The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

December 25, 2013

New reality show focuses on W.Va. ginseng business

BECKLEY —  A new reality show on The History Channel is shedding light on West Virginia’s ginseng business.

“Appalachian Outlaws” premieres Jan. 9 and was filmed in Nicholas, Greenbrier, Monroe, Wyoming and Raleigh counties.

The show profiles the growers, the diggers and the middlemen involved in the ancient herb valued at $600 a pound that grows wild in all 55 counties in West Virginia. The cable network says supply can’t keep up with demand for the crop and it’s causing fierce competition during the short two-month harvesting season.

Ginseng dealer Tony Coffman told The Register-Herald that the show is really about educating people about the business. But he said it isn’t a documentary.

Coffman said ginseng is an industry that is made up of several different types of ginseng.

“Most of what you buy at GNC and places like that is part of a cultivated industry, mostly based in Wisconsin,” he said. “The cultivated stuff doesn’t bring in too much. On average it’s $30 to $50 a pound. A lot of the fibers are $2 to $4 a pound. The wild ginseng is a different story.”

Coffman’s grandfather was a ginseng-buyer in the 1920s and was making a living off of it in 1930. Coffman said he was working full-time with his grandfather by the time he was 17.

“Back in those days you didn’t have to worry about cultivated and woods-grown and all of these other types of ginseng. There was just so much of it and it wasn’t that valuable,” Coffman said. “When he first started buying it was probably $3 a pound. He sold it for $5. It just kept climbing from there.”

In addition to Coffman, the show features different crews of competing collectors.

According to the show’s website, it “follows these unique characters in their quest to acquire this plant that affords many their livelihood. People will fight each other, steal it and risk jail time — or even their lives — to get their hands on it.

Coffman said he still gets asked if the show will make everyone in the state look bad.

“Everyone keeps asking me, ‘Are you casting West Virginia in a good light?’ This is about the ginseng business. This isn’t like Buckwild. It’s not trying to make fun of West Virginia, but it is about Appalachian culture somewhat,” he said.

“I have all my teeth. I’m not smoking a corn-cob pipe. I wear shoes. I’m a pretty shrewd businessman on the show. I know my stuff. I’m competitive though and you don’t want to get in my way.”

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVa. man sues GM over wife's death

    A West Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Corp., claiming a defective ignition switch in a Chevrolet Cobalt caused a 2006 accident that killed his pregnant wife.

    July 24, 2014

  • Feds commit to health studies on spilled chemical

    After largely dismissing the possibility of long-term health problems, federal officials will conduct more studies on chemicals that spilled into West Virginia’s largest drinking water supply in January.
    In the next two months, federal health officials are also heading back to West Virginia.

    July 24, 2014

  • Park Service assesses impact of W.Va. attractions

    Four National Park Service attractions in West Virginia drew a total of 1.5 million visitors last year.

    July 23, 2014

  • This weekend's 'Dirty Girl' race canceled

    Organizers of a Charleston running event that was canceled for this weekend says it won’t issue refunds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Reporter heard truck backfiring, not gunshot

    Similar sounds in different circumstances create different reactions. That is so for WVVA reporter Annie Moore, who last Monday told police someone fired a gun at her while she was shooting file footage in the area of a recent murder.

    July 19, 2014

  • Cornhole champions being decided in Charleston

    Cornhole, the strange-sounding game made popular in backyards and at football tailgate parties, is taking on a serious side this week.
    The American Cornhole Organization will crown its world champions as about 380 competitors from 17 states vie for $10,000 in prize money in singles and doubles events.

    July 19, 2014

  • Multi-state distracted driving enforcement planned

    Law enforcement agencies in six states plan participate in a weeklong campaign targeting distracted driving.

    July 18, 2014

  • Female guard accused of having sex with juvenile inmate

    A West Virginia Division of Corrections officer has been charged with having sexual contact with a female juvenile inmate at the Lincoln Detention Center in Wheeling.

    July 18, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads