I think it would be wise to move slowly into it, if possible.
If you could for example change to part time at your current job, or find another reliable source of income where you could be part time, or have very flexible hours, for example working only 20-30 hrs weekly, then spend the other time, part time, in starting off your ginseng business.
You could do that for the first 10 years or so until you get to the point of seeing exactly how it is going to work out (actually go thru a harvest or two) and see just how successful you are going to be.
By that time you should have learned a lot along the way, including learning a lot about how to grow ginseng, and how much you really like it, how well it sits with the family, how much support you really get, etc.
If things turn sour at some point along the way, you still have your part time job and may be able to go back to it full time if needed.
It would be good to have a reliable source of income for taking care of the family and for the cost of easing into your ginseng business.
There is going to be at least 7-10 years in there where you have very little income from the ginseng business (well except for seed sales which should start helping around year 5) so your wife may have to work extra hours early on to help make up the difference. If she is really on board with it, she may not have a problem with that, especially if you explain it to her that the goal is that she can quit work at her regular job after 10 years if the business works out as planned.
The company that I work for will let us scale back to part time only working specific days of the week if we want and I may do that when I get closer to retirement.
Until then I am just going to dabble in the ginseng growing, planting 3-4 pounds yearly, learning and seeing how it works out. In another 10 years I may be at the point where I am ready to go part time on my regular job and get much more agressive on the ginseng planting side.
I think I'm starting to see a Y in the road here with the discussion. Buckeyefist, do you want to grow commercial cultivated ginseng under shade, or grow in the woods?
Guy's post to me sounds more like the commercial farming we see in Ontario...in which case he is dead nuts on target. Expect to pay $10,000 for an acre of shade in addition to all that other stuff, and only get $22-28/lb. The other critical factors in cultivated farming is that you might harvest anywhere from 2000-4000 pounds an acre at four years (take seed from 3yr olds and pull the flowers from the fours), and the cost of production is going to be close to your sale price. But, the biggest issue is that (at least so far) you can only grow ginseng on ground one time. There is research going into this...but that's the traditional wisdom.
On the other hand, most of us are suggesting you go wild simulated in the woods. Plant five or ten pounds, see how much work it is to get the plot ready and then watch the ginseng come and go. Your costs are the lowest this way, and your harvest will be worth the most selling as wild after ten years or so.
What I suggest you do is a combination of wild simulated and woodsgrown. I plant woodsgrown because of the density with which I must grow to make harvesting rootlets for folks reasonably efficient. So, I till and form beds, then plant via mechanical means. I use fungicides to protect the plants and get the roots a good start. But, I also keep planting wild simulated and letting it grow without intervention.
With this thought, you might be able to go back in and seed harvested areas of woodsgrown after a period of time with the wild sim method. Also, if you have open ground, you might be able to plant other crops to provide income through other parts of the year, or even plant trees to make new ginseng habitat a few years down the road.
Either way, you need to determine the type of operation you want before you move forward.
Wow, guys, this post is full of meat. Might be another fgood one to have as a header post on this paticular forum?
Anyway, the conventional wisdome expressed on this post is really sound advice.
Personally, I'm planting my amounts to keep with my own business plan.
I'm planning retirement in 2.5years from very public work [I'm a respiratory therapist at a large teaching hospital] after 34 years doing that. I got started last year, so an optimistic revenue stream won't start for several years to come. My retirement income, coupled w/ my wife's will sustain us for the time when the income stream will start from the 'sang endeavor.
That having been said, I would think that when I get decrepitly old [late 70's, I hope no earlier] I will have had several crops that will have been a sustainer of my plan.
I guess that my real point is to develop your version of a concise business plan, stick to it thru the adversity you may experience. I've found that sometime's Life is a real bitch, sometimes it's not soo bitchy. Not to go on and on about that... however am glad for the 'sang work in all it's many respects.
Again, good luck to you Buckeye Fist. As well to all you guys. Ain't it nice to have this forum to interact on?
Please feel free to contact me off forum... email me, and I'll respond... please put 'sang forum or something like that in the header... I delet email I don't know like crazy.
All good advice with different thoughts here and there, so good luck on what you decide to do. Shade grown field cultivated should not even be a consideration as it can cost up to $30,000 per acre to maintain.
Woods grown or wild simulated is the only way to go. Not sure if you were considering shade grown field cultivated or not but I saw it mentioned in some post.
If you only plant 5 to 10 lbs now and wait until 3 to 4 years to see how it does I suspect you will be disappointed that you did not plant more.
You have asked for opinions on how to make this a living. This does not sound like a thing you want to do as a hobby like many on here are doing which there is nothing wrong with. Many people jump into business ventures with substantial upfront cost. Some make it and some do not. They are risking big money for franchise fees, business development cost, building cost, employee training, merchandise cost, rent, equipment cost and so much more. If you truly have $5,000 to $10,000 to put at risk then I still say plant that 50 to 100 lbs now. This is not going to require you to give up you current full time job.
