Strategy For Men of the West: The Best Field To Have

This post continues the line of Strategy and Tactics For Men of the West.   It’s one thing to talk a good political argument, but at the end of the day practical guidance is needed.  The key to being able to speak from a position of strength is to be anti-fragile.  An effective prostitute might be looked down on by society and will be called names and persecuted, but she will make money because her product never goes out of style.

Homesteading (having a small diversified farm) is one of the very best career choices anyone can make no matter which way one looks at it.  It’s anti-fragile, it reinforces strength, minimizes weakness and allows someone who knows what they’re doing to make a lot of money far faster than any comparable field of work.  The unsung key to this is having a good cash crop.

The trend toward legalizing marijuana will prompt articles and chatter about growing marijuana legally and it’s true that for a little while it will be possible to make a good amount of money doing so.  However, growing marijuana doesn’t compare to growing ginseng.  When I say ginseng, I don’t refer to the field cultivated ginseng or the woods-grown ginseng, I refer specifically to wild simulated ginseng.  Wild simulated ginseng is wild ginseng for all intents and purposes when it comes time to sell it.


Ginseng and China

Let’s say you’re living in Kentucky (near Frankfort), married with 3 boys, four, six and seven years old.  You’re working as a janitor making $34k (take home) but there’s a nice health care plan.  You want your wife to quit working, homeschool the boys and have a few more babies.  She loves that idea but can’t see how to afford it because even with both parents working you can barely make ends meet.  And what about the children?  How could you ever afford to send them to college?

If one looked around carefully it would be possible to find something along the lines of a 40 acre parcel of land 20-30 miles outside of town for less than $1500 an acre.  Typically these properties only have about 15 acres that are even close to flat and the rest is hillside covered with ‘young timber’.  That means it will be 30 years before the timber is worth anything, so for now it’s considered hunting land.  And, to cap it off, the property will be out in the middle of nowhere and you’ll have to drive 10 miles just to get to a gas station.

Some might say that it’s not possible to get property that cheap but that isn’t true.  But just to be sure, as of today (April 2017) a search for land in central Kentucky found several parcels from 40-75 acres that were priced at less than $1000 per acre.

The purpose of finding a farm like this is three-fold.  First, you need enough land to have a farm where you can produce most of your food.  Second, having such a farm means you can arrange your life the way you want without having to worry about what the neighbors think.  Third, such a parcel of land offers the correct habitat to grow ginseng.

Wild ginseng is almost extinct and when planted as “wild simulated” ginseng there is no difference between the wild and the wild simulated because all the planter did was help out nature by planting the seed.  The price of wild ginseng has risen dramatically in recent years and has regularly been selling for over $1000 per pound of dried weight.  The market for ginseng is China and it’s always been China.  There is no reason to expect the price of ginseng to drop or the demand to dry up.

Ginseng is a business with an increasing demand and a declining supply.

Each acre, planted correctly, will yield around 250 pounds (dried weight) of 10 year old roots.  By law, in order to comply with the international treaties governing endangered species, ginseng cannot be harvested before it’s 5 years old.  However, after 5 years the roots can be dug out of the ground and sold.  The older the roots the bigger they are and the more valuable they are.  If necessary roots could be dug to provide money every fall after the plants are 5 years old, but it’s far better to leave them in the ground to grow for as long as possible.

So, the idea is to find a place that will support all these requirements because once it’s planted it’s almost completely maintenance free.  If you’re interested in how to grow ginseng and what is required, read this short paper on the subject.  It was written in 2005, so some of the numbers are no longer accurate.  Back then wild ginseng was selling for $400 per pound and today the price is over $1000 per pound.  Anyone who had planted ten acres of ginseng twelve years ago according to those instructions now has millions of dollars worth of ginseng and the longer it stays in the ground the more valuable it gets.

While the price of seed has risen, fortunately it hasn’t seen the same increase that the wild ginseng has had.   In 2004 seed was selling for $35 per pound and the 20 pounds needed to plant an acre cost $700.  Today you’ll spend around $55 to $60 per pound if you buy it in bulk orders of #100 pounds or more.   You may need to go to Wisconsin to get it, because seed that’s sold retail online is upwards of $100 per pound.  Which means planting an acre of wild simulated ginseng will cost $1100 to $1200 per acre in seed at 20 pounds per acre.   Putting in ten acres will cost $11,000 to $12,000 just for the seed.

