Growing Echinacea in Wyoming
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Jude
Posted on: December 23, 1999

I am interested in growing echinacea in Wyoming as a crop. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a company to contract with and I am unsure of where to locate seed. I saw your site and thought you might be a good place to start. Any info that you can give me would be very appreciated.

I just completed a Farm Plan for Wyoming, so I’m fresh with concepts for that region. I would NOT RECOMMEND cultivating echinacea at this time. I guess the first thing that needs to be said is that there is now a surplus of all Echinacea species, and some farms can’t even give it away, at any price.

The problem with E. purpurea (and other species) is that many of the tobacco growers in Canada cultivated this crop three years ago as an alternative to the subsidized tobacco programs. Tax incentives were offered. What does this mean to you? It means that in the next two to three years, there will be surpluses of this crop, and the prices will drop to substandard par. This has become another crop for control, unfortunately, by the "banks."

Current price for this root (E. angustifolia) have already dropped from $32/lb. to less than $12/lb. this year alone, and the tops no longer enjoy any form of marketability By this time next year, I suspect that the crop will only be sold at a loss, in attempts to deplete inventories for other crop storage needs.

For a world perspective, Whole Foods Magazine reports sales of Echinacea products in North America are now $80 million annually. This crop represents 10% of all herb product sales in North America last year. And, health food stores now represent about 40% of this industry, so it has been projected by Whole Foods Magazine that total Echinacea product sales may be as high as $200 million.

However, North America represents about 12% of the total world herbal medicine market (estimated at $12.4 billion (HerbalGram, 1994). With no significant sales outside European and North American usage, the world market for Echinacea is now estimated at $1 billion, plus or minus a few points. These figures are at the retail level for manufactured herbal products. Farm-gate estimates are only about 2-3% of this retail value, or about $20 to $30 million worldwide.

I see no margins for growth with this crop. Now, Wyoming does have some native plants which might be worth considered for cultivation. This would include Mormon Tea, Chaparral, and numerous seed crops. I am available to construct a specific business plan for your farm. This is part of what I do for a living.

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