Profile for The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
by Kate Farley
Robert Eidus is an avid American ginseng grower and educator who owns and operates Eagle Feather Organic Farm. To cultivate the next generation of responsible forest farmers, he also hosts classes, workshops, a radio show, and serves as president of the North Carolina Ginseng Association.
“It seems like with the environment, everyone’s up on trees and animals and insects and butterflies. But the plants are just not really defended at all.”
Robert Eidus considers his life’s purpose defending Appalachia’s wild woodland medicinal plants—plants like trillium, goldenseal, and especially American ginseng. At Eagle Feather Organic Farm, a medicinal plant nursery nestled in a mountain hollow north of Marshall, North Carolina, Eidus propagates a wide variety of medicinal herbs that he offers for sale and prepares into medicinal tinctures and capsules.
The heart and soul of Eidus’s work is American ginseng. Eidus got a later start in ginseng compared to many other growers and dealers. His first career was in real estate in Raleigh, North Carolina, but he grew frustrated with the business and yearned for a job that would be more physical and enable him to cultivate a deeper connection with the natural world.
“Whether it was a dream or a vision or whatever, I thought that I had this conversation with Grandfather Ginseng about being a person who could advocate for the plants. And that was kind of it.” In the early 1990s, Eidus built a house on the property that is now Eagle Feather Farm and began to seek prominent herbalists and experts in plant lore to help him learn how to steward the plants. Eventually, he settled on the technique of “wild simulation,” wherein the plant grows organically in a forest plot that mimics ginseng’s natural habitat.
Although the Eagle Feather Organic Farm is not always easy to locate, many people find their way to make purchases, take classes, and tour the grounds, led by Robert Eidus. Photo by Betty Belanus, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
Eidus is also a registered ginseng dealer and occasionally buys wild plants to process into medicine. However, he will buy ginseng only from those who harvest ginseng responsibly. Eidus promotes responsibility among other ginseng farmers, and encourages them not to use chemicals, which he believes poison the plants. He seeks to cultivate the skills of others through site visits, phone consultations, and workshops, as well as information made available through his website and local radio program.
As president of the North Carolina Ginseng Association (NCGA), Eidus supports sustainable ginseng growing and harvesting even further. He has used the NCGA to build community among younger, newer ginseng growers in North Carolina. The NCGA also advocates for state-level policies in North Carolina that incentivize organic ginseng growing and preserve wild populations.
Robert Eidus wears many hats, from consultant to association president, but above all he is a champion of ginseng stewardship and intends to see the plant thrive for many generations to come.
As of this printing, Mr Eidus would like to let our readers know that his farm is for sale in North Carolina.
To read more featured profiles on diverse people who share a passion for ginseng, visit the Smithsonian folklife website! https://folklife.si.edu/american-ginseng