On the bright side, where else can you invest $150,000 and get a home to live in, plenty of room to produce food, have very low utility costs and live a rural and secure life…  and 8-10 years later start harvesting a crop that’s worth over $100,000 a year for life?  Yes, it takes a bit of work but that’s more of a blessing than you might think.  In order to steal it a thief will spend a lot of time and make a huge mess.  If you’re on top of things you’ll know and be able to take appropriate action.


Hiring Labor For Harvesting And Planting

The most labor intensive part is harvesting and it takes between 500 and 600 man hours of hard, focused work to harvest an acre of ginseng with 24,000 plants.  Do you really need $250,000 a year?  Perhaps you can be satisfied with only $125,000 per year.  That’s around 250 to 300 man hours of harvest time.  Since you have a debt-free home with extremely low utility costs and produce most of your food, can you barely scrape by with only $62,500 a year?  That’s just 125 to 150 man hours of harvest labor.  If you have a wife and two teenage children to help dig it up, you can knock it out in a standard work-week.  But, if the crop is that valuable, why not hire labor to dig it for you?

You can build housing and provide all the amenities for a small labor force and hire a crew from out of state to come in and harvest your ginseng.  You bus them in, have them harvest the ginseng, plant a few acres of seed and then bus them out again.  If you pay them $15 (in cash, it’s casual labor) for every pound of root they dig (after cleaning) and have a percentage that you dock them for broken roots and necks as well as a bonus for intact man-roots, your cost of labor on each pound of dry ginseng sold is less than 5%.  Every three pounds of fresh root will dry to about 1 pound of dry weight.

All you have to do is supervise.  If you hired twenty-two laborers you’d get somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 man hours of labor in the field each day and have a cook and a helper to feed them.  If they’re digging a pound of root per hour, that’s $150 a day for a 10 hour day so you’ll need $3000 in cash every day to pay them.   They’ll dig up around 1 acre every three days, so having them there for a week to dig out two acres will cost you around $20k in cash.  You own a farm and produce a lot of food so providing 400 meals shouldn’t be a problem.   The cook and his (or her) helper can do laundry during the day to keep them in clean clothing.

When it’s over you bus them back where they came from.  Each man made around a thousand dollars for a week’s work and you’ve got around a half-million dollars worth of ginseng in your drying sheds.  If you need a big payout for a single season, this is the way to do it.

Keep in mind that requires the facilities to house and feed the labor but it only gets used for labor (at most) once a year.  The rest of the time you’ve got facilities that can be used for family reunions and things like that.   When things get ugly, it’s a place to put people who are worth saving because you’ll need the manpower to stay safe.  Having some trusted people who make your farm their bug-out location can be a very good thing.  Or maybe you could make a kids camp with cottages and a central meeting house for meals and entertainment with a commercial kitchen that doubles as a canning kitchen for processing food.  I’m reliably told that kids camps are huge money-losers for tax purposes.

The one thing you DO NOT want to do is declare this to be some sort of ginseng farming operation for taxes.  You don’t want the government to know it’s there at all.

The bottom line is the older the plants get the more valuable they become, so if the money isn’t needed and sufficient funds are on hand to cover the coming year’s spending (with some set aside for emergencies), it’s better to leave the ginseng in the ground to keep growing and getting older.  China isn’t going anywhere.


An Example Of What To Look For

In this example I’ll try to demonstrate what kind of things to look for from the land itself.  Ginseng does best on a north-facing slope under a 70% shade cover in moist but not wet soil.  The nutrient requirements are beyond the scope of this but it isn’t difficult to find rural land that has these attributes.

One of the properties on sale now is a 74.15 acre parcel with an asking price of $65,000.  That’s the asking price for the land, $875 per acre.  Personally I wouldn’t haggle because for a homestead that can grow ginseng it’s a real bargain.  I don’t know how long that listing will be up so the link is to an archived page.  The price is excellent, but let’s look at why it’s a good deal.  Because even at $850 an acre, plenty of land might be completely unsuitable.  This property is actually a very good option from what an be seen online and one of the really good points is the realtor put a topography map with the property boundaries on the listing.  Take a look.

