Growers, buyers and sellers of ginseng came from Roan Mountain in upper East Tennessee to Perry County at the eastern edge of West Tennessee and from all parts in between.

They attended the one-day, first-time Tennessee Ginseng Growers Meeting held Friday (May 4) at Middle Tennessee State University and co-hosted by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience.

Led by MTSU faculty, Andrea Bishop, ginseng coordinator for TDEC, MTSU alumnus Paul Martin Jr. and others, the gathering helped growers, buyers and sellers learn where the industry is heading in the foreseeable future.

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"I was very happy to see so many partners from all over Tennessee," said Iris Gao, an associate professor in agribusiness and agriscience and researcher with the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research.

Gao said a survey given to the more than 60 registered attendees "will give us a better idea of the current situation of cultivation of ginseng in Tennessee. … Nobody has this kind of information, and I wish we could do more for the (ginseng) farmers."

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After speaking to the group, Martin, chief managing member of Clarity Resources LLC, said the "urbanization crush of the farmland drives the need for additional revenue sources on the land."

Martin said he will be joining MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who helped welcome the group earlier in the day, and others on an upcoming trip to China. Martin assured attendees each person going on the trip would be paying his or her own expenses and not using state funding.

Caleb Trivett, a rural Carter County, Tennessee, ginseng dealer who also teaches foraging, said he "came to see if I could help them or if they can help me. I have access to the finest ginseng strains — big and small — in the state."

In addition to Gao, Martin and Bishop, associate professors Nate Phillips and Justin Gardner and Yuhang Guo, a lecturer at the Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine and a visiting scholar, also made presentations.

Gao talked about how MTSU will help farmers grow wild-simulated ginseng and research advances in growing techniques.

Gao said the next meeting will be later this fall — late August or early September — at the time of harvest and planting season. For more information, call 615-898-2430.

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