Snowfall destroys ginseng - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Snowfall destroys ginseng

Snowfall destroys ginseng

by Elizabeth Fay

ATHENS (WAOW)--Ginseng farmers take a hard hit after last night's snowfall. Almost all of the country's ginseng is grown in our state.
The President of the Ginseng board of Wisconsin, Joe Heil, says about 80% of the product comes from Marathon County. Due to the weather, much of the area's harvest may be heavily damaged or dead.

Ginseng workers spent months putting up shade covers over the ginseng crops. The black tarp is supposed to stand erected like a tent, but Friday night's snowfall caused their hard work to come crashing down.

"This is a bad thing to happen. We just got everything closed and everything perfect on Friday and then this happens," says Heil's son.

"Ginseng can hold maybe one to two inches [of snow] for a few hours, but it snowed throughout the day yesterday and we received two to three inches overnight. It was just too much of a load for the structure to handle," explains Heil.

The white root crop is best know for its use in Chinese medicine. Buyers from across the globe rely on Wisconsin farmers for their ginseng supply. Now, It's unclear if they can meet the demand. Heil says the crop takes 4 years to mature so this weather could cost the farmers about 4 years worth of ginseng.
The farmers also rely on the crops' seedlings to start the next cycle of ginseng. If freezing temperatures set in Saturday night, it'll kill any hope of the seedlings surviving.

"It's a big loss. There is no way to salvage it all but we're just going to have to pick our battles and try to get some of it back up so hopefully, we can have something for the Fall to sell," says Heil.

The forecast may dash any hopes of salvaging the crops. Newsline Nine's Meteorologist, Justin Lowe, says those dreaded freezing temperatures are in store for Saturday night and Sunday Morning.

Despite the weather, Heil, a husband and father, continues to work to save his crops, his source of income.

"It'll make us stronger and just appreciate the good years," says Heil.

Heil says Wisconsin ginseng brings in $15 million each year. He adds this event could increase prices for the product. If you'd like to help the farmers, you can contact the Ginseng board at (715) 845-7300.

Online Reporter: Elizabeth Fay

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