Herbs nowadays are very much in demand, particularly with the popularity of specialty foods and cooking, and homeopathic medicines. They are found in teas and candles, wreaths, food, even used as alternative medicines. Herbal products are sold in groceries and health food stores.
Demand for Herbs
The increased demand for medicinal herbs is spurred by the growing public interest in alternatives to conventional medicine. According to the American Botanical Council, sale of herbal and botanical dietary supplements in the United States in 2009 reached about $5.030 billion . Herbal supplements for the treatment of colds and flu were the big sellers, due to the global concern for the H1N1 or swine flu virus. The growing interest in alternative medicine and healing both in America and the rest of the world ensures that this is a market set to expand.
There is also a strong growth in the demand for organic and locally grown food, including herbs, which in turn is contributing to the growth of herb farming. Culinary herb varieties, such as basil, chives, parsley, oregano, thyme, mint, rosemary, French tarragon and many others, are growing in use. One particular herb, the medicinal herb ginseng once grown in Asia, is now grown in some parts of the United States and Europe.
Many people are into aromatherapy, which uses herbal oils and fragrances. Manufacturers of therapeutic grade aromatherapy oils typically source their herbs from family farms and growers all over the world. For example, the powerful aromatic essential oil obtained from clary sage is in great demand in the perfume industry.
Starting a Herb Farming Business
Small-time herb farming can be an ideal business for those who love farming, as herbs can be grown in almost all seasons, in greenhouses, sun rooms and/or outdoors in relatively small spaces. Dried herbs can also be sold to crafters and florists for wreaths, floral arrangements, etc. As a business, you can earn from selling your herbs, or from selling by-products made from the herbs such as soaps, aromatherapy oils, as well as body care products such as hand cremes and salves.
Your first step is to decide what area of the business you want to develop (e.g. plants, herb products, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, etc.). You can sell your herbs wholesale to local grocery stores and specialty food markets, sell directly to customers on and off the Internet at retail prices, herbalists and aroma therapists, caterers and restaurants specializing in gourmet cooking, mail order, and several other channels.
Check the potential of the market that you are planning to supply. Ask your local grocery stores what herbs they are looking for. Inquire with the restaurants in your area if you can supply them with herbs, and what kind they will need. Scour the Internet for aromatherapy oil suppliers, and inquire about the possibility of supplying for them.
The quality of your herbs is extremely important. You need to ensure top quality of the herbs, from the color and texture, taste and smell, as well as overall cleanliness and packaging. Poor quality can spell disaster for your business, so you need to make sure you check to remove bad batches and provide your clients with only your best products.
How consistent you can supply your customers with your herb products is critical to the success of your business. This is something that you need to consider before even going out to start marketing the business. You need to deliver on a regular and consistent basis; otherwise, your client will turn to another supplier. There’s a lot of competition in the herb business, so how you fulfill your promise to your customers can spell the success or failure of your business.
Whether you are growing herbs for medicinal or food purposes, it is important to keep track of any new regulations affecting herbal products. With evolving technology and changes in regulations, it’s imperative to stay on top of any news in the seasoning or alternative medicine business.
The herb farming business is susceptible to economies of scale, where the larger your mass production, the more savings and cost effective your herbal farming will be. The bigger herb farms tend to be more successful than a smaller farm, as it costs less to produce each unit. This is something that you need to consider when starting a small-scale herb farming business from your home.
The startup costs will depend on the scale and complexity of your herbal farming business. A business started from your backyard will cost you equipment, soil and your seedlings, with startup costs anywhere from $500 to $2,000. Unless of course your backyard is 10-acres! A full-scale herb growing business can cost you as anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 plus the cost of land.
- Herb Society of America (HSA) herbsociety.org/
- American Botanical Council (ABC) herbalgram.org
- American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) ahpa.org/
- American Herb Association (AHA) ahaherb.com/
- American Herbalists Guild healthy.net/herbalists
- Herb Growing and Marketing Network (HGMN) hgmn.com/
- Herb Research Foundation (HRF) herbs.org/
- International Herb Association (IHA) iherb.org