Organic Growing of Herbs Commercially
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Gary Roux
Posted on: January 18, 1999

I am interested in finding out more about organic production of herbs for the commercial market.

A study I did to compare market prices for organically-grown herbs vs. conventionally-grown herbs revealed that organic herbs were getting about double the price as conventional herbs. That was using 1996 data. The results of this study were published in the conference transcripts, "Richters Second Commercial Herb Growing Conference," which is available from Richters (see the online catalogue at our website).

There is some indication that this price differential will close as organic production becomes more common, but there is no doubt that organic herbs will command higher prices for some years to come. The demand for organic herbs is increasing rapidly and the supply is still inadequate for most herbs.

In the same transcripts mentioned (Richters Second Commercial...) there are papers by David Borbely of AgroPharm Technologies and Larry Lenhardt of Organic Crop Producers and Processors Ontario on the subjects of organic herb production and marketing. This material is useful background research material for anyone contemplating starting an organic herb farm.

Organic methodology for commercial herb production is in flux right now. Growers are trying many difficult techniques and trends are not yet clear. The major overriding concern has to be to develop techniques that reduce that major input difference compared to conventionally-grown herbs: high labour costs. Where this manifests most is in weed control. Many growers are experimenting with plastic mulches with encouraging results (see Borbely’s paper) to suppress weeds, with the added advantage that the plastic speeds up growth and keeps plants cleaner.

Pest control in field grown herbs has not been a serious concern among growers so far. Where necessary, organic controls are usually available, otherwise organic growers are content to take what remains. Many organic growers feel that if the soil is healthy the herbs will be relatively problem-free.

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