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Most Americans don’t consume a lot of ginseng, or even think about the crop, aside from the occasional tea or energy drink. But in rural central Wisconsin, people think about ginseng a lot. It’s an economic driver for the state, which produces nearly all the American ginseng and sells most of it to China at a premium.
Now, that industry is under threat from Chinese tariffs, part of a slew of them imposed on American products in retaliation for President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. It’s the topic of this week’s Make Me Smart. Below, you can explore the whole story of Wisconsin’s ginseng, from pioneering farmers, though ups and downs, up to its current predicament.
Special thanks to Ben Clark, of the Marathon County Historical Society, for his help assembling this timeline. Additional reporting by Shara Morris.
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