Shandong Doctor Turns Farmer: Growing American Ginseng for Over 10 Years, Devoted to Public Welfare and Enhancing the Image of Chinese People in the U.S.

Dazhong Net · Poster News, Reporters Dong Haoqian and Zhang Haizhen

Recently, the story of a Chinese doctor working as a farmer in the United States has sparked discussions among netizens. Reporters interviewed Jiang Mingtao, American Ginseng Farm Owner Dr Jiang on January 14, 2023, the 23rd day of the lunar month, coinciding with the Northern Chinese Little Lunar New Year. For Jiang Mingtao, who has lived abroad for more than 30 years, the saying "the closer the festive season, the more we miss our loved ones" truly reflects his inner feelings.

At the age of 16, Jiang Mingtao was admitted to Shandong Medical College (now Shandong University School of Medicine), and at 25, he went abroad to pursue postdoctoral and assistant professorship. However, due to discomfort with the climate and monotonous research life, at the age of 44, he decided to end his career in scientific research. At the age of 46, he became a farmer cultivating American ginseng.

During his more than 10 years as a "farm captain" in the United States, Jiang Mingtao established five ginseng planting bases and actively participated in public welfare activities, enhancing the image of the Chinese community overseas. He humorously describes himself as "the best ginseng farmer among doctors and the best doctor among ginseng farmers." Starting with an initial capital of only $20,000 and a shovel, Jiang Mingtao has grown his endeavor into five planting bases, one processing factory, and his own American ginseng brand, pioneering a new world in a foreign land with the spirit of Shandong people and finding his own paradise.

Jiang Mingtao drives his first tractor (Image provided by the interviewee)


The 44-year-old medical doctor resigned from his position as a university professor in 2007

Born in 1963 in Rupeng Township, Yintan, Weihai City, Shandong Province, Jiang Mingtao came from an ordinary farmer family. In 1979, he was admitted to Shandong Medical College. In 1988, following the trend of studying abroad, he went to the University of Western Ontario in Canada to pursue a Ph.D. in cardiac physiology. However, cultural shocks in a foreign land and the challenging local climate led Jiang Mingtao to suffer from seasonal depression.

Fortunately, the following year, Jiang Mingtao's girlfriend also arrived in Canada, and the two had a simple wedding there. "We were classmates at university and later came to the United States together for further studies." Starting from 1996, Jiang Mingtao became a postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor at a university in the U.S., gradually achieving some accomplishments in scientific research. However, due to various pressures, including scientific research, he had been contemplating a different path. Encouraged by his wife in 2007, he officially resigned from his university position and left the laboratory to explore various job opportunities, such as starting a fan club, becoming a newspaper editor, and selling insurance. He also regularly organized community service activities for the Chinese community.

In 2009, when his wife was appointed as a chief physician at a hospital in Marathon County, Jiang Mingtao's family moved together to Marathon County."

In 1988, Jiang Mingtao went to Canada to begin his study abroad journey (Image provided by the interviewee).


Embracing the Spirit of Shandong People's Adventure in the Northeast

"To survive overseas comes first, and development comes second. There isn't much fancy stuff. This journey, from a scholar and professor to a farmer, small business owner, and entrepreneur, can be described as 'the ignorant are fearless.'" Looking back at the more than ten years since he started planting American ginseng in Marathon County at the age of 46, Jiang Mingtao admitted that it has been a bumpy road.

"Some friends both in China and abroad knew that we moved to Marathon County, so they often asked me to buy local specialty American ginseng for them. Before that, I planned to grow vegetables in a greenhouse locally." Later, Jiang Mingtao thought that American ginseng should be a global industry, so he started growing it. Embracing the spirit of Shandong people's adventure in the northeast, he wanted to make a name for himself locally.

However, the American ginseng industry in Marathon County was almost monopolized by a few families, so initially, Jiang Mingtao only did marketing work related to American ginseng. After experiencing some unpleasant situations in the beginning, he gradually encountered some helpful people, which opened a door for him to delve deeper into the American ginseng industry.

As agricultural mechanization is highly developed in the United States, Jiang Mingtao started learning step by step, from operating tractors, planting American ginseng, to managing the farm. "From land preparation, stake setting, seeding, and shading with awnings to repairing farm tools and operating tractors, I had to start from scratch. Besides sweating, sometimes there were injuries." For example, for stake setting, he had to carry more than 50 pounds of wood for each stake to be driven down with hydraulic force weighing around 1.5 tons. "One person operated the tractor in the front, while two people in the back, one lifting the stake, and the other operating the hydraulics. If you accidentally got your hand hit, your hand would be ruined." Whenever he recalls the 'pitiful' appearance when he started cultivating the American ginseng field in the chilly wind, Jiang Mingtao can't help but smile, thinking that even the legendary character 'White Beard Yang' probably went through similar struggles.

Despite the hard work, Jiang Mingtao completely overcame his depression and was left with excitement. "I have fewer worries. I spend about 10 hours in the field every day, and when I get home, I take a shower, eat, and go to sleep. I enjoy it every day."

Jiang Mingtao's first American ginseng farm (Image provided by the interviewee)


Helping Those in Need, Public Welfare is Not Deliberate

During the planting process, Jiang Mingtao encountered many difficulties, such as buying land with poor soil conditions, combined with late spring frost weather, leading to a 30% loss of ginseng seedlings. Despite these challenges, with the help of others and his personal perseverance, he made it to where he is now.

Despite the ups and downs, Jiang Mingtao never forgot about public welfare. For example, in 2017, he donated the surplus ginseng seeds from the plantation to local impoverished mountain dwellers for free. "In various parts of the United States, there are many impoverished mountain dwellers who cannot afford seeds, and some even don't have bank accounts. That year, I gave away nearly 100,000 RMB worth of seeds, helping hundreds of mountain dwellers." Over the past five years, he has distributed 12 million American ginseng seeds for free to over a thousand mountain dwellers. Based on a rough calculation of 10% survival rate in ten years, this effort is expected to bring about 5 million USD in future income (for local farmers).

Another example is when a Chinese-American doctor and pain specialist, Dr. Xiu-Lu Ruan, faced criminal charges for alleged misuse of physician's license in prescribing potent painkillers to cancer patients, leading to a 21-year sentence by the government, which drew much attention. Under Dr. Ruan's five-year effort, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately voted 9-0 in favor of giving him a chance to clear the charges. "Dr. Ruan is an alumnus of our Shandong Medical College and the child of my teacher." Jiang Mingtao, along with other Chinese-Americans, raised over 100,000 USD in donations for Dr. Ruan, offering support and solidarity to Chinese people striving in a foreign land, showcasing the spirit of Chinese unity and self-improment within the Chinese community.

His actions have not only assisted those in need but also enhanced the social image of Chinese people overseas. In his view, philanthropy is not a deliberate act but rather a manifestation of instinct.

Now, it has been the 14th year since Jiang Mingtao "abandoned medicine for farming," and his farm can produce American ginseng ranging from three to ten years old. "I'm the fastest weed-puller in the company, four times faster than our local Miao women." Once a rigorous medical doctor, he now humorously talks about his work and life. Jiang Mingtao has set his retirement age at 70, "with about ten more years to go, so in the next decade, I hope to work on the clinical application and medicinal research of American ginseng."

(Reprinted from The Paper - Media; click to view the original article)


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