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New Reality Show Focuses On West Virginia Ginseng Business

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(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) – 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 and 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 (http://bit.ly/1covVko) 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.

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