There are not many businesses you can start up for $5,000 to $10,000. If all fail and you do not get one single plant to survive then you have gave it you best and possibly saved yourself a lot of hardship and headaches down the road by trying it on an even larger scale. One again no one wants to lose that kind of money. But it is still a relatively low amount invested to pursue a dream and a new business venture.
Chances are thou that a minimum of 10 % would survive after 10 years if you never planted another seed. So if you plant 50 lbs x 6,500 seeds per lb = 325,000 seeds planted. If only 10% survive to year 10 you will still have 32,500 10 year old plants. 32,500 divided by 300 (Conservative #) roots per dry lb = 108 dry lbs. 108 dry pounds x $500 per dry lb = $54,000 worth of ginseng in 10 years.
I do not see how you wouldn't try planting 50 to 100 lbs of ginseng seed next fall with everything you have going for you.
You are young, eager, knowledgeable, determined, have property, have support, have equipment, have the time to plant even with a full time job. All you need is experience and that is hard to get sitting on the sideline.
All good advice from many different people on which way to go and at what pace. I am not saying they are wrong or I am right. I can only offer you my opinion on what I would do and it is just that an opinion.
I hope you decide to do what is best for you.
Good luck again!
\"I do not see how you wouldn't try planting 50 to 100 lbs of ginseng seed next fall with everything you have going for you.You are young, eager, knowledgeable, determined, have property, have support, have equipment, have the time to plant even with a full time job. All you need is experience and that is hard to get sitting on the sideline.\"
DAYUM Latt! Well put! Thanks again.
I planted 5 lbs last fall, i figured i would see how year 2 goes before i attack this on a larger scale. If my wild sim comes up nice this spring, i will commence with the 1-2 acres clearing of the woods. I agree that an investment of that size is not going to kill me.
JUst to refresh my intentions for eveyone so the post doesnt stray.., here is a copy paste from earlier.
\"I totally realize that instant income is not in the cards, but here is what im thinking, Buying rootlets to get a decent seed bed goin ASAP for seed production, planting one or two acres per year every year with those seeeds if possible, then selling seeds, leaves, (if possible?) each year until harvest in 8-10 years? By then a possible 20 acres in sang with a root harvest evey year? Then follow the sang harvest acerage with a crop of goldenseal mabye? Kind of a perpetualproduction gig i guess.\"
Well, mechanical harvesting works well on potatoes and cultivated field raised ginseng. But, I don't think it would work at all in the woods. I only till to save time planting and harvesting rootlets. I may spend twenty minutes or so tilling a bed three feet wide by thirty feet long. I only till a few inches deep. But, I still have to deal with rocks and roots. Once that is done, I rake up the edges to form a bed that is high in the middle with gutters on either side. I then rake over the bed to remove the fine roots and stuff that would plug up my seeder. Then, it only takes me maybe ten minutes to plant that bed as thickly as I like for a seedling bed (which is too thick for a long-term stand of sang. When I dig for customers, either at two and maybe even three years, the beds can normally be discerned from the ground surrounding them. I can dig down the beds (by hand with a trowel or small shovel) and go through the dirt by hand to get the rootlets out of the beds. At four years or so, the beds are usually completely blended into the surrounding ground and the ginseng growing as it would naturally in a wild state. Those I dig one at a time as I would dig wild plants. I normally don't spray after the third year as I find it unnecessary for the most part at that point.
I am still working on a mechanical seeder that I can use in the woods without tilling. I am leaning toward the opinion that tilling the ground ...or otherwise disturbing it too much...is a main cause of disease in our ginseng. Just speculation, but I think it will have something to do with the flow of ground water through the beds. Ideally, I have an idea for a mechanical wild simulated seeder, but the time it takes to tinker with stuff like this and bring it to a working state is more than I have right now. But, I do have a couple simpler ideas for wild sim tools that might hit the ground in a couple weeks 8)
I remember the first 5 lb. of seed I bought. I drove over to Pickerel Ginseng farm in Hodgensville,Ky.( birthplace of Abe Lincoln). He had his ginseng under artificial shade.
He told me he really didn't make anything on the sang, selling seed is where the money was at,I never forgot that.
So what I'm saying is don't plant any more seed than is really necessary and then worry about transplanting later. Most seed sellers over estimate the amount needed so to sell more.
The main thing is north and northeast facing slopes and I can't stress good drainage enough or you will have disease.
I know I'll never make a lot of money at it but I love doing it and YOU decide what you can handle.
My Grandpa grew it,his cousin leonard grew it.They both had plenty and they didnt use a tractor either.Ginseng is a secret buisness.Nobody I know is going to tell you how mutch their making.But I will give you some good advice! If you aint got the right spot you`r gona fail. Be careful and dont kill your OAK TREES with that tractor!