What you can see from this is debatable, but I see potential because there are two sections of north-facing hillside that would be excellent for growing ginseng (circled in red) and a good spot to put in a large lake (in blue).

The biggest problem in that part of the country is water, because the ground is hydraulically tight and getting a water well is almost impossible.  Putting in a good-sized lake would ensure that the farm had an adequate supply of water and after that it’s a matter of pumping it to where you want it.  This is a satellite view:

The ridge-top land can (and should) be cleared to create productive pasture land.  That would probably come out to around 40 acres and a good bulldozer operator should be able to knock out clearing out the trees and some of the stumps in a week or so, running at $400 to $600 per day.  To give you an idea of the lay of the land, this is more of a terrain photo from satellite imagery:

This property is better than most when it comes to good land for homesteading and growing ginseng because there’s at least ten acres of excellent terrain and perhaps another ten acres of terrain that would work but isn’t as good.

Due to the drastically reduced cost of living associated with producing your own food and not having much in the way of utility costs, you will have a choice.  One is to use all the excess income over expenses to purchase tools and supplies for the farm in order to get the farm up and running as fast as possible.  The other is to use excess income to pay off the mortgage as quickly as possible.

A third way is to first establish a savings of 1 year’s worth of expenses and after that, spend all available funds on developing the farm, but in the first year the farm will be planted with as much ginseng as possible.  Preparing the ground for planting ginseng is labor intensive, as is planting it.  Getting ten acres planted is not easy.

Plant 10 acres of wild simulated ginseng as soon as possible and after 5 years start harvesting seeds.  If planted correctly the ginseng will produce about 10 pounds per acre each year.  Keep planting your own land in any area that will support ginseng.   For the first five years, there isn’t a lot to do other than prepare areas for planting ginseng when you start producing seed.  There are two ways to do this.

Purchase the land and do whatever it takes to get the ginseng planted.  Perhaps all you can afford to plant is two or three acres, but plant as much as you possibly can and keep doing it every year.  Let’s say that at the end of four planting seasons you have something like this.  The heroic effort the first year was four acres, followed by two, then three, then five.

In year five, in the fall, you’ll harvest your first crop of seed and get it in the ground to stratify it.  Starting in the fall of year six harvest the berries and get them stratified.  This is the point of the big decision.

There are four acres of ginseng that is legal to harvest and you can plan on getting anywhere from 125 to 140 pounds (dried weight) to the acre if it’s dug up now.  So if one uses the general figure of $1000 per pound, the whole thing is worth anywhere between $500k and $560k.  So, the question is whether you really need the money and how much money you need.

You will have the funds necessary to pay off any debt, set aside money to build your family home, purchase equipment and improve the property and make other improvements.  It’s also plenty of money to get stupidly purchase things that will raise your profile amongst the locals.

It is at this point you can quit your regular job because the homestead is now paying you far better than you could possibly earn otherwise.  A wise course of action is to have a budget that allocates a salary for the coming year, pays off debt, allows the purchase of equipment and improvements, provides a healthy emergency fund and provides for a short vacation.  Dig up enough ginseng to meet the requirements of that amount and leave the rest in the ground.

No longer being in debt your expenses will decrease and you won’t need as much money, but you will have the time to work full-time on your homestead.  Now will be the time to implement your farm plan that you’ve been working on for the past five years.  You’ll build support buildings, run water lines, add livestock, plant trees, vines and bushes for production and in general turn it into an orderly farm.  You’ll also be able to afford to start putting in hedges on the perimeter of your farm.

During this time your job will be to learn by doing.  No amount of reading books, watching videos and talking to people will substitute for actually doing the work.  You will make mistakes and things won’t always work out as planned.  This is the time to start producing food products from your farm to sell to local buyers.  Learn how to raise cattle, hogs, chickens, goats and rabbits.  Install an aquaculture setup and learn how to work it and produce food with it.  Learn all about growing organic produce and keeping the varmints out of it.  If you’re working this full-time, there is no way you can possibly eat all the food you produce and selling to the public is a good way to make some money and make some friends.  Focus on selling to homeschooling families.  In a few years their daughters will be your son’s best prospects for marriage.  If you’re young enough, some of them might be your best prospects for marriage.

