Meet a Canadian Ginseng Farmer: Rob Slegers

Farmer Name: Rob Slegers
Farm Name: Slegers Specialty Crops Limited
Farm Location: Strathroy, Ontario

Approximately how many acres are under your care?

We have about 300 acres.

How long have you been farming?

Self-employed and farming since 1989.

What other crops do you tend to?

I have corn, soy beans, wheat, and ginseng.

Is this a family farm? What generation?

It’s a family farm, but first generation.

Why did you choose to farm?

Well, it’s a better lifestyle – something different. Every week is something new, instead of repeat. And it’s helping us meet our financial goals.

Why did you choose to grow ginseng?

I wanted an alternative crop to tobacco, from my parent’s generation.

What unique challenges do ginseng growers face?

The weather and the disease control, as well as the marketing side of things.

Do you or your family consume ginseng?

I do, daily.

Are your family members part of your farming operation?

Yes, they are, my wife and sons.

How are you incorporating sustainability practices into your farm?

I have an environmental farm plan. Every five years, I go through a program, it’s a two-day course which teaches about cover crops and wind erosion, soil erosion, etc. We also compost and apply compost to our crops. And of course, we don’t burn anymore, ever.

Tell us a bit about your workers.

We have local help for the steady work from early Spring to mid-December. And seasonally, at harvest time, and for grading and de-budding, we bring in labour contractors, sometimes up to 100 people at a time.

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

I’d like to see the industry continue to grow with the marketing that’s been going on in the last 15+ years.

What do you enjoy most about being a ginseng farmer?

I like the change of pace and the challenges.