Forest Farming

Forest Farming

Agroforestry: Southern Region Resources on Woodland Management and Land Use Conservation

Forest Farming

Forest farming is the planting and harvesting of non-timber products, namely medicinal and edible plants like mushrooms, ginseng and goldenseal. Such products are highly valued and command a high market price.

Exploitation and over-harvesting of wild-grown, non-timber products is a growing concern as the rapid depletion of such resources alters forest dynamics and results in an overall decline of forest health. Medicinal and edible plant harvesting requires taking the entire plant, removing reproductively active plants, and reducing the biological diversity of populations. Managing non-timber forest resources and cultivating native medicinal and edible plants under forests is a solution to over-harvesting. However, little information is known about the sustainable management of non-timber forest products. In timber production, for example, foresters can estimate growth and yields of most timber species, inventory forests to accurately estimate potential timber production, and estimate rotation lengths to ensure a sustainable supply of timber. Such information does not exist for non-timber resources. Rural forest landowners interested in growing edible and medicinal forest products are challenged by a lack of practical information and guidance on production methods. Inventory methods have not been developed for medicinal- or edible-forest products, growth and yield tables do not exist, and rotation lengths for plants harvested for their roots are not available.

The following SSARE-funded resources help provide science-based, forest farming guidelines for growing and managing native medicinal and edible plants. Cultivating native forest botanicals is not a new agricultural enterprise, but it is becoming a more popular way for landowners to diversify income opportunities, improve management of forest resources, and increase biological diversity.

Growing American Ginseng in Forestlands


A fact sheet from Virginia Cooperative Extension on growing ginseng in forestland as an alternative crop.

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The Shiitake Mushroom


A report submitted to The Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation on the production and marketing of shiitake mushrooms.

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Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, under sub-award numbers: LS94-061 and OS10-051. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.



Resources from Other SARE Regions

Northeast SARE

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushroom Guide

A 57-page guide to producing these gourmet mushrooms.

North Central SARE

Organic Production and Marketing of Forest Medicinals

Forest Medicinals

A research report on activities related to farming of forest medicinals in Appalachian Ohio.

Truffle Orchard Establishment

Truffle report

A report introducing the truffle as a new agroforestry product.