How to Become a Buyer of Wildcrafted Herbs
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Teresa Bowling
Posted on: June 25, 2001

I need help!! Me and my husband sell ginseng that is harvested from the hills of eastern Kentucky and also bark from elm trees -- we take this to a local buyer. My question is how do you become a buyer and then where is it sold for more profit? We would like to operate a business of our own but are not able to obtain any information from the local buyers. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

The entire industry could use some help right now... so you are not alone. As I understand it, you are currently a wildcrafter who would like to become something more? The next step is to become a buying station, representing more wildcrafters from your area. Many do not want to go to the work of further drying or processing, wanting to bring it in fresh (wet).

Of course the local buyer is not going to help you. Why should he create competition for himself? He probably found you by advertising his needs at the local feed store or grange. Often an ad in the "Little Nickel" is also very affective. Those issuing brush permits also can help organize local collections.

There are several options on how to get started. Most begin by knowing other foragers who need immediate incomes. Another form would be a large family, with several generations of wildcrafters in the family (working together). Or, it might be several "best friends," working on a project (specific PO).

This is where you can make extra profits. By paying them for the material, and then adding your own labor to drying and packaging it for larger buyers. There are a number of rules to do this, one of which is to maintain your quality control. Make sure the product you buy is as good as or better than your own material. Never compromise.

Most buying stations must work with their own money to buy extra inventory. Some crops, like Cascara segrada are so important, many end users will help by allowing you to work with their money (in increments). This takes at least five years in the business before those kinds of buyers can trust your judgment and bond.

It actually is easier to find larger buyers, once who want to purchase in 2,000-lb. quantities or more. Smaller users a usually more fickle and demand more effort for sale. Seasonal variations and availability can also play a factor in what one can do. Never exaggerate or take on more commitments than can be made. Not delivering your commitment is almost as bad as delivering worthless crops.

When you receive a PO, that is like accepting a contract for delivery. If you do not deliver, that is a breach of contract (and trust). While "Acts of God" may hamper normal deliveries, that should be the only excuse. When a buyer looses confidence in your ability to deliver, they begin to look for other sources of supply.

While the markets are well established for Ginsengs, Slippery Elm Bark is now in short supply. I can offer assistance in these markets, especially if the bark is rossed. You would be most welcome to contact me directly for more information on what to do next. My new websites are www.nwbotanicals.org and www.herbafrminfo.com.

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