Farming a Few Acres of Herbs:

An Herb Growers Handbook

 

by Rhonda Janke, Jeanie DeArmond, and David Coltrain

Dept. of Horticulture, Forestry, and Recreation Resources, and Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University

 

SECTION I.  OVERVIEW

 

Why Grow Herbs?

 

            There are many possible reasons that someone may want to grow herbs.  One reason might be to have a few plants around the yard for personal use, for culinary or medicinal purposes.  At the other end of the spectrum, some have heard that high prices are being offered for some herb products, and see this as a potential high value cash crop for the whole farm.

 

Medicinal Herbs in Kansas?

 

The production and marketing of medicinal herbs is being explored by some Kansas agricultural producers.  Producers may be looking at alternative crops because of the current low prices of many traditional commodity crops.  This interest is shared by many across the country as well as across the world including Canada, Australia and South Africa.  Developing countries such as China, India, Thailand, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya and the Philippines grow a variety of medicinal herbs.  European and Mediterranean countries also grow herbs, but are net importers.[1]

 

Medicinal plants have been used throughout history.  Presently, 35,000 different plant species are used for medicinal purposes.[2]  In the U.S., consumer interest in medicinal herbs continues to increase.  Herbs are sold as capsules, tablets, extracts and teas and included as healthy ingredients in conventional foods.  Extensive consumer polling shows consumers are increasing their acceptance and understanding of dietary supplements, including herbs.  The natural foods market has the largest selection with hundreds of products including whole herbs, tinctures, extracts and standardized products.

 

The global retail market for medicinal herbs is $14 billion.  The demand for medicinal herbs in the U.S. currently has a retail value over $4 billion per year.  Retail sales in the U.S. increased regularly from 1994 until 1998 and have since leveled off and little change has occurred over the past three years.  Sales in 2000 when compared with 1999, have increased slightly in natural food and health food stores, but decreased in food stores, drugs stores and mass market retailers.[3] 

While the demand has stabilized, the supply of medicinal herbs has increased.  Markets are overstocked with raw materials with an overall theme of oversupply and low demand.[4]  A significant market risk is associated with growing any medicinal herb because of limited markets.  Current demand can be quickly met by over production.  For example, the price for Echinacea roots has been as low as $2.50 per pound of dried root in the last three years, which compares with over $20 per pound in 1998.  The current market price range is $6-8 per pound.[5]

 

The potential for herb production is unclear because of:

      an uncertain market size

      low cost producers who dominate world production

      market information is difficult to access

      a lack of quality control procedures

      oftentimes agronomic information for different herbs is not available

      the position of the medical community’s acceptance[6]

 

Kansas does have an ideal climate to grow many herbs since many medicinal herbs are native species.  Kansas State University’s Department of Horticulture is conducting research trials to see how various herbs perform in Kansas.  This research has the potential to provide insight about the relative advantages in raising superior herbs for Kansas producers when compared with production in other states and other parts of the world.  Details from our research trials may be found in Appendix A of this publication.  Recent price ranges for several herbs are found in Appendix B.

 

Do medicinal herbs have potential as an alternative crop in Kansas?  For individuals willing to invest significant time, effort and capital, the answer is a cautious maybe.  It is certainly not a get rich quick crop.  The long-term answer for some may  involve becoming a low cost, efficient producer.  For others, it will entail selling smaller amounts of high quality product at the best price possible.  For a few others, it may mean developing a value-added product, like an herb tea blend, or line of herb tinctures.

 

            A word of caution is in order here for someone wanting to “get rich quick.”  Yes, at some times, there are good prices, for some herbs.  However, the prices fluctuate from year to year and season to season, and the high prices don’t usually stay high for long.  Secondly, contracts are generally needed to obtain those high prices, and these are secured after your track record as a grower is established, and you have a  working relationship with one or more buyers.  And finally, herbs are a high value crop, but are also a high input crop.  These inputs include not only seed, land, fertility, and pest control, but some herbs also require a lot of hand labor as compared to other crops, and harvesting and post-harvest handling labor and quality control procedures can be expensive.  Also, the trend for herb production is for organic certification, and there are costs to this service, including membership dues, inspectors fees, and the learning curve and 3-year transition period required before certification is granted.

