Small Scale Herb Production in B.C. Fraser Valley II
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Dean Arsene
Posted on: March 10, 2008

First of all thank you for the quick response. To answer your question, we want to grow herbs in the greenhouse during the summer and fall months. At the moment we only grow the hanging baskets in the spring and like I mentioned we’re usually finished with them by the end of May-early June. We want to utilize the space a little better and be able to make more of a profit from it rather than let it stay empty for the majority of the year. I should have specified that we are looking to grow fresh culinary herbs rather than dried. I know that the popular herbs like basil, chives, oregano, thyme, etc. will all do well in a greenhouse environment, but I am interested in which of these or others will yield the most in a greenhouse and also how long is the time between harvests? Basically in your opinion with all the factors of producing herbs in a greenhouse setting which would be the best route to look at for making a profit, finding a niche in the market and smartest move for my family and me to experiment with?

Basil has some inherent advantages for fresh herb producers in that it tolerates the warm summer temperatures better than other culinary herbs such as tarragon and chives. It doesn’t ship well and store well, so top buyers will appreciate a quality local product more than imported products. Also, demand for fresh basil is consistently strong. However, these remarks may not necessarily describe the situation in your area because local supply and demand varies across the country.

A potential difficulty you face is competition from local field-grown basil. It is impossible to compete on costs with field producers in late summer and early fall. But because basil only thrives outside when night time temperatures are above 10 degrees Celsius, you may be able to capture sales before and after the field producers get their harvests. Even during the peak field harvest time, you may find that some buyers prefer your product because it is cleaner and has fewer imperfections. On the other hand, experience shows that summer greenhouse production can suffer from increased risk of pests such as the whiteflies, spider mites, and thrips, so you have to design your production program to minimize this risk.

There is no guarantee that summer greenhouse herbs will be a success. It takes effort and persistence to find buyers who will take your product when your crop is ready. You will probably need to look at a combination of selling through your local fresh produce wholesale market and through produce wholesalers.

An excellent resource is Sandie Shores book, Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs, available from Richters:

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