China goes wild over
Bv JERRY KEsSEL
It's wild. It's wonderful in the eyes of its users. It grows in West Virginia. It is ginseng. As a regenerative tonic, ginseng is one of the most
widely used herbs in China. With demand increasing, Chinese entrepreneurs are looking to West Virginia for wild, wild-simulated, and woods-grown ginseng, also called "sang," to fill their orders. Zeke Wood, a former extension agent, initiated the WVU Extension Service ginseng project in the early 1990s. His idea that ginseng could be a money-maker for rural landowners propelled five others to work closely with him. Three-extension agents Dave Cooke, Sam Rogers, and John Scott Jr.-have taken the
project into the international marketplace. After securing a $35,000 Benedum Foundation grant, the agents began the commercial ginseng project in Boone, Lincoln, Logan, and Mercer counties. They bought oneyear-old roots and seeds from Scott Persons of Tuckasegee, N.C. "He's really helped us," agent Scott said. "I think he's the premier guru of ginseng production." The Mercer County agent continued, "Then we put together a conference last continued on Page 3
Greetings from Morgantown! Let me start my brief remarks by introducing Lawrence Cote, whose picture accompanies mine in the header. Dr. Cote has been named the new associate provost for Extension and Public Service at West Virginia University and director of the Cooperative Extension Service. He comes to us from Penn State's Great Valley Graduate Center at Malvern, Pa., where he served as the executive officer for the last 14 years. His background and experience are quite varied, including a tour in Vietnam in the late '60s and a lot of work with communitybased organizations in southeastern Pennsylvania. Larry and his wife, Mary Kay, are looking forward to the new assignment here. I hope that all of you will help me as we transition to his leadership and that you soon will have an opportunity to meet and visit with him a bit. And so, to Larry - a warm welcome to wild, wonderful West Virginia! There are always questions about focus, direction, and priorities as institutions and individuals negotiate and manage change. These issues 2
viewpoint often arise as we plan programs, hire new employees, and look to the future. As we envision the future of our state and our university, we know there are major changes in the offing - in funding mechanisms, in the application of technology, and in the expressed needs and aspirations of our people in a rapidly changing society. All of these factors have direct and indirect effects on extension employees and programs. But I want to express a view that I know is shared by our new associate provost as we move through the transition phase to his leadership: While change is all around us, there are core values that do not change regardless of who is at the helm. What are these core values? I believe there are four: we value good teaching and highquality presentation of information; our subject matter information is research based and can withstand rigorous scientific inquiry; we understand and demonstrate the true meaning of partnership with our colleagues in Washington, in Charleston, on campus, and in the villages and communi-
ties of our state; and we apply the principles of diversity in our work with every segment of our society. For me, these are constants - they should never change - because they are the guideposts that truly define our work. I firmly believe our adherence to these core values assures the future of West Virginia University's outreach during this transition of leadership and on into the 21st century. As always, your university welcomes comments and perspective on our work. I have enjoyed my time in the extension chair. I hope that I can stay in the loop as I embark on a new and somewhat different chapter in my life as a retiree. Along with my best regards to you all, my thanks for your support and guidance over the years. Enjoy this issue's articles on some of our unique programs.
Bob Maxwell, Interim Associate Provost & Director
Extension Vision: Winter 1997
continued from Page I
spring at Pipestem. Every person I contacted wanted to be on the program. A hundred people showed up." The Benedum grant also helped to establish research plots involving more than 30 landowners and to fu'1d some printed materials, a video on ginseng production, and a manuscript for a 4-H ginseng project. Logan County agent Rogers believes, "This is an outstanding long-term project for 4-H'ers needing future income." "The potential is tremendous," Scott emphasized. "Some West Virginia hillsides (north side in particular) take 100 years for timber. Ginseng takes in the neighborhood of seven years, depending on management practices." Any West Virginian may dig ginseng on his or her own land. Veteran diggers refer to themselves as "sangers." The annual collecting season begins Aug. 15 and ends Nov. 30. When the berries are red, the roots are ready to be dug. Ginseng can be bought and sold from Aug. 15 through March 31. Diggers are requested to plant the seeds from the plants they harvest at the site of the digging. Ginseng takes two years to germinate and another three years to flower and seed. Selective harvesting guarantees an annual or biennial crop. According to Boone County agent Cooke, "A lot of growers won't admit they're growers because of security reasons." Since ginseng is a wild plant, Extension Vision: Winter 1997
Woodland seHing produces hardy ginseng.
