Meet a Canadian Ginseng Farmer: Rob Clarysse

Farmer Name: Rob Clarysse
Farm Name: GR Ginseng
Farm Location: Delhi, Ontario

Approximately, how many acres are under your care?

40+ acres.

How long have you been farming?

I’ve been working on the farm since I was a teen, doing work alongside my father, when he was alive. I think I started when I was 18. I’m 55 now, so I’ve been farming for decades.

Are there other crops you tend to in addition to ginseng?

Yes, cereal, grains.

Is it a family farm?

Yes, my oldest brother bought it. He’s retired, but I use it. My grandfather who emigrated from Belgium started the farm, so that makes us the third generation.

Why did you choose to be a farmer?

I couldn’t be cooped up in a factory. When you’re raised on a farm, it’s kind of hard to imagine sitting in one place for ten hours a day. And it’s nicer being your own boss, making your own hours.

Why did you choose to grow ginseng, specifically?

My dad started growing ginseng. I was around 14 when he planted the first crop. He saw it as extra income, in addition to tobacco.

Are you family members part of the operation?

My one brother retired last year, this is his last crop. And my older brother grows ginseng with me. No other workers on the farm except them.

Are you incorporating any sustainable practices on the farm?

We are working on getting more mechanized. I have a computerized sprayer for ginseng. It’s probably one of the only two or three things that are sophisticated. It means that I’m not using as much product. I’m going to get a more computerized fertilizer spreader too, so there’s not as much overlap.

What do you hope to see from the future of ginseng farming in Ontario?

We use organic amendments, so manure and whatnot before we plant the ginseng. We also use some bio-fumigants which are like a mustard cover crop. We grow that before the ginseng as well. It helps to sterilize the ground and clean up the soil. We also grow another crop before the ginseng – pearl millet – which helps control nematodes.

What do you enjoy the most about being a farmer?

The friendships you make along the way. You just meet a lot of interesting people. The buyers, the growers, the board. It becomes a little community.