 

            In spite of these cautions, we feel that herbs have the potential to be an additional cash crop for Kansas farmers.  Because these are high value crops, a farm can range from  ˝ acre to1000+ acres in size.  Since these are relatively new crops, beginning farmers are encouraged to try these, as well as farmers with experience in other crops.  The term “herb” actually simply means “a plant,” and so more detail is needed to describe the production and marketing requirements of this diverse family.  In fact, the production and harvesting requirements for herbs is probably even more diverse than that of fruits and vegetables, which also involves diverse equipment.  For example, you wouldn’t grow and harvest a watermelon the same way you grow and harvest a carrot.

 

            The following sections will go into more detail, and will emphasize both the economic and agronomic, or specific growing requirements for herbs.  Marketing strategies will be separated into local direct marketing, and growing for a marketing chain or network.  Agronomic practices will include information on how the plant is harvested, since harvesting equipment will limit what is grown on an individual farm more than planting or weeding equipment.  Root crops are probably the most labor intensive to grow, since they may require several seasons to reach a marketable size, and digging equipment, washing equipment, as well as drying equipment or space are needed.  Plants harvested for their above-ground biomass (tops) may be harvested by hand, or mechanized, but drying equipment or space will be needed.  Some of these plants may be harvested once, and others are perennials, from which multiple harvests can be obtained, similar to an alfalfa or grass hay crop.  Some herb crops can be grown for their flowers or seeds.  Flowers are probably too labor intensive to be grown as a U.S. crop, since these crops are already grown in other countries where labor is less expensive, and it is unlikely a U.S. could compete at prices now on the market.  However, some seed  crop harvests can be mechanized, and growers may want to consider some of these.  Also, some seed crops are from annuals, which must be replanted, but others are from perennials, with the possibility for multiple harvests.

 

            As much as possible, Kansas data and experience will be used to illustrate the potential for some species to become crops in Kansas.  Currently, more than 30 different herbs are being tested in experimental plots at 4 locations in Kansas.  Data from the 2000 through 2002 growing seasons are available now, and found in this bulletin.  Also, grower experiences from Kansas and the Great Plains will be shared, since this will supplement, and complement the field trial experimental data.

 

A.  Herbs for Local Markets (Direct Marketing)

 

            A wide variety of herbs can be grown and direct marketed locally, at farmers’ markets, or to local shops and stores.  These include culinary herbs (herbs used in for cooking), herbs for teas, salves, and other medicinal uses, and herbs or plants used for decoration or floral design.  Most of this bulletin will focus on medicinal herbs, since this is an active area of inquiry, and one for which we get many requests for information.  However, herbs for other uses will be covered briefly in this section.

 

            Herbs used for cooking can be harvested and sold fresh in bunches or packets, or dried and sold.  Dried herbs however are going to compete with the international market, where labor is cheap, while the fresh herbs are not usually over-supplied and under-priced.  The following table lists some culinary herbs that grow well under Kansas conditions.

 

Table 1.  Culinary Herbs

 

Common Name

Latin Name

Part

Used

Comments

Annuals

 

 

 

Basil (many sub-types)

Ocimum basilicum

Leaf

can sell fresh in large quantities for pesto, best if can avoid refrigeration

Corriander

Coriandrum sativum

Leaf and seed

also called ‘Cilantro’ when used green.

Dill

Anethum graveolens

Leaf and seed

many uses besides pickles

Garlic

Allium sativum

bulb

plant cloves in fall for June/July harvest (winter annual)

Perennials

 

 

 

Chives

Allium schoenoprasum

leaf and flower

primarily used for garnish, but also adds flavor, purple flower

Garlic Chives

Allium tuberosum

leaf

flat leaved cousin of chives from Japan, white flower, great in salad and stir-fry

Lemongrass

Cymbopogon citratus

Inner core of leaf whorl.

tender perennial, must be brought inside for the winter in pots.

Marjorum

Origanum vulgare (sometimes listed as Marjorana hortensis)

leaf/flower

similar to oregano in flavor, though not as strong.

Mint

Mentha spp.

leaf

many varieties, adds flavor to many dishes, not just for tea

Oregano

Origanum vulgare hirtum

 

leaf

the “Greek oregano” is the one used for pizza. Another species,  Lippia graveolens is sold in the US as oregano, also called Mexican oregano.

Parsley

Petroselinum crispum

leaf (root also medicinal)

this plant has medicinal as well as culinary uses, flat-leaved (Italian) type best for cooking, curly leaf used more for garnish

Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis

leaf

tender perennial, must be brought inside for the winter in a pot or as cuttings.

Sage

Salvia officinalis

leaf

medicinal as well as culinary uses

Tarragon

Artemisia dracunculus sativa

leaf

French Tarragon is recommended for its flavor.  Russian tarragon may be easier to grow, but lacks the flavor.

