nearby!


Darrell: Yes, ma’am.


Sage Tanguay: Great!  And do you currently farm or garden outside of the forest?


Darrell: I’ve got 52 acres and we farmed on it as a kid and now I’m more into sustainable.  I want to make like a sanctuary – I guess is what I want for my own self, and to pass down to my kids. We grow a lot of cedars and stuff and I have no interest in removing any of that. I want to add to it and in fact that is why I’m here – to add more stuff to my property.


Sage Tanguay: Are there any forest botanicals or crops that you’re particularly interested in?


Darrell: Yeah, the all the medicinal ones – the goldenseal and the ginseng and…well the mushrooms and stuff too,  not on such a labor intensive thing –  I’m kind of looking to plant and just let it go. Buy yeah, the herbs and stuff for sure!


Sage Tanguay: In total there were about sixty attendees of the field day and Will informed me that there were several still on the wait list. They hope that this might become a yearly event. Again, Will Lewis.


Will Lewis: The majority are from West Virginia but uh I’ve talked to people from Tennessee, from Ohio, from Virginia, from Pennsylvania, North Carolina…So really all the surrounding states – again, just showing that there’s not a lot of these events out there and something we kind of specialize here at the Yew Mountain Center and Pocahontas County of all places, but there is a big demand for this and we got people from states all around, but I’d say yeah the majority of people are from West Virginia.


Sage Tanguay: In addition to the Yew Mountain Center, the participating partners that made this event happen  are: Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmers Coalition, Rural Action, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Shady Grove Botanicals, Natural Capital Investment Fund, Sprouting Farms, and Future Generations University.

The event was sponsored by the Sacharuna Foundation, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the beginning farmer and rancher development program.

Their website contains more information about forest farming or other outdoor programming offered by the center.

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