Each year, harvest the berries and stratify the seed.  Dig up the previous year’s seed and plant it, then harvest the minimum amount of ginseng necessary to fund your operation and pay your salary.  There should be no need to take out more than a quarter-acre each year.  Five years later, you will finally have ten year old ginseng to dig and market.  From that point on, you should not be selling any root that is less than ten years old.

Whatever is left of your first four acres will be ten years old, with the age of the rest of it shown on the chart.  Now is the time to build your house and think about getting married.   The truth is, you could have done this at any point after year six, but this depends on your age when you begin.  You could be in your 40’s when you start this and it doesn’t matter because it takes more time when you’re older because you don’t have as much energy as a man in his twenties.

You should be able to see why you should plant as much ginseng as possible in the beginning, especially if you’re older.  It’s hard work and the work will only get harder as you get older.  The longer it grows the bigger the roots get and the more valuable they get.

By the time the 20 year mark hits, there should still be at least 5 of the original 10 acres left.  Twenty-year old ginseng roots are extremely valuable and rare.   Ginseng is like money in the bank that’s locked up in a 1-year CD’s that the government can’t steal and doesn’t even know about.  When you are selling hundreds of pounds of premium roots every year, you can get buyers to travel to your farm and purchase it there.  There are a number of ways to be paid that will minimize your tax burden and dealing with the buyers from China, it gets easy.

You really want to be at the point of selling individual roots rather than selling by the pound.  The very best prices come from old “man root” roots like the ones in the photo below.  They resemble a man and are extremely valuable in Chinese herbal medicine.

Man roots, extremely valuable

Setting Up The Children

This plan offers more opportunity to generate wealth with less risk than sending a kid to college and then out to find a job.  In case you missed it, this is how to set things up so you can be free later in life with plenty of money to pursue other goals.

Consider that the properly homeschooled children are completing a bachelors degree around age 15.  By taking a long view and keeping an eye on appropriate properties, a man can buy farms for his sons when they’re 14-15 and they can get started with their own farm while they’re young. Plant the ginseng first and have him get started building a cottage and support structures.  Move him to the farm at 18-19 to get it into production as a homestead. Live the first few years in a super-insulated cottage (which can be an office or guest house later) and when he’s 24-27 years old he can pull out enough to build a home, be self employed and have a net worth of several million dollars. At that point he’s ready to get married, hopefully.

Women looking at the farm, the debt-free lifestyle and the freedom it offers will be extremely interested if they have their heads screwed on straight.  That brings up the problem of finding an appropriate wife or wives for the sons.  The boys should be completely red-pilled and have rock-solid game by the time they’re in their early twenties.  Having been taking martial arts instruction since they were 12-13 years old along with weight training, they should look good and have the confidence that comes from being able to take care of themselves.

Before the women, first he has to build his castle.  There are many ways to do that, a few of which are much better than the others.  You’ll be able to give him advice because you’ll have done the same thing years before.  That’s the subject of the next post, but let’s look at some common objections to becoming completely self-sufficient, anti-fragile and wealthy in less than ten years.  For this we’ll return to the property example used above.


But, It’s So Rural!  There’s Nothing To Do!

The fact that it’s so rural is a blessing, you idiot.  Is it necessary to point out that the property in question is in an area that’s practically lilly-white?  It isn’t that there isn’t anything to do, it’s that American’s have become addicted to entertainment.  On a homestead there’s plenty of work to do, but plenty of ways to have fun and get some enjoyment out of life.

The remote location isn’t nearly as remote as one might think.  The closest place with some modern consumer-driven madness is Danville, which is a 45 minute drive away.  It has a variety of businesses, all the big-box stores and some reasonable restaurants along with all the fast-feed places.  There are several colleges and several active theater groups.  This map gives you an idea how far out in the country it really isn’t.

Another hour up the road will get you to Lexington and if you keep going north you get you to Cincinnati in just under three hours.  If you head west and south, Nashville is also about three hours away.

Another point about this property is there’s enough room to have a runway that’s between 1400 and 1500 feet long, which is more than enough for light planes because with the trees cleared on the west end of the point, the ground drops away steeply and the plane will have an altitude of over 200 feet without climbing.  All the plane has to do is keep climbing and turn west.   With that much runway, getting a Piper Cherokee Six-300 or a Cessna C-185 in and out would be easy.

