Third Annual Commercial Herb Growing Conference
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jana E Murphy
Posted on: August 15, 1998

I recently saw the calendar listing for the 3rd Annual Commercial Herb Growing Conference. We at have recently begun cultivating medicinal herbs, specifically Echinacea purpurea. We have started out at a very small scale planting about 20,000 plants to the field. It has been a discouraging and educational spring/summer. We are new at this, so we are playing it by ear. We are not even sure of the market and hope that in a year or so we will find a buyer. So you see that we need some instruction in this "field."

I was wondering if you could provide some additional information on the conference. I may be interested in attending if it appears that it may be beneficial to our struggling business. If you know of any other resources which may prove helpful, we would greatly appreciate your recommendations. Also, would you know off hand what we may expect to receive per pound of E. purpurea root? I have received some information on pricing, but I am always looking to confirm the economics.

The latest conference information is posted on this website. Please check the "Commercial Conference" area on the home page.

I think you will find from the line up of speakers that it will be helpful to you. We decided to put on the conference precisely for people like you who are having questions about what works and what doesn’t. A conference like this one really helps because you get to network with people in the business, and through our unique "Idea Exchange Room" feature, we have the speakers available for more one-on-one discussions. We cannot stress how much the contact with other growers and industry people does for new growers.

You asked about prices. Prices are difficult to track because they are very much anecdotal right now; there is no central reporting of prices paid as there is for other farm commodities. Here, again, is another reason for attending the conference because you get to share information with other growers and get a much better "read" on the market.

Even though we are involved in the herb industry, even we do not have a good read on prices because we are not directly involved in the farmgate sales (we do not grow and sell our own bulk botanicals, nor do we buy directly from the farmer -- our business is the sale of plants and seeds, which is decidedly removed from the farmgate sales. Of course, we do hear of prices, but they are not reliable, and may be out of date. In the case of Echinacea, we have heard prices in the range of $20 -$30 a pound for roots, depending on the species; dried herb is about $2-3 a pound.

The thing that successful herb farmers have realized is that everything in your production has to be geared toward reducing labour cost and keeping quality very high. This often requires taking special approaches to growing and processing your crops. There is an old adage that goes: "It is easy to grow it; it’s hard to sell it." Selling very much depends on whether you can grow it efficienctly to keep costs down. This conference will help you do do that.

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