Growing ginseng for fun and profit
February 19, 2014 11:22 AM Subscribe
A family member wants to retire a few years early and try to make some extra money growing ginseng on her property. Good or bad idea? Snowflakes within.
posted by tonycpsu to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
She lives in upstate NY on a sizable chunk of land, with plenty of natural shade. The goal would be to grow "wild-simulation" quality ginseng, which seems to be selling in the several hundreds of dollars per pound to the Asian market due to unsustainable hunting/poaching.
It sounds like you can get seeds relatively cheaply, plant them, and wait six years, or spend a bit more upfront to get rootlets, and harvest roots in 3-4 years. From what I can tell from googling, it looks like an up-front investment of about $1,000 for seeds can yield a couple hundred pounds of dried roots, or nothing at all if things aren't quite right. I also understand that New York requires ginseng sellers to be licensed, so there might be some additional costs tied up in that as well.
This family member is a green thumb who grows beautiful orchids and definitely knows what she's doing in the garden. The only major concerns are bad luck with climate / soil quality, and theft. I'm aware there's a reality show about Appalachian ginseng hunters fighting over wild roots, but the hope is that the combination of secluded private property and relative lack of attention the plants require keeps things far enough below the radar that it doesn't become a problem.
My understanding is that her retirement/pension assets will let her live relatively comfortably, so this would mostly be a hobby that could pay off a bit down the line and help fund a nice vacation or two.
So is this something people can actually do successfully, and therefore worth the risk of a four figure investment disappearing if the yield isn't spectacular? Is the price premium of buying rootlets to shave a few years off worthwhile? Just trying to get a feeling for the risk/reward calculation here so I can provide some good advice.