Seeing the forest for more than the trees
While the discovery of a patch of morel mushrooms on a forest floor is enough to send the gourmands among us into a fit of epicurean ecstasy, to a property owner educated about the benefits of non-timber forest products, the find also conjures visions of dollar signs. That’s because the delicacies can fetch up to $50 per pound. Morels aren’t the only valuable non-timber product to be found in Pennsylvania’s forests. American wild ginseng, for example, brings more than $1,000 per pound.
"I see tremendous economic opportunity for Pennsylvanians to engage in various non-timber forest product industries," said Eric Burkhart, instructor and program director at Penn State Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center (www.outreach.psu.edu/shaverscreek/), a unit of Penn State Outreach. Burkhart is leading an effort that aims to educate Pennsylvania forestland owners about the benefits of growing and selling non-timber forest products, such as American ginseng, goldenseal, mushrooms, maple syrup and wild leeks, in workshops throughout the state.
Because some of these products are rare — American ginseng populations have suffered from overharvesting — Burkhart stresses to landowners the importance of conservation and growing ginseng in a sustainable way.
"I believe that everyone should do their part to conserve these resources through active planting, tending and harvesting," he said.
Michael Jacobson, Penn State associate professor of forest resources, collaborates with Burkhart and also leads efforts to promote non-timber forest products in other countries, including South Africa, Bangladesh and Mozambique.
For information, contact Eric Burkhart at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 863-2000.
This story is from the fall issue of Penn State Outreach Magazine. Go to www.outreach.psu.edu/news/magazine/CurrentIssue/ to view the magazine online.