Thyme

Thymus vulgaris

leaf

medicinal as well as culinary uses, small leaves will strip off the stem easily when dried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

            A second category of herbs that are relatively easy to grow, harvest and sell to a local market would be those used for teas.  These herb teas may simply be a pleasant beverage, have medicinal properties, or both.  Precautions should be taken when growing any medicinal plant to have the correct species, and avoid plants with potentially toxic side effects.  The species listed below are generally considered safe, and are widely used.  However, some individuals may have sensitivities or allergies, and should be careful when trying new products.  For more information on herb tea, see MF-2579, "Home Grown Herbs for Home Use."

 

Table 2.  Herbs Commonly Used in Herb Tea.

 

Common Name

Latin Name

Part Used

Comments

 

 

 

 

Annuals

 

 

 

Chamomile-German

Matricaria chamomilla

flower

Best one for tea.

Chamomile-Roman

Chamaemelum nobile

flower

More often used as an oil. 

Stevia

Stevia rebaudiana

leaf

Is 300 times sweeter than sugar.  Only need a little bit of this.  Can be used as fresh or dried leaf, though an extract is sold commercially.

Perennials

 

 

 

Alfalfa Leaf

Medicago sativa

leaf

mild flavor, often overlooked healthful plant

Bergamot

Monarda fistulosa

leaf/flower

strong but pleasant flavor, great butterfly plant too.

Catnip

Rhamnus purshiana

leaf

not just for cats anymore!  great for tea.

Comfrey

Symphytum officinale

leaf

Recently issued warnings of liver damage with prolonged use.  Might not want to sell this one commercially.

Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale

leaf/root

Can be slightly bitter in tea, but has many health promoting properties; best in a blend with other herbs.

Hibiscus Flowers

Hibiscus sabdariffa

flower

Adds color and tartness to tea.

Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis

leaf

Medicinal, as well as nice flavor.

Lemon Verbenba

Aloysia triphylla

leaf

Bring inside during the winter.  Tender perennial.

Lemongrass

Cymbopogon citratus

leaf

Also a tender perennial.  Bring inside.

Licorice Root

Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Chinese), Glycyrrhiza lipedita (N. Am.)

root

These will spread.   Adds sweet flavor to tea.  Not recommended for people with high blood pressure.

Mint (several types)

Mentha piperita (peppermint)

Mentha spicata (spearmint)

leaf

These will also spread.  The classic tea plant.  Available in flavors, including chocolate.

Raspberry Leaf

Rubus idaeus

leaf

Included in many "women's teas," worth looking in to.

Red Clover flowers

Trifolium pratense

flower

Also popular in women's teas, has some estrogenic properties

Rosehips

Rosa canina

fruit

contain vit. C, may need to boil slightly to extract flavor

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

leaf

mineral rich and flavorful tea, sometimes recommended as a spring tonic.

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

leaf

surprisingly nice tea.

 

            A third group of herbs could be grown for use in salves, creams, or other topical uses.  Infused oils, salves, and creams are not difficult to make.  One can learn how to make them from a class or from several available books.   Some of the herbs can also be used internally, and some cannot, so become familiar with each plant and its uses.  Some recommended herbs for Kansas include:

 

Table 3.  Herbs for home-made salves and creams.

 

Common Name

Latin Name

Part Used

Comments

 

 

 

 

Annuals

 

 

 

Callendula

Calendula officinalis

flower

high resin varieties available, pick when flower is at its prime

Chickweed

Stellaria media

leaf

Harvest when young and tender.

Perennials

 

 

 

Aloe

Aloe barbadensis

leaf

Mucilagenous gel in the fresh leaf used in hand creams and other products.  Grow indoors as a house plant, or set out during summer months for rapid growth.

Arnica

Arnica montana

leaf

Difficult in Kansas.  Prefers an alpine environment, but is in high demand from herbalists.

Burdock

Arctium lappa

root/leaf

easy to grow, wild type also found in Kansas

Comfrey

Symphytum officinale

leaf/root

Easy to grow, propagate by root divisions

Mint

Mentha spp.

leaf

Easy to grow, will spread.  Essential oil1 or infused oil2 of mint more likely in skin products than whole leaf.

Plantain

Plantago lanceolata, P. major

leaf

This common sidewalk weed often used for skin ailments.

St. John's Wort

Hypericum perforatum

flowers

Often found in skin creams and oils, as well as for internal use.

