Growing Flowers and Herbs in Nova Scotia
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Cheryl Stone
Posted on: December 30, 2003

I live in Nova Scotia, on a small farm in Bear River. I have 20 acres of field, and am very interested in growing flowers and herbs. I would like to divide my field up into sections and try different things. One of my questions is, if I were to grow some herbs for crafts, such as wreaths, what would be the best kind of herbs to plant that would dry well, and hold up as a craft? Also, I read your newsletter on the greek oregano used as an oil for the immune system. Is this something you feel that would be worth growing, and that there would be a market for? I have close to neutral pH, or slightly acidic. I do have some clay in my soil, but there are no drainage problems. We are putting in irrigation, and buying a tractor in a couple of weeks. We are a registered farm, and I’m checking into organic farming as well. Any suggestions would be most helpful. You have a wonderful web site, and I love your catalog because of the vast selection and the fact it’s very informative. I’m very happy to be on your mailing list!

Starting a new business is always and exciting time. Your enthusiasm and love for herbs and flowers will help you to face the challenges of learning how to grow and make products, and to find markets.

Probably the biggest challenge is finding markets. The main thing is to get your product noticed, and that is not easy. Many new growers start by setting up a stall at the local farmers’ market. You and your products may be noticed by retail stores and restaurants and that may open up a wholesale business for you. Local newspapers may write a story about your products; don’t be shy about approaching them for free exposure.

But be prepared for a few disappointments along the way as you adjust your product mix to needs and desires of your local market.

In the meantime get your hands on as many flower and herb books as you can, especially ones that focus on commercial growing and marketing. Richters has several excellent titles, including "Making and Selling Herbal Crafts", "Creating an Herbal Body Care Business" and "Herbs for Sale" (see http://www.richters.com/Books/). The ebook by Richard Alan Miller, "Getting Started" is recommended also.

Medicinal herbs can be a very lucrative and rewarding business but you should be aware of the changes to Canadian natural health product regulations. If you intend to sell medicinal products directly to the public then, as of January 2004, you will need to get a license for both your site and your products. Selling to other herb manufacturers or processors does not require a license, but the wholesale market will not be profitable unless you plan to get into growing medicinal herbs in a big way.

Greek oregano is mostly used medicinally as an oil. To grow oregano for oil extraction, you need specialized distillation equipment. This is a specialized part of the herb industry that, like the bulk medicinal herbs market, requires a significant investment to get the volumes needed to be competitive. I do not recommend that you try the essential oil market at the outset; start smaller until you are comfortable with the practice of growing good quality herbs and then consider adding value-added products such as essential oils.

Getting your farm organic certified should be a goal from the outset because that will help you to gain entry into smaller markets that you can be competitive in. If you are trying to compete in the conventional bulk herbs market it could take years before you get volumes up and costs down enough to make a profit.

Which herbs to grow? That is always the 64,000 dollar question. I think you should look at what products you think will be of interest in your local markets and then look at what will grow. The three books will help you to decide, but look at the others Richters carries too.

The hardiness zone information listed in the Richters printed catalogue or online in the Richters Info Centre area of our website will give you an idea of what perennial herbs will grow in your area. most annual herbs such as basil, dill, and cilantro will grow well also.

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