Ultralights and gyrocopters are also something that could be a lot of fun and quite handy at some point.  When it comes time to sell your roots, do you want to be driving around with many tens of thousands of dollars in hard-earned product?  Do you want the locals to know what you’re doing?  The answer is no.  Fly the stuff up to Wisconsin and sell it there.

This area is practically lilly-white, which means that when things get really ugly, it’s a good place for gentle folk who don’t want to witness the coming genocide.  Partly because of the demographics and partly because it’s in the middle of nowhere and the only people who might cause problems are neighbors.  When something like the US take-down scenario happens, there won’t be any roving gangs to come through if for no other reason than there isn’t anything there to steal and there won’t be any fuel available for a good many miles in every direction.  This place is off the main path by a long shot.  Neighbors might be a problem, but better the devil you know.

Yes, there will be neighbors who are hurting but once the municipal water system stops working, rural locations without an independent water supply will be untenable.  Unlike many other areas of the country in which rural locations have water wells, this area of Kentucky doesn’t.   Without supplies of fuel there won’t be any travel by motor vehicle, which means travel on foot or on horseback.  That means ten miles is suddenly a long way away and a thirty-mile trip will be a long day’s trip.


What Do You Want Out Of Life?

What’s the point of getting married and starting a family if you’re going to be divorce-raped 7-10 years down the road?  Maybe you can learn how to avoid that.

What’s the point of climbing the ladder if it’s leaning against the wrong wall?  Maybe you can make sure it’s the right wall before climbing the ladder.

What’s the point of climbing the ladder to get over the right wall if there is a doorway through the wall?  What would you give for the key to the lock?

What’s the point of making $100k a year if you are living hand-to-mouth and in debt up to your eyeballs?

What’s the point of that great STEM job if you have to endure living in a feminist, politically correct hell in which you can have your career destroyed by an innocent remark or laugh?

What’s the point of spending years studying STEM, getting a job in a hostile environment and working for decades just to have a reasonably comfortable life when you can do it in ten years or less by homesteading and be far wealthier while living a great lifestyle?

Oh….  I forgot.  Someone told you that it isn’t FUN.

Fun is a marketing concept designed to sell products you don’t need and can’t really afford that will make your life worse in the long run.  Yep, you’ll get a great deal of satisfaction spending 60 hours a week in your cube farm.  But you’re living in the city and it’s “FUN”!


In Conclusion…

I know of no other long-term investment that offers such excellent returns in such a short period of time and facilitates a rural, healthy and independent lifestyle than growing ginseng.

There are plenty of people who will claim that men should get degrees in STEM and get good jobs, but compared to this plan, it’s crazy.   With the help of parents who understand this operation, a son can start working his own farm when he’s fifteen.  He should have his own home on his own farm by the age of 20.  At the age of 25 he will have the funds available to do some serious work on the farm such as building a family home and be prepared to get married and start a family a few years after that.

No matter how old you are, there is a homesteading solution for you that will increase your quality of life and decrease your cost of living, often dramatically.  Homesteading provides more opportunities for children to learn responsibility and grow into responsible adults than any other lifestyle available and it’s available to almost everyone.

If the homestead is located in a suitable geographic location on suitable terrain, growing ginseng is appropriate and there is no better way for an ordinary family to make money than growing ginseng.  This is the most anti-fragile lifestyle and career one can have which will provide lucrative returns on the investment that far outstrip anything else.

This entry was posted in Ginseng, Healthy Living, Messages to a young man, Strategy For Men of the West. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Strategy For Men of the West: The Best Field To Have

  1. Some guy says:

    I’ve been researching about growing ginseng since I graduated college and realized that I had grabbed a shit sandwich instead of a gold ring off of the banquet table of life. I finally have the school loans paid off; so, now I’m saving for land. I’ve read stories on the history of ginseng and it is apparently the way that many early leading Americans built their fortunes.

    Other ideas for cash crops that I’ve run across: Christmas trees (Nov – Dec), Watermelons (July – September), the Corn Maze / Apple Orchard / Pumpkin patch Autumn trifecta (September – October), Salad Microgreens (potentially all year long if you have a green house), Maple Syrup (February – April).

    • I can tell you from experience that growing ginseng has some important points that are quite often overlooked or unknown.

