What Herbs to Grow Commercially on a Farm
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Doug
Posted: Before April 1998

We are a farming family and are always searching for new products to grown in quantity. My question is: are there any plant products that are in demand that can and should be grown?

There are many herbs in demand now. Each is different in its growing, processing and marketing requirements. You need to spend time and money learning the needs and marketing potential of each crop. We ALWAYS stress that new entrants in the business of herbs should go slow and plant small test plots never over an acre (0.4 ha) in size. One of the "chicken-and-egg" dilemmas you will face is that buyers want to see the quality of your product before they will talk seriously with you. Understand that they get many requests like this from farmers. Fewer than one in ten prospective growers actually gets to the producton stage. Until they see proof that a new grower can produce the quality and quantity needed buyers will not make any commitment. This principle applies for all forms of herbs, be they bulk dried herbs, fresh-cut herbs, potted herbs, value-added products, etc. Unlike agricultural products such as corn and soybeans, there is no established market for herbs. You cannot assume that there will be buyers ready to scoop up your product. One farmer planted 20 acres of coriander for which he could not locate buyers, so he plowed it under. If you are interested in the bulk dried herb market you should consult the book, "The Potential of Herbs as a Cash Crop" by Richard Alan Miller (available from Richters). This book goes into all aspects of production and marketing of herbs. It is a bit dated now: the herb industry is always changing so the specifics are not always current; but it will give you an excellent overview of the business. Richters also offers other books dealing with the business of herbs. You can also join a trade association and subscribe to trade magazines. The International Herb Association, based in the U.S., is probably the largest trade organization. Good magazines are "The Business of Herbs" and "HerbalGram". What is in demand now? Ginseng, echinacea, goldenseal, coriander, caraway, garlic and mustard are all important commercial crops in North America. Probably over 100 herbs are being grown on farms in plots of one acre or more. Organically-grown herbs confer a significant price advantage, so organic production and certification should be considered. The industry as a whole is growing in leaps and bounds, but you need to do your homework to be successful.

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