 

 

 

 

1 Essential oil has been extracted through the use of heat and pressure, usually involving a steam distillation process.  These oils are highly concentrated, and used in very small quantities, like a few drops.  These are usually not made at home, but could if one had a distillation unit.  When sold commercially, these bring a very high price, or are sometimes diluted, and sold at a lower price.

2 Infused oil can easily be made at home, using a process of soaking the fresh or dried herb in olive or other vegetable oil.  See reference section for books that describe the process in more detail.

 

A fourth  group of herbs that could be grown and sold locally include those for fragrance, dried flower arrangements, potpourri, or other similar decorative uses.  Some of these are harvested on a commercial scale for their essential oils.  However, this is only economically feasible in regions where a processing plant already exists, or where enough growers are concentrated in one area to jointly support processing.  This market is already somewhat “mature,” or saturated, and so we do not see this being a competitive area for new growers to get into on a large scale.  However, on a small scale with local markets, these have potential to return a profit to small growers.  These may not be safe for internal use, but a few of these are on the other lists and have internal uses; for example, mint.

 

Table 4.  Herbs for fragrance, oils, and decorative uses.

 

Common Name

Latin Name

Part Used

Comments

 

 

 

 

Perennials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bergamot

Monarda fistuolosa

flower/leaf

Flowers and leaves may be dried.

Bittersweet

Solanum dulcamara

vine/berries

Can be harvested from the wild in KS, primarily used for decoration now, but also has medicinal properties.

Lavendar

Lavandula angustifolia

flower/leaf

Dried flowers and stems are used.

Mints

Mentha spp.

leaf

Many types available.

Orris Root

Iris germanica var. florentina

root

The dried root of this variety is fragrant.

Patchouli

Pogostemon patchouli

leaf

Tender perennial.

Pine cones

Pinus spp.

cone

Many types may be collected and added to potpourri mixtures.

Rattlesnake Master

Eryngium yuccafolium

whole plant

Unusual native plant in found only in virgin prairie.

Roses

Rosa spp.

Rosa canina (rosehips)

rosa centifolia

Rosa gallica

flower petals and buds

Many types, old fashioned musk type have the most aromatic petals.  Rosehips, petals, or whole flowers may be dried and preserved.

Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis

leaf/flower

Decorative as well as useful culinary and medicinal herb.

Scented Geraniums

Pelargonium spp.

leaf

Many types available

Sumac

Rhus glabra

berries

Sumac berries may be used in tea or decoration.  Woody plant, wild in great plains.

White sage

Salvia apiana

leaf and stem

Used for incense or potpourri, not cooking.

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

leaf and flower

Flowers dry nicely for arrangements

 

              

            Any of the herbs sold by direct marketing can be promoted in a variety of ways.  Herbs are placed in the category  by the FDA as dietary supplements, which are a class separate from food and also from drugs.  There are some special rules that apply.  First of all, health claims cannot be made about the herbs.  As with food items, all herbs sold should be clean, well labeled, and sold un-processed, unless you have a certified commercial kitchen, and/or have sought out the advice of your local or state health department.

 

            Attractive labels can be made for the herbs, whether sold fresh or dried, with the name, culinary uses, and some information about the folk uses of the herb.  Reference books can also be kept handy, so that the customer can look up the herbs and read about possible uses for themselves.  That also takes you out of the risky role of unlicensed health care provider.

 

            Recipes are also nice for people trying out new culinary herbs for the first time, and tea blends or suggestions of blends of herbs for tea can also be made when direct marketing.  Other marketing ideas include bringing in a speaker for your local garden club or farmers' market association to talk about herbs, and to write articles about herbs for local newspapers or newsletters.  When selling herbs, the more educated the consumer, the better off you are.  It will help them to know how to safely use herbs, and also how important it is to find the highest quality, fresh (and if possible local) source of herbs.

 

 

B.  Herbs for Commercial Markets

 

            Deciding which herbs to grow for the commercial market may be much tougher than for the local, direct market.  For a local market, one can try out a few things, see what the customer likes, educate the consumer about other possible products, and get pretty far through trial and error.  For the commercial market, the grower is several steps away from the end consumer, and must be aware not only of what consumers want, but what the manufacturers, and hence the buyers for the manufacturers want.  Also, there is a lot of competition in the commercial market, both from with the U.S., and even more, from other countries.  An herb that must be hand harvested, or is time consuming to grow will probably have an advantage in another country.  Herbs that grow in tropical climates will not be considered here, except for those that may be grown successfully in unheated greenhouses, or tender tropical perennials that could be grown as annuals.  For example, Stevia, originally from the tropical area of Paraguay, does very well in Kansas as an annual (see MF-2630 later in this handbook).