      1. Location, location, location. I have only heard of a handful of people who actually purchased land specifically to grow ginseng and took their time to find the most ideal place. Very few people grow ginseng and almost all of them do so on land they already own, so only the lucky have any ideal growing habitat. However, if one is to start out with the idea of getting land for growing ginseng first and homesteading second, it gets easier. Because it’s a long-term business the location should be chosen carefully.

      2. The amount of shade is critical. I experimented with this for years and right at 70% to 75% is ideal. Once you get past 85% shade you are cutting into the growth-rate of the plants. This is a long-term business and getting optimal growth of the ginseng involves occasionally thinning out the trees, as well as trimming limbs from the trees. The result over a 30-40 year period is a stand of very valuable hardwood trees. This is a critical factor when looking at land to purchase and it means one really needs to look at the land during the summer on a sunny day.

      3. The thing about growing on the north slope has more to do with the moisture in the soil than anything else because the north slopes tend to stay cooler. Many of the slopes under the trees don’t have a lot of organic matter in the topsoil, so if there is a way to blow compost in among the trees do it. And, yes, it takes tons of compost to do that. In the alternate you can feed cows over the winter in woodlot areas that will eventually get used for growing ginseng. Put the big round bales out in different spots and the cows will eat, scatter the hay and poop a lot in those areas. This mimics the action of the huge flights of birds like the carrier pigeons that are now extinct.

      4. Supplement the soil with gypsum to increase the calcium without raising the ph of the soil (ginseng prefers a more acid soil). If necessary, use sulfur to lower the ph (read the guide I linked to). In addition (this didn’t make it into the guide) supplement with alluvial silt (really mineral rich additive). I put it on the garden, on pastures and in ginseng-growing areas and it’s amazing. Within a few years after putting an alluvial silt supplement on the soil, the growth of the trees will be significant enough to be clearly visible from the air when compared to the nearby trees that didn’t get the supplements.

      5. Grow it in industrial quantities. This is your best security from thieves due to the amount of time it takes to harvest the ginseng. On one hand it is obviously cultivated and that makes it a lot easier to prove theft, on the other hand anyone who gets into your growing location and digs it will make a mess. All you have to do is regularly check on it, especially during digging season. It all comes down to putting enough seed in the soil.

      6. If you have an outbreak of disease, be ruthless in rooting it out.and cover that area with a lot of compost. Then tape off that spot and don’t walk on it again lest you manage to get the spores on your shoes and carry them elsewhere. Still, by looking to the health of your soil I believe the plants are much more resistant to disease.

      7. Be prepared (if possible) to operate a network of sprinklers in the hot portions of summer to keep the soil moist. In a really dry summer this might mean the difference between moving forward and losing a significant portion of your crop (if not all of it).

      8. Have a drying shed set up and ready before digging any significant amount of roots. During the period of drying the ginseng roots will lose 2/3 of their weight (water) and that can be significant if ventilation isn’t adequate because the crop can be ruined by becoming moldy. I like the dehydrator kiln units that are used for small-scale lumber drying. The other point about the drying shed is security. Considering the value of the ginseng and the fact that it takes so much labor to harvest, the logical point at which to rob a ginseng farm is the drying shed after harvest. A hundred pounds of premium root that’s drying in the shed will be worth over $100k and people regularly get killed for far less money than that.

      9. Don’t sell locally unless you absolutely have to and then only in small amounts. Develop relationships with established buyers who can handle large volume and try to move up the food-chain of buyers.

      10. Finally, have a secure source of income for the first 6-7 years while getting the ginseng operation up and running if you have a family. Women don’t do austerity very well and they’re like children. They don’t care that in a few years everything will change, all they’re concerned with is RIGHT NOW. If enough feel-bad builds up, when the money finally starts rolling in the only thing they may be able to see is a divorce payday that’s finally worth filing for.

      • Some guy says:

        “…if there is a way to blow compost in among the trees do it.” If your major paths between planting beds are relatively flat, and if your compost is sort of fluffy, you could lay out the compost along the path and then use a snow blower to blow it down hill. I would probably spray the auger blades and chute with silicon first.

        • I got to use a shredder/blower for blowing straw onto freshly planted ground once. It worked really well with a truckload of compost. It was the kind of machine construction crews use in highway construction when they have to cover large areas of freshly planted dirt.

