Making Plans to Grow Chamomile
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Adam Colvin
Posted on: March 10, 2008

I and my younger brother (I’m 17 and he is 15) are planning on putting in a 1/2 acre to acre size patch of herbs here on our family’s farm as an experiment. So far we have considered german chamomile, but we need some up-to-date information about its market before we go out and grow blind (like you recommend).

This would be our first attempt at "growing" an herb, but we have some experience in handling herbs as we have wildcrafted a lot in our area. We think we can grow about a ton of chamomile flowers (?), and are willing to put whatever work into it this summer it takes to "do it right".

We need to know:

1) If there is strong enough of a market that we could sell a ton easily;

2) What we could expect per lb.

If you could help us out with these questions we would greatly appreciate it!

This sounds like a wonderful 4H project, with extra credit for actually doing it. Chamomile flowerheads by hand is VERY labor intensive, and how this has been done for centuries. Your first consideration is for certification of organically grown. No one is doing this yet, and would absolutely guarantee sales.

I have written extensively on this crop, and have even grown 10 acre fields of for testing automated flowerhead harvesters.

Yields vary, with genus and species - and if the crop is harvested by hand. Not all the flowerheads mature at the same time. It is an iffy situation, and can be very labor intensive.. Two forms of chamomile are grown commercially. German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) is an annual, and most grown for use as a tea ingredient. The other, roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis L.) is a perennial, and grown for oil production.

German chamomile is used primarily for the flowerhead, while the roman chamomile is used for the oil in cosmetics and foods. Both have been interchanged in the marketplace, usually on availability and price. Cultivars are used for higher yields.. The world market is now 50,000 acres, each form, with a rate of 5,000 acres/year.

North American markets are now over 6,000 acres, for each genus, and with no serious domestic cultivations at this time. This opens a tremendous opportunity for new innovations and crop selections. This is especially true in the more arid regions of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

Prices (USD/lb.)

Flowers, dried: $4.50/lb., FOB

Flowers, fresh: $2.20/lb., FOB

Flowers, organic: $6.50/lb., FOB

Oil, fresh: $465.00/lb., FOB

Prices will drop with the development of a flowerhead harvester, of course. That will automatically see the markets double for use and demand. Until then, labor intensive field stripping will remain constant. More interest in its use in cosmetics will increase demand.

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