Ginseng—prized globally for its role in Chinese traditional medicine, as an ingredient in food and beverages and as a dietary supplement—has deep roots in Wisconsin’s agricultural economy.
Although it may typically be associated with East Asia, ginseng was used medicinally by Native Americans. Growers have cultivated ginseng in Wisconsin since the 1800s, and the state’s climate, terrain, water and soil combine to yield a product that has earned a reputation as the gold standard in American ginseng.
“Wisconsin ginseng is recognized internationally for its quality. That is a credit to the growers and an economic benefit to our state,” said Randy Romanski, secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). “DATCP’s International Agri-Business Center continually looks for opportunities to open or expand markets for Wisconsin ginseng and other agricultural or food products.”
Wisconsin produces more than 90% of all ginseng produced in the U.S., and Marathon County is the top ginseng-growing county in Wisconsin, producing about 95% of the state’s annual crop. Wisconsin growers exported more than $19 million of ginseng last year.
“Wisconsin’s leadership as the world’s premier producer of high-quality ginseng is an important part of our state’s export strategy,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes.
The state’s ginseng growers have worked to expand international markets for this world-class product. Will Hsu owns Hsu’s Ginseng Garden, a family farm started in 1974 that today employs about 100 people, most at its Wausau headquarters.
“Our Wisconsin-grown crop is almost exclusively consumed by foreigners or destined for sale in export markets such as Taiwan,” said Hsu, who acknowledges that because of reduced trade between the U.S. and Asia, the industry has faced challenges.
Gov. Tony Evers said a recent visit from Taiwan’s trade representative to the U.S., Bi-khim Hsiao, was a great chance to “connect growers with trade leaders from Taiwan.”
Hsiao noted: “Taiwanese consumers have a long tradition of appreciating ginseng products, and Taiwan, being Wisconsin’s third-largest ginseng market, we look forward to further expanding this trade.”