          A lot of the compost stuck to the trees and washed off with the first rain. I did it in the fall when the leaves were about to come off the trees, so the leaves would cover the compost and keep it from being washed off the hillsides. It worked well. The problem is in getting sufficient quantities of compost.

  2. podethelesser says:

    The only point I would take issue with is that the market for your cash crop is literally on the other side of the planet. This is not an issue so long as trade with and travel to/from China is viable, but if that ever changes your investment is wiped out.

    • John Jacob Astor founded his fortune in the mid 1700’s when he sent a shipload of ginseng to China. Some three years later a shipload of silver returned. Arguably there was no trade with China back then.

      Given the number of intermediaries who would and could trade with China, it isn’t that trade with China would have to be cut, but all international trade would have to be cut in order for this scenario to be real. That leaves smuggling, and for a very high-value product, there will always be smugglers. Think about the amounts of marijuana that are still smuggled here and there around the world, much more bulky and less valuable than ginseng.

      Then consider the impact the darknet and markets such as SilkRoad had on the established and illegal drug distribution networks. Or, the impact of Amazon and Ebay have had on legal commerce. That’s already here for international trade and markets like alibaba have proved that.

      And all this assumes there is no market for ginseng in the US, when it may very well be that the problem is lack of research. With the major trend of legalization of marijuana, who knows what a good blend of cannibinoid and ginsenocide alkaloids might do in terms of human physiology? I recall a combination of coca nut and cocaine that turned out to be really popular in the form of a carbonated beverage.

      The bottom line is for conditions to be so bad there was no possible trade with China, a great many export commodities would likewise be worthless in the moment. However, things change and the ginseng can sit in the ground and keep growing. Who knows what might happen in 10, 20 or 30 years? Eventually trade will be possible and the crop will be even more valuable whenever the trade continues again.

      Even at the height of the lunacy with Mao and all his crazy cultural revolution ideas, there was no break in the trade in ginseng. So what if it went through Canada? It went through.

  3. Some guy says:

    Also, what technique are you using to measure the percentage of shade?

    • It’s what you’d call an ‘inexact science’. In the past I’ve used photos at mid-morning, noon and early afternoon that I superimposed a grid on. Had a friend use a climbing deerstand to get more of a downward angle for the photos to do the same thing. Part statistical sampling and part guesstimation.

      Maximum sun will come between 1100 and 1300. Before and after that the amount of sunlight hitting the forest floor is a lot less due to the angle of the sun and the increased amount of canopy the sunlight has to penetrate.

      The amount of sun will also depend on the slope with the amount of sunlight going from highest on a Southern slope and decreasing for Western, Eastern and Northern slopes. The grade also plays into it. A gentle Southern slope will get a lot more sun than a steep Northern slope.

      With young timber that’s been select-cut within the past few years there can be a lot of variance, but the trees will experience a lot of growth (increased canopy) when the soil is supplemented with alluvial silt and gypsum.

      I know a man in Missouri who started trimming his trees back in the 1980’s to get a better stand of hardwood and he planted a lot of trees on his pasture because he didn’t want to run cows any longer. He had a job working for the power company so he didn’t have to worry too much about paying the bills. The ginseng was discovered by accident around 1990 and he started planting it. He now has some prime ginseng and he figures that can keep going as long as it keeps getting replanted, but in the end he has a fantastic stand of hardwood providing cover that will sell as veneer logs if they’re ever cut. Lots of cherry, maple, white oak and some walnut.

      Like most, he guesstimates on the shade, but he’s pretty ruthless when it comes to thinning his trees because he sees the trees as a back-end crop after the ginseng. I know that on a few occasions he’s had to rig shade underneath the trees for a season because he thinned out too much. His POV is to trim out the shade to the point the plants are about to burn and the trees will gradually increase the canopy to make more shade, but it keeps the right balance for a few years until it’s time to thin and trim again.

      He’s somewhere in his late 60’s now and last I heard he had one son who is living on the farm and taking care of the ginseng, but he has other kids and was struggling with inheritance issues. When he finally dug some root out of the ground he got all his kids together to help dig it and sent them all a share of the money when it was sold. After that they got eager to grow ginseng and he found land for them, bought it and used the seed from his own place to plant it. Inheritance issues went away.

