Herbs Suitable for Cutting and Baling Like Hay
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Mary Graham
Posted on: January 14, 1999

First, I would like to compliment you on the excellent seed selection offered in your catalog. I would also like to request that you consider adding hardiness zone information for every crop. It would be extremely helpful for me in choosing seeds.

We agree. We are planning to add a database to our website that would contain such information. Initially, it will have hardiness zones, height, spread, exposure and seeds per gram, but eventually it will have a lot more. We have been collecting data for years and we are working to get it into machine-readable format so that it can distributed on the web. Look for something in the "GrowSheets" section of our website.

I am located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and am beginning the commercial production of some herbs. I have equipment for growing hay and similar crops. Which herb crops are suitable for cutting and baling like hay? Who are the buyers in this region that buy those crops by the bale? I would like to contact them for grower guidelines. If you can not give me information about the market prices for those crops, please point me to where I can find out.

The herbs market is not nearly as established as the, say, forage or grain markets -- so it is rarely a simple matter of showing up with your bales of herbs somewhere expecting an easy sale. In fact, there are perhaps only a handful of buyers who might be in a position to take large quantities of herbs, and invariably they are looking for product that is carefully harvested and dried, and often further processed in some way, for example to remove stems, dirt, or to mill the herbs to a specific size.

A major impediment to your approach is that most herbs need to be dried in the shade in order to preserve colour and to maintain levels of active constituents and oils. Many herbs have thick stems with high moisture content which would cause rotting and heating if baled fresh like hay.

Looking through our list of herbs, I cannot see many that could be grown like hay. Two possibilities that come to mind are alfalfa and oat straw, but much depends on the buyers. Some buyers, for example, manufacturers of alfalfa tablets, might find bales acceptable, but others might not.

Finding buyers is a major task for herb growers. Buyers are not found in every region -- in fact, it is entirely likely that your buyers will be out of state or even out of country. We have stressed on many occasions that growers need to be prepared for a significant effort to find buyers and work with them to deliver what buyers are looking for. It can take several years before buyers are comfortable enough with you and your product before they place significant order. Please check articles in the"Commercial" areaof the "Q&A" section on our website for further information. You can also check the book section of our online catalogue: there are at least a half dozen good books on commercial herb growing and marketing worth looking at. Two that you should consider are: "Herbs for Sale: Growing and Marketing Herbs, Herbal Products and Herbal Know How: and "Medicinal Herbs in the Garden, Field & Marketplace" (new for 1999).

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