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Ginseng Board Strikes $200 Million Deal with Chinese CompanySubmitted: 04/23/2013
Story By Lex Gray


EDGAR - You see "Made in China" stickers every time you go to the store.

But soon, Chinese people will be seeing more Wisconsin-grown and made products in their stores.

Governor Walker went on a trade mission to China last week to help generate business in Wisconsin.

"Ginseng in our area is a pretty popular thing because of our soil and climate," said ginseng farmer Joe Heil. "Marathon County is the leading producer of ginseng in the US."


Heil is the president of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. He farms corn, soybean and 100 acres of ginseng. Ginseng is highly valued as an herbal medication, especially in Asia.

"It's definitely a bigger challenge. Soybeans, corn, anyone can grow that crop," he said. "Ginseng is a real challenge, there's no books, there's not been a lot of research done as far as how to grow it, because it's such a challenge."

But there's a payoff. Heil's fields are muddy and snow-covered now, but in October, they're worth upwards of $100,000 per acre.

Governor Walker worked out a big ginseng deal with Chinese leaders last week.

He announced growers could export $200 million worth of ginseng over the next ten years. Most of it will come from Marathon County.

"We understand a win-win proposition," Walker said from Beijing. "For us, a strong Chinese economy is just as important to us as a strong American economy in Wisconsin is for the people of China."

Heil hopes Governor Walker's trade mission will help Wisconsin's ginseng industry grow.

"I'm hoping that it's sustainable enough that young people will start getting back into the business or taking over the family farms," he said. "That's one thing we've seen, if we go back about ten years we have 1500 farmers and now we're down to about 140 in the state of Wisconsin just because it's not been profitable."

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ONEIDA COUNTY - No matter the weather, a glass of wine can be enjoyed year round. Even in the bitter cold, there are wineries in Oneida County that still offer tastings and wine tours.

"When people think of a winery, they do think of grape wines. They're kind of surprised, pleasantly surprised when they come to our winery and see fruit wines," said Terri Schenck from Three Lakes Winery.

The Oneida County wineries are a little bit different than what you'd see in Napa Valley.

"It is a farm so we are working on different crops, black currants, apples and an experimental vineyard," said Linda Welbes from Brigadoon Winery in Tripoli.

With the unique flavors of wines, Three Lakes Winery and Brigadoon Winery often see a lot of visitors from out of town.

"They usually say, 'I didn't know how much I needed this.' They relax, they unwind whether it's summer time or fall, just to sit outdoors when it's beautiful, it's peaceful, it's quiet," said Welbes.

Three Lakes Winery has a lot of history behind their building. 

"The actual winery itself is an old Chicago Northwestern Train Depot that was built in 1880. There was a tornado or wind storm that happened in 1924 that destroyed the building," said Schenck.

The building was rebuilt shortly after. Every fall the winery hosts cranberry marsh tours.

"There are several bogs in the area and it's interesting for people to be able to go and see a bog and see how the cranberries are harvested and what goes into making cranberry wine," said Schenck.

With winter right around the corner, the crops won't be producing much.

"The crops, they are what they are. It's farming so there's not much you have to do and you just hope for good weather. Lots of snow cover, that helps," said Welbes.

The Three Eagle Trail runs right into the parking lot of Three Lakes Winery. That brings in a lot of traffic year-round.

"In the winter time it turns into the snowmobile trail. We will get a lot of snowmobile traffic in the winter time and a lot of foot traffic, hiking, biking people in the summer time," said Schenck.

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WOODRUFF - You don't see very good odds of catching someone who poached a deer unless someone saw or heard it happen.  Luckily for law enforcement, that's what happened in Woodruff and Minocqua last week.

People living near Theis Road off Highway J and near Gopher Lane along Highway 70 heard gunshots late Wednesday night, September 21.  Minocqua police found two 16-year-old boys who shot and killed two bucks.

DNR Warden Supervisor Dave Walz says the teens were shooting within 100 yards of homes.

"There's a serious safety aspect when these people are out shooting deer at night, they may not know what's in the background," Walz said.  "Even if they do know what's in the background, it's still not a safe situation."

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GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers have doubled down on their image of playing on the frozen tundra, unveiling more details for its Titletown District that include a winter tubing hill and a skating rink at its heart.

The team announced Thursday the district will also include a football-themed playground and full-sized football field with an artificial surface.

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RHINELANDER - Lifting brand new bikes out of the basement to see the light of day for the first time, Gene Welhoefer couldn't wait to put them to use.

"We'd love to wear the tires out in year one," Welhoefer said.

The Three Lakes Principal loaded bike after bike -- 29 on this trip -- into a trailer parked outside of Mel's Trading Post in Rhinelander Thursday afternoon.  The school district purchased 63 bikes to promote healthy habits in Three Lakes students.

"Get outside, breathe some fresh air, soak in some sunshine, take a little ride," Welhoefer said.

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ST. GERMAIN - 300 Vilas County sixth-graders joined together against drugs and alcohol in St. Germain Thursday.
The kids got to hang out with peers they will be going to high school with in a couple of years.

Though it all looked like fun and games, each exercise opened the floor to more serious topics like cyber-bullying, drug use, and underage drinking.

"There are little things that we are planting seeds and as those seeds are planted, later on others can help it grow as well," said UW Extension Youth Agent Nancy Ann Miller.

Throughout the day, the middle schoolers rotated through hands-on positive activities.
Kids were even able to talk to Nicolet College about future career plans.

At one station, the leaders showed off Native American traditions with drumming and dancing to get the middle schoolers to open up.

"They just have a riot. You ask them what's the best thing and they say everything!" said Miller.

This is the twelfth year the positivity conference joined at St. Germain Park.

Conference coordinators say the end goal is to leave the kids with a lifelong memory of the Northwoods.


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MERRILL - The debate in Merrill over what's junk and what's historic treasure may not end soon.

It appears Merrill City leaders won't punish two of its workers for taking items from a now demolished building on the Lincoln County Fair Grounds. 

After about a month-long investigation, Mayor Bill Bialecki sent out a statement Thursday morning on behalf of the common council with a decision.

It said, "The actions of City Administrator Dave Johnson and Fire Chief Dave Savone, although not in violation of city Ordinances or policies, were in poor judgment. They have been advised to follow City ordinances and policies to avoid improper conduct or the appearance of such conduct, as it reflects poorly on City Government."

Back in July, Savone got the okay from Johnson to help a friend take some shutters and tables from the 
Schultz building on the grounds before it was demolished.

But some people considered those items historic and expressed their concern on social media.

The Merrill City Common Council then hired an outside firm to investigate.

Now that that's done, Johnson still feels the same way he always did.

"I've stated from the beginning that there were no laws, ordinances or policies that were violated, and that is what the investigation showed," Johnson said. "So, I mean, how can I feel other than vindicated?"

Johnson and Savone did return the items.

Savone did not want to talk on camera but told Newswatch 12 he did not violate any ordinances.

Opponents of this decision believe the city leaders violated state open meetings laws.

According to documents obtained by Newswatch 12, those opponents filed a complaint Thursday afternoon with the Lincoln County District Attorney.

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MILWAUKEE - A jury has convicted a Milwaukee man of first-degree reckless homicide in the fatal shooting of a 5-year-old girl.

The jury on Thursday also found Carl Barrett Jr. guilty of recklessly endangering Laylah's Peterson's grandmother, grandfather and sister who were present during the shooting in November 2014. Laylah was shot in the head as she sat on her grandfather's lap. Police say the shooters targeted the wrong house.

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