Root of young ginseng holds future promise.
some folks believe they have the right (which they don't) to hunt and dig it on anyone's land. And, dig it they do. As the agents work with ginseng growers and dealers, they also encourage woodlot
owners to plant ginseng on northern and northeastern slopes for future income. Simply put, select locations with good growing conditions for ginseng.
In 1995, West Virginia ginseng roots sold for just over $9 millon, making ginseng the state's No.2 cash crop. All ginseng sales must be registered through the state Division of Forestry. Ginseng is sold at varying stages of the marketing cycle. Buyers at all levels must be registered dealers of ginseng who keep records of purchases, amounts, dates, and other data. Nearly 10,000 diggers sell 18,000 pounds of West Virginia ginseng annually to more than 80 registered dealers, either on a one-to-one basis or at auctions. More volume needed
"With the demand increasing from China for West Virginia woods-grown, wildsimulated, and wild ginseng, Mountain State growers stand to reap great dollars from this crop," Scott said. "Dave and I have been working with the West Virginia Fur and Root Association and their auction sales. Last spring, the price of dried ginseng was $505 per pound for wild 'sang.' By December 1996, prices 4
ranged between $352 and $400 per pound. The major problem is volume. We need more volume to meet the demand," Scott declared. The association's ginseng auction sales are bonded, and a 7 percent commission is deducted for sale costs. The sales are held on weekends in January, March, September, and December at the Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park (County Fairgrounds) near the Nicholas County High School on U.S. 19 at Summersville. R. D. (Raymond) Dishner of Rock, president of the approximately 900-member association, noted that "buyers can fly into Summersville now and they're 20 minutes from the auction." Numerous dealers from across the United States attend. "Forty-five percent of the ginseng I buy as a dealer is green," Dishner lamented. The diggers want their money. I tell them to dry it and then come back to see me and I can pay them more. Natural drying takes several weeks. They insist they need the money
right away, often for school clothes for their children." Scott, Cooke, and Andy Hankins, a colleague from Virginia, spent most of July in China on a ginseng studyresearch-business tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Chinese Ministry of Agriculture. Included were talks at the Jilin Ginseng Group Company Ltd., the largest ginseng factory in the world. Jilin Province produces 82 percent of China's total ginseng harvest and exports ginseng worldwide. Following their discussions and examination of samples of West Virginia ginseng, Scott said, "Lui Chang Zhen, Jilin's board chairman and president, is eager to visit West Virginia and buy various types of ginseng roots." Scott and Cooke returned to West Virginia with the first U.S.-China Ginseng Research Agreements of Understanding. They believe "the time is excellent for investment in growing woods-grown or wildsimulated American ginseng for sale to the Chinese."
Extension Vision: Winter 1 997
Special kids learn from
BY GRACE TRUMAN
Ryan Saxe learned how to help someone take on new responsibilities. Stacey Gebhardt learned ways to be supportive and cooperative. Ricky Burgess helped a friend to understand death. Teamwork, cooperation, partnering, sharing ... in a livestock project? Absolutely. Those are the hallmarks of the 4-H Special Lamb project in Cabell and Putnam counties. Over the last decade, the project has evolved from an interesting experiment into a solid educational program that teaches young participants about lambs and much more. The Special Lamb project pairs 4-H or Future Farmers of America members with physically or mentally disabled youngsters. Each pair takes on
the challenge of raising a market lamb and showing and selling it at the county fair. "It's a great learning experience for the kids," said Vickie Willcox, a sheep farmer and volunteer who heads the program in Cabell County. "They Jearn how to care for a lamb and more importantly, how to work together." Each team receives its lamb in the spring and raises it for about four months. In the program's early years, the lamb was automatically placed in the custody of the nondisabled child. Now, an assessment is performed, and the lamb may stay with whichever child has the support, ability, and place to keep the animal. Regardless of where the lamb is living, both youths share in its care over the spring and summer. The chores include daily
Putnam County's Andy Erwin and his 4-H partner Beth Johnson receive their lamb.
feeding and walking, weekly baths, careful record keeping, and regular training to prepare for the show ring. Willcox says the lambs' gentle ways win over even those youngsters who have never cared for an animal before. I've seen kids come out of their shell simply by having a lamb," she said. "Even kids who don't talk to people will talk to a lamb. They bond very quickly."
WVU extension agents Cristina HaddixHodges, left, and James Asbury make plans with Vickie Willcox, Cabell County Special Lamb coordinator, while young Andrew Willcox chats with a lamb.