      During the winter months they use a boom-truck to trim the trees, going in after the ground is frozen. He started off with about 30 acres and planted an additional 20 acres of cherry, walnut and maple back in the 80’s and has ginseng under that now. He has a pretty good pond of about 2 acres and pumps water for irrigation when it’s dry in the summer.

      The original stuff that got planted is now almost 30 years old but he didn’t learn to plant heavy until after 10 years into growing it in the early 2000’s. It was in 2006-2007 that they decided to replant some of the best spots, so they selectively dug out some of the old stuff and replanted in stripes. That was the first of the ginseng that he dug out and sold, which caused all his kids to get *very* interested in growing ginseng. They now look at it as the perfect retirement business.

  4. Some guy says:

    I imagine that a soft, moist soil with a lot of organic matter would make it easier to dig up the roots. Any advice on techniques or tools for digging?

    • I used an old ice axe with a short handle. I’ve seen guys use everything from pieces of rebar to old-fashioned adze heads on short handles. You never know which way the root goes so you have to be careful and the problem is the roots from the trees.

      I usually use the vertical blade about 6″ out to chop through roots in a “U” shape around the root and then use the horizontal blade to bite deep and lift up on the soil. After that it’s a matter of working the root loose. This is one of those things you just have to do a few times before you understand.

      The major reason it’s so difficult is because the neck has to stay attached to the root. If it breaks off, the root is unsalable because there’s no way to know how old it is apart from the annual scars on the neck.

      I’ve heard of people using high-pressure water to go after really old roots but never seen it done.

  5. Dennise says:

    My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome weblog!

  6. Some guy says:

    “Women don’t do austerity very well ”
    I certainly recognize that too much homesteading can make Jack a dull boy. So, to put “feel-goods” entries in the relationship bank, or in other words to fight cabin fever, my strategy for a while has successfully been to take family day / short trips to cultural centers.

    So, for my land search, I am using driving time to the nearest Trader Joe’s as an additional search factor with Trader Joe’s as a shorthand indicator for a certain cultural milieu.

    For just a couple hundred dollars (or often less with planning!), you can go to town and have a rich variety of experiences: pour-over mocha lattes for the adults and hot chocolates for the kids at a indie café, a trip to Trader Joe’s for Belgian Chocolate and European cheeses, maybe a play or a museum tour or an art gallery viewing, a stop at Nordstrom’s (which offers free / low cost personal shopper and tailoring services for all customers) for a new blouse, and a meal of poutine with quince aioli (or some such) at a hip restaurant before going home to feed the chickens.

    This past winter, for ~$400 after rebates, we took a 4-5 day trip to Manhattan. For months, the children’s imaginary games have featured tall buildings and multiple lanes of traffic. And, my wife’s desire for travel has been pleasantly satiated. It seems to have given everyone a mental recharge.

  7. Gary Eden says:

    I don’t know much about ginseng, but I spoke recently with someone who used to grow it. Used to. It used to be really good money. Things got hot, everyone got in, including Canada who could grow it cheaper and then export it even cheaper due to currency differences.

    Boom meet bust. Not so many people growing Ginseng now.

    Like I said, I don’t grow it. Things could have changed again. But don’t go headlong into this thinking its the ticket to money. Talk to existing growers, run the economics, make very very detailed spreadsheets. You’d be shocked the number of people running business who think they’re very profitable but aren’t at all because they don’t do the books. Sometimes a minimum wage job is more profitable.

    And this advise is generalizable. The ag community seems to go through fazes with this niche crops; it always follows a boom bust cycle. Tuplips, emus, ostrich, various different grains, goats, sheep, various different pig, cow and chicken breeds, various types of pig/cow within breeds, registered livestock, ginseng, buffalo, etc etc.

    So talk to people, run the numbers, find out if there is a market.

    • I suspect your friend was growing field grown, possibly woods grown. I was talking about wild-simulated ginseng, a completely different product. Wild ginseng is becoming an endangered species and the price last year was ~$1000 per pound dried weight.

      As to whether there is a market, there most definitely is. Field grown ginseng is a commodity and woods grown ginseng is becoming a commodity, but the wild ginseng becomes more valuable every year.

      The reason most people will never get into it is it takes way too long. Absolute minimum of 6 years to even be allowed to legally sell it. Better to wait 10 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s