Farming the forests of Appalachia : opportunities and challenges
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People have been informally farming their forests for generations, although only in recent years has attention been directed at formalizing this land-use practice through research and development. Forest farming is becoming popular for landowners to diversify income, improve resource management, and increase biological diversity. The social, ecological and economic implications of forest farming may be significant to private landowners. Forest farming focuses on producing herbaceous plants that traditionally have been wild-harvested for food, medicine, and other income generating opportunities. Many opportunities and challenges face landowners interested in forest farming. Many markets for forest farmed products are developing rapidly. Under-utilized species may present specialty opportunities for creative entrepreneurs. Shifting from wild-harvest to cultivation may present significant challenges to rural people who are economically marginalized. These new forest ventures may require additional skills and expertise. There may be additional capital or labor requirements that could put undue burden on interested landowners. Market demand and economies of scale may reduce the attractiveness of alternative forest enterprises. Technical challenges of cultivating native herbaceous plants under forest canopies may be daunting, as well. Opportunities and challenges abound for developing forest farming into a viable land-use practice for landowners in the Appalachian hardwood region.