Jonathan Adams of Huntington and Jessica Maier of Lesage meet the young lamb that they will raise to market weight together.
stroll through the livestock area at the fairgrounds attested to the truth of her words. "I love Jasmine," declared a beaming Beth Curry, 14, a special-needs child from Ona. She tenderly stroked the 110-pound Suffolk ewe lamb she raised with 4-H partner Stacey Gebhardt, 15, of 6
Glenwood. After a summer of working together, the girls and their lamb were readying themselves for the final chapter: showing Jasmine at the Cabell County Fair. Nearby, Aaron Cyrus, 17, and his partner, Ryan Saxe, 14, gently coaxed their lamb Daisy onto the trim stand for last-minute primping. Their parents stood nearby, watching them work. "He's been talking about how he's going to miss Daisy," said Margaret Cyrus, Aaron's mother. Aaron, who has Down
syndrome, was able to keep the lamb in the Cyrus family's barn. "He had to have a lot of help at first, but he stuck with it. Now, he has learned how to do it all." "This also has been a very good experience for Ryan," said Tim Saxe, the youth's father. "He's learning to work with other people, and I think he's really done well." A new attitude
Donna Patton, interim division leader for WVU Extension's Southern District, coordinated the project for several years as an extension agent in Cabell County. She Extension Vision: Winter 1 997
Teamwork spells success for Ryan Saxe, left, and Aaron Cyrus, as they prepare their market lamb for show and sale at the Cabell County Fair.
points to a a major change in program focus in the last few years. We focus more on capabilities, not disabilities," she explained. "In the beginning, a lot of emphasis was on helping special-needs kids feel involved. That is still important, but now we're paying more attention to developing individual strengths and talents." Referrals from special education teachers were the primary means of identifying and recruiting disabled youths in earlier years. In recent years, however, greater emphasis on inclusion and meeting the needs of diverse audiences has Extension Vision: Winter 1 997
drawn more special-needs children into 4-H activities. Today's referrals are just as likely to come from local club members or leaders, according to Patton. In both counties, a committee of volunteers and educators coordinates the program. Patton sees a major change in the attitudes of these volunteers over the years as they focus on individual abilities. "The volunteers are striving to provide the most benefit to the participants in the least restrictive environment," she added. "If that requires adapting the program, they are willing to make those adapta-
tions. The types of changes I have observed are exactly what disabled people have been requesting." Cristina Haddix-Hodges, Putnam County WVU extension agent, concurs, noting that the goal is for every child in the program to benefit from the experience. "We try to match kids with abilities that complement each other so that everyone can learn," she said. Some special lamb partners "graduate" to the regular 4-H market lamb project in subsequent years. Their participation is possible because of the skills and knowledge they gained through the special program. 7
Of course, some lesssons are tougher than others. Lambs are fragile by nature, and they are susceptible to disease even with the best of care. Several pairs have had to cope with a lamb's premature death. "That's something that is hard for any child to understand," Haddix-Hodges noted. "We tried to use this as a learning tool. We encouraged them to talk about their feelings and to understand that they were not to blame. And, we got them another lamb." Program coordinators also learned from these experiences, adapting their guidelines to meet the special needs of the audience. "In the regular 4- H market lamb projects, a dead lamb can't be replaced with another, and the child knows that going
into the program. We had to decide if that rule should apply in the Special Lamb projects as well," Haddix-Hodges said. After plenty of soul-searching and discussion, the Putnam coordinators agreed that a special lamb that dies early in the program may be replaced, but one lost closer to fair time could not be. The extension agents consult with disability specialists and advocates to help them plan appropriate program objectives and policies for their audiences. They also have enlisted the support of local veterinarians, who donate their time and expertise to the project. The revenues received when the lambs are auctioned off at the fairs help to support the project costs. In Putnam County, each member of the two-person team receives a third of the sale proceeds; the remaining third goes back into
the program to pay for the lambs, feed, and supplies. The Cabell County teammates each receive 25 percent of the proceeds, with the remaining 50 percent committed to program costs. In both counties, funds left over after program costs are paid have been used for other educational programs. Scholarships for 4-H camp have been funded in Putnam County, and the Cabell County Special Lamb committee donates money to the county's special education classes. The success of the Special Lamb project is a source of pride to John Marra, the WVU extension agent who helped to launch the program in Cabell County lO years ago. 'The Extension Service is emphasizing diversity, and that's what this program is all about. It helps kids learn to accept and appreciate people who are different from them," he noted .
