Long before “shop local, buy local” became something Americans came to value, Dr. Tso-Cheng Chang grew his own Chinese vegetables to serve at his award-winning restaurant, Amherst Chinese Food, on Main Street in downtown Amherst. So when in 1983 he converted his farm in Whately, Mass. into a small factory designed to mass produce bean sprouts, it barely caused a ripple on the local business scene. That same factory on Dr. Chang’s Farm recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with the distinction of being one of the largest soybean and mungbean sprout facilities in the U.S.
“You would say from the success of his restaurant and the sprout farm that Dr. Chang epitomizes the American dream but his story goes beyond that.” said Steven V. Dubin, spokesperson for Chang’s Naturals, which grows and wholesales their certified schizandra berries. “In fact, it’s quite fitting that his farm is in a region known as Pioneer Valley because Dr. Chang has pioneered a number of things, most notably ‘no herbicides or pesticides’ farming.”
Chang’s journey to pioneer began in a small town in Shandong Province, China, where he was born in the late 1920s. Chang earned an undergraduate degree in agronomy from Taiwan University in 1953. He later emigrated to the U.S. and earned an M.S. in Crop Science from Michigan State University in 1966.
Dr Chang’s first job in the U.S. was working for Dow Chemical. Dow put him in charge of their Taiwan operations. Here, however, he soon came to recognize the many unforeseen dangers herbicides and pesticides presented both to farmers and consumers who raised and bought these heavily sprayed crops.
Dr. Chang alerted Dow Management to the fact their policies could not work in Taiwan where, at the time, all farms were small and in constant use. This meant there was no chance for the land to lay fallow and perhaps recover from heavy chemical use. Dow, however, did not listen to his plea, and he resigned rather than carry out their policies in Taiwan.
Chang moved to Massachusetts and earned a Doctorate in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1973. Shortly after that, he opened Amherst Chinese Food and subsequently Dr. Chang’s Farm in Whatley, Massachusetts in 1976.
“Beyond eliminating the need for pesticides while growing nutrient-dense food, Dr. Chang was an early advocate of soil remineralization and has utilized rock dust on the farm since 1995,” said Dubin. “At present, due to these early efforts, his farm’s soil has become so rich that he has not needed to add more rock dust for many years.”
The fruits (and vegetables) of this labor have been plentiful. From its humble beginnings, Dr. Chang’s Farm has grown considerably, but still remains wholly owned and managed by the Chang family. After beginning operations in 1983, the bean sprout factory has expanded into what is now a state-of-the-art facility producing hundreds of thousands of tons of mungbean and soybean sprouts each week.
Yet it’s quite possible Dr. Chang’s Farm’s most significant horticultural contribution is yet to come. Specifically, that refers to the Schizandra berries grown on Dr. Chang’s Farm.
The schizandra berry is referred as an adaptogen. This term has been applied to certain botanicals capable of bringing balance to the body. In short, it helps ‘adapt’ to what the body needs at the moment. One person may need energy, another stress relief. An adaptogen helps both by assisting the body to reach its optimum level of health and well-being – a state referred to by science as ‘homeostasis’.
Whether it’s in its whole berry form, beverage or powder, schizandra berry supports healthy energy, vitality, cell function, calming relaxation, mental clarity, stamina, immunity, detoxification, reproduction and digestion.
“The schizandra berry has been featured on Dr. Oz and other programs for its wide variety of health benefits,” said Dubin. “As Americans look to the East and Chinese remedies and supplements, the schizandra berry could be the ginseng of this decade.”
Dr Chang Naturals grows and wholesales their certified organic schizandra berry powder worldwide. Consumers and retailers can learn more about this powder, and how to buy it, by contacting the distributor Lucidera at www.organicschizandra.com. You can also order of a glass of fresh schizandra berry juice at Dr. Chang’s restaurant. Amherst Chinese has offered this for over 18 years and remains the only place in America, and perhaps the world, where you can find this healthy beverage on the menu.
“Nowadays, you’re more likely to hear about businesses going under rather than celebrating a 30th anniversary,” said Dubin. “But with the management team we have in place and consumers’ interest in organic foods like our sprouts and the schizandra berry, Dr. Chang’s Farm is positioned to celebrate many more anniversaries.”
For more information about Chang’s Naturals, you can visit http://www.organicchiberry.com.