Wisconsin Roots Pay Off in Marathon County Marathon County

Connections in Marathon County

  • 411 UW—Madison students
  • 2,532 UW—Madison alumni
  • Also from Marathon County:

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

Did you know that ginseng is helping to energize Wisconsin’s economy?

Thanks to Wisconsin’s cool climate and the specific trace minerals in its soil, the state produces some of the best ginseng in the world. As the second-largest ginseng farm in the United States, Hsu’s Ginseng is leading the pack, harvesting and selling more than 200,000 pounds of Wisconsin’s state herb each year, with most of it sourced from the operation’s 1,000 acres.

Will Hsu ’00 is vice president of operations at Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises. The company produces, packages, and sells not only ginseng root but also related products such as tea and supplements, generating tens of millions of dollars in economic value for the Badger State.

“I’ve leaned a lot on my Chinese and East Asian studies majors to build a brand that can sustain the changes happening today in e-commerce and global trade.”

Born to immigrants who left Taiwan in search of greater opportunities in the United States, Hsu graduated from UW–Madison with a triple major in finance, Chinese, and East Asian studies. His finance background helped him to excel as an analyst with General Mills in Minneapolis and led to an MBA from Harvard Business School. He then rejoined General Mills in Phoenix before returning to Wausau to join the family business that his parents founded in 1974.

“We have [about 400] employees around the world, and we are now focusing on upgrading our technology and investing in our people and infrastructure to compete in this new digital era,” Hsu says. “I’ve leaned a lot on my Chinese and East Asian studies majors to build a brand that can sustain the changes happening today in e-commerce and global trade.”

Ginseng is a very labor-intensive crop that can only be grown on virgin soil, takes four years to mature, and is highly susceptible to the weather. Fortunately, Hsu’s Ginseng has perfected the art of growing and marketing this high-risk product, pursuing a level of innovation that is helping to position the Marathon County region in the global agriculture market.