Andy Erwin and Beth Johnson give moral support to their lamb as Chuck Willcox shears it. 8
Extension Vision : Winter 1997
Guard donkeys proted
BY JERRY KESSEL
West Virginia shepherds are opting for more than bark when it comes to guarding their sheep. They're going for bray. West Virginia's sheep numbers are at an all-time low of 60,000, due in part to predation. The state's ewe flock size stands at 43,000 breeding ewes. The record years of 1932-33 totaled 625,000 sheep, with 485,000 breeding ewes. In the past, guard dogs served as the caretaker animal of choice to
deter coyotes, bears, and wild dogs from depleting flocks. However, guard donkeys are gaining wider acceptance. And a few West Virginia shepherds use llamas to watch over their flocks. On 65 Preston County acres called Windy Slopes, Monongalia County resident Bill Fitchner tends his flock "the way I want to." That includes donkeys as guard animals. He owns threeNibbles,
Jose Sebastian. Nibbles gave birth to Jose Sebastian on April 26, 1996. Fitchner's flock welcomed the newcomer immediately as he accompanied his mother on guard duty. Fitchner didn't have to look far to acquire the donkeys. His son, John, a vocational-education teacher at the RoaneJ ackson County Vocational School near Ripley, raises Sicilian donkeys. A distinctive marking makes them easy to identify. Each has a cross on its back. Fitchner's donkeys run with his sheep to protect them from intruders. So far, they have
Ears on Alert! When an intruder approaches, guard donkey Nibbles is all ears. Braying and kicking can follow if the stranger interferes with the sheep.
kept predators away from the flock's 22 Suffolk ewes and one ram. "It's not so much that they like sheep," Fitchner says. "They dislike dogs more." Predator losses in 1996 cost Mountain State shepherds $538,700. The kills by coyotes, bears, and feral dogs have a double impact, according to a Sheep Predator Survey. The survey measured the extent of predation and the cost to those who sustained losses. The study was developed by Tom McConnell, WVU Extension Service (WVU-ES) farm management adviser, and Bill Bonwell, animal damage control officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with assistance from WVU-ES field staff, the West Virginia Farm Bureau, and Craig Abbot, a wildlife management student at Lincoln University.
To replenish their breeding stocks, established shepherds must buy replacements instead of depending on their own flocks. Predator pressure and expense discourage potential producers. In 1995, coyotes killed 3,902 lambs and 728 ewes worth $329,050. Dogs destroyed 1,465 lambs and 1,048 ewes valued at $162,350. Bears accounted for 362 lamb kills and 202 ewe kills for a loss of $37,300. Shepherds using 202 donkeys
In the survey, 262 of the 406 shepherds responding said they would use a donkey for predator control. Shepherds are using 202 donkeys now for predator control. Each donkey is valued at $300. That's an investment of $60,000. Of the same producers, 61 percent consider guard dogs an acceptable choice, but only 20 percent use them for
predator control, and many of the respondents counted their family dog. The National Agricultural Statistics Service and the American Sheep Industry Association report that predation increases the annual maintenance cost per breeding ewe 12 percent. This figure is second only to feed cost for the nation's breeding ewe budget. The 406 shepherds responding to the survey own 16,885 breeding ewes, 35 percent of the state's total. Neighbors who quit the sheep business did so because of predators, 51 percent of the surveyed shepherds said. Shepherds' attitudes toward the predator situation finds most in agreement considering remedies to address the problem. For example, 87 percent said they would attend a predator class, and 63 percent favor a head tax to help fund professional help.
Just 42 shepherds opposed the use of a toxic collar as a predator deterrent. In the animal kingdom, the struggle between hunter and hunted is an old story. Sheep predators will search out their prey whenever their regular
food supply is not readily obtainable. The new element now is that predators must contend with bray protecting prey. A donkey serenade is not music to the ears of a predator. Especially when the encore
involves hooves and teeth. "If a dog comes around the sheep," Fitchner said, "you'll see what a donkey can do. It's not a pretty sight."
While the flock grazes, Nibbles is especially vigilant.
A few West Virginia shepherds are using llamas as guard animals for their flocks. Like the donkeys, llamas bray when they sense a threat by intruders.
Extension Vision: Winter 1997
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••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Robert H. Maxwell Interim Associate Provost for Extension and Public Service Director, Cooperative Extension Service P.O. Box 6031, Knapp Hall Morgantown, WV 26505-6031
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