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NMSU Asian medicinal herb seminar to focus on marketing

ALCALDE - Ensuring there is a link between agricultural producers and buyers is critical for successfully developing a new niche market, such as that for Asian medicinal herbs.

Presently, acupuncture and oriental medicine (AOM) practitioners obtain most of their medicinal herbs from China, but NMSU feasibility studies have shown that a number of these herbs can be grown in New Mexico. New Mexico State University alternative crops researcher Charles Martin has coordinated a three-part series to introduce the potential of this niche market to Southwest growers.

As part of that series, a seminar on Sunday, Oct. 18, at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde, will bring growers and oriental medicine practitioners together to learn more about Asian medicinal herbs in New Mexico, with an emphasis on marketing. The seminar is made possible by a grant from the Western Center for Risk Management Education, Washington State University Extension, Spokane.

"The first two training seminars were primarily geared toward helping growers learn about the production and risk management aspects of these alternative crops. Out of the training sessions, we received feedback from the growers saying that they needed more help in marketing these products and networking with oriental medicine professionals," Martin said.

Z'ev Rosenberg, doctor of oriental medicine and chairman of the Department of Herbal Medicine at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, will discuss integrating domestically grown herbs into oriental medicine. He will also join doctors of oriental medicine Nityamo Lian and Selah Chamberlain on a practitioner's panel that will offer advice and insight to help growers understand practitioners' and patients' needs.

In an afternoon panel discussion, growers Amy Brown and Becky Thorp will share what they have learned about growing and marketing Asian herbs. Doctor of oriental medicine and former grower Eric Buckley, who has helped start an herbal dispensary, will also sit on the panel to share his experiences and challenges in finding local sources for herbs.

"This series of seminars has been a step-by-step process. We have established a more solid information base for growers, and now we're reaching out to the practitioners and letting them know there is product available in the state, as well as potential for even more production. By learning what the practitioners need in the way of herb species, amounts, and quality, we will be able to increase the diversity of plants grown and the volume of the herbs available from in-state growers, and we can help acupuncture and oriental medicine practitioners get the herbs in the form they want," Martin said.

The program will include a walking tour of the herb demonstration garden at the Alcalde Science Center, which features nearly two dozen different Asian herb species.

Participants new to the seminars are encouraged to complete an online tutorial from the first seminar at http://aces.nmsu.edu/medicinalherbs/ before attending. "This will help them get up to speed with the background information that returning seminar participants have gained to this point," Martin said.

The seminar will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A registration fee of $20 is payable at the door. Participants will be responsible for their own lunch. For more information, contact Martin by email at cmartin@nmsu.edu or phone (505) 852-2668.