PEYTONA, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Ginseng has a long history in the Appalachian Mountains. The Ginseng root is known for its many uses in herbal medicine and therapeutics, particularly for anti-inflammatory uses. One business owner from Boone County, West Virginia, Randy Halstead, recalls his decades of experience in the industry, stemming from childhood.
“It started when I was a very small boy. We had to dig ginseng and herbs to pay for food as a family. That’s the way we got our school clothes,” said Halstead. “I would go out with my dad and we would be gone all day. We would come home and pour out our bags in front of Mom and she would smile. We knew if we could find someone to give us an honest price, it would be like Christmas around our house. It made me feel like I contributed to the family.”
As he entered adulthood, he decided to start his first small business, “Randy’s Recycling” in Peytona, West Virginia. “I used to be in the feed and seed business and a local ‘ginsenger’ asked if I would buy his finds. It all started with that first purchase,” said Halstead.
A report in the United States Archives from October 1995 features Halstead and his former business “Randy’s Recycling”.
His first two years in the business, Halstead said his business received nearly 1,700lbs of ginseng root. “I made lots of money but spent lots of time working,” he said.
American Ginseng first began being harvested and shipped across the world in the mid-1700’s. History records that men would oftentimes travel from the east coast to the Appalachian Mountains just to dig the root.
“There’s a lot of history behind this plant.” Halstead said, “A lot of people searched these rural areas to make a living for their families. The fiber in the plant is now used in energy drinks, herbal medicine, and much more.”
While he doesn’t have a license for international export, international customers travel to West Virginia to purchase directly from him, using their international shipping license to transport the goods back to their nation of origin. Halstead explained that buyers will seal their purchased merchandise, branding the packaging with their company’s logo, and transport the products overseas.
“If it wasn’t for the market from Asia, revenue would be dramatically lower,” Halstead said. “Asian customs and traditions use ginseng in many aspects of their lives which makes it more common and more of a necessity than in other parts of the world.”
Halstead explained the difficulty of shipping and transporting with governments such as China with their centrally planned, communist economic policies. “I sell my roots to multiple Chinese exporters. They will call me, trying to get me to commit to a price. It’s a bidding process. I’m not obligated to sale to anyone specific and that’s what keeps the market fair here.”
Detailing some of the transportation costs involved with shipping the roots, Halstead said it costs roughly two dollars per pound to travel across state lines.
“I have a license to buy from local diggers in West Virginia. Each state, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and more have state licenses. The feds need to know where it comes from, who it comes from, which county it was dug in and more,” Halstead said.
The Fish and Wildlife department of the United States government heavily regulate the ginseng market throughout the United States to limit out of season digging and purchasing as well as undervalued pricing processes used to manipulate folks with a bargaining disadvantage. Halstead explained an environment of dishonesty and mistrust in the industry, noting that business owners oftentimes attempt to lower their purchasing price when dealing with impoverished customers to profit at a higher rate.
Capitol Recycling, the newest name for former Randy’s Recycling, which also deals in recyclable metals, has a much different business model.
“I like seeing folks who don’t have much financially to see just how much they can earn from their finds. Their eyes light up when you read them the total they’ll receive. Some just can’t believe they’re getting an honest price. It makes me happy knowing I’ve done the right thing and makes them happy knowing they’ve been treated fairly.”
Halstead believes that the plant, which is on the endangered species list (CITES), should not be. He believes the plant is more prevalent throughout southern West Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains than what federal data reports.
“There’s less digging than before because there is less public property in the Appalachian area. Coal companies and others have purchased so much property that ginseng is likely plenty in these restricted areas, which aren’t counted in the report. There’s nothing intentionally misleading about the data, but I do believe there are errors,” Halstead said.
When asked if he had any negative experiences over the years, Halstead recalled a time when state agents stormed his home in Racine, WV after they received a false tip that he had purchased Ginseng out of season. “I’m sitting at home, and I see nearly a dozen state vehicles pull into my driveway. The next thing I know, I’m being held in my own home while agents checked every shelf, drawer, and crack of my house looking for out of season ginseng roots,” Halstead said.
Several hours had passed before agents were able to conclude with certainty that he had not purchased nor was holding any illegal ginseng and that the information they were given was false. Halstead’s record as a ginseng dealer and purchaser is stellar and his reputation is well regarded in the community. He has never been fined or cited for any misconduct or illegal purchasing in his nearly four decades of business.
“It has been a wonderful experience and I pray I have the opportunity to continue this tradition for many more years to come,” Halstead said.
Capitol Recycling can be followed on their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/CapitolRecyclingInc