When i heard the History channel was producing a series about ginseng hunters in the Appalachian mountains i was very excited to watch the show. Especially since i live and hunt “seng” in the same mountains used to film the series.
I had high hopes the producers would keep the show “real” after all isn’t that what a reality show is suppose to be? Now after three episodes I’m not so sure the series is even trying to maintain any aspect of realism. The Appalachian Outlaws, although, entertaining is far from being a true reality show about ginseng hunters.
If hunting wild ginseng was as easy as they make it seem I would quit my day job. The amount of ginseng the characters find during short afternoon hunts is extremely over estimated. Speaking of over estimated, the prices paid for “wet ginseng” is more than I’ve ever heard of during even the best of markets.
Lets first look at the amounts of wild ginseng the show claims the characters find. For example on one afternoon dig two ginseng hunters set out and stuff their bags full of sang. Of course when they come out of the mountains a buyer is waiting for them near their vehicle. He offers them $1,000 a pound for the freshly dug treasure. I’m not sure which of these things were the most far fetched. The buyer chasing them down or him offering them $1,000 a pound for the wet ginseng. Speaking of $1,000 a pound, one lucky hunter after being stranded on an island all night managed to dig ten pounds of ginseng in one afternoon of hunting. He of course, hurried down to the local buyer and collect his $10,000.
Maybe i’m just not a very good ginseng hunter but ten pounds in one day is either a very lucky find or more likely a very made for TV estimate.
As we already mentioned the buyers in the Appalachian Outlaws series always seem to be in a hurry to buy a lot of ginseng. They are also willing to pay top dollar for every root they buy. Maybe where you’re from $1,000 a pound for fresh “wet ginseng” is normal, but where I’m from, which happens to be where the show is filmed It’s unheard of. You’re lucky to even find a buyer for the wet seng and if you do you certainly won’t get anywhere near these prices. If buyers are paying $1,000 a pound for wet ginseng then they would probably pay $2,000 a pound for dry ginseng. When is the last time you sold a pound of ginseng for $2,000? Let me answer this for you, you never have.
With all the negatives I’ve wrote about the Appalachia Outlaws show let me end this by saying I do still enjoy watching the show. I know they have to make it interesting for the TV audience but being a ginseng hunter myself I just wish they would try to make it closer to the reality of what a ginseng hunter does. We for the most part don’t sneak onto posted property, dodging bullets and planting land mines to keep outsiders from getting our seng. We also don’t expect to get rich digging ginseng. Don’t get me wrong, you can make some fairly good extra money with a good digging season, but if we only dug ginseng for the money most of us would have stopped along time ago. The buyers are the ones making real money in this business, unless of course it’s a buyer paying a thousand dollars a pound.