 

            Over 30 herbs have been screened for their production potential in field test plots in Kansas.  Results for herbs screened for two years or more are found in Appendix A., which is a compilation of fact sheets for each species.  As more species are evaluated, new fact sheets will be written.  Table 5.  summarizes our results in the form of overall recommendation.  The 30 species in the fact sheets are there, plus additional information on species where we have only observations from gardens.  Interpret these recommendations for your own site, because it will make a difference if your field is in an exposed site vs. protected, no irrigation vs. drip or other system, etc.  Additional information on equipment and business planning are in the next section of this handbook, and site specific  data from each year are found on the KSU Horticultural website: www.ksre.ksu.edu/ksherbs.

 

 

            Table 5. is organized by plant part/harvest method, because time to harvest may limit more growers than any other factor.  Though some herbs have markets for more than one plant part (for example, leaves and roots), they are listed in the table under their most common use.


 

Table 5.  Herbs for the Commercial Market - Organized by Harvest Method for Primary Crop (some have multiple uses)

 

Footnotes:

1Fact sheet number if available.

2Recommendation code: G = good for gardens

                                       N = not adapted to Kansas

                                       F = could be a good field crop

                                       L = limitations, could be insect, disease, labor to harvest,……

3Comments are generally about growing conditions or marketing potential.  Occasionally mention medicinal uses to give one a sense of whether this plant has market potential in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Name

Latin Name

Annual/

Perennial

Sun/

Shade

Part/How harvested

KSU trials1

Recommend-ations2

Comments3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saffron

Crocus sativus

perennial

partial shade

pollen - by hand

no

G

v. expensive, tedious imported from Spain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers/petals

 

 

 

 

 

 

Borage

Borago officinalis

annual

sun

flowers (also stems and leaves).

Harvest during flowering period.

yes

MF-2608

G/L

For borage oil, the fatty oil of the seeds, though other parts also used medicinally.  Flowers added to salads. Good for gardens.  Limitations are flowers hard to harvest, and limited market for other parts of the plant.

Calendula

Calendula officinalis

annual

sun

flowers

yes

MF-2610

G/F

Grows well here, limitation will be time to harvest flowers.

Chamomile - German

Matricaria chamomilla

annual

sun

flower rake

yes

(no fact sheet yet)

G/L

easy to grow, tedious to harvest?  Don’t confuse with Roman chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile, which is primarily grown for its oil, and not for tea.

Elderberry

Sambucus nigra

woody perennial

sun or partial shade

by hand (flowers and/or fruit)

yes (no fact sheet yet)

F/G

Market for elderberry now at a winery in Mulvane, KS.  Native plant, well adapted.

Red Clover

Trifolium pratense

perennial

sun

blossoms

yes

MF-2625

F/G/L

Easy to grow, time consuming to harvest?  Better to grow a large field of it, or rotate with other crops as a cover crop. If only growing a few plants, the rabbits may be a problem.

 

St. John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum

perennial

sun

flowers and/or top 6 inches in full flower

yes

MF-2629

G/F

Well adapted, best yields might be during second year, need to replant periodically.  Gets shrubby.  Pretty in garden.  Could partially mechanize the harvest?  Big market for this crop, especially if high quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elderberry

Sambucus nigra

woody perennial

sun or partial shade

by hand (flowers and/or fruit)

yes (no fact sheet yet)

F/G

Market for elderberry now at a winery in Mulvane, KS.  Native plant, well adapted.

Hawthorn

Crataegus laevigata, also C. monogyna

woody perennial

sun

fruit (also flower and leaf)

observation

G/F(?)

cardiac stimulant, antioxidant, now imported from Poland, Chile, Bulgaria and France.  Seems well adapted to Kansas landscape setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening primrose

Oenothera biennis

biennial

sun

small seeds

yes

MF-2611

N

medicinal part is the fatty oil extracted from the ripe seeds and fresh plant gathered at the beginning of the flowering season.  Did not do well in our trials here, and seed shatters easily.

Milk Thistle

Silybum marianum

normally a winter annual

sun

can use combine?

yes

MF-2618

N (if from transplants)

can plant w/ wheat drill, plant v. early - Feb/March to get a crop in KS.  Not sure whether to recommend until we do some direct seeding trials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfalfa

Medicago sativa

perennial

sun

leaf & seed, could mechanize both

no

F

This is a common forage crop in Kanasas, well adapted to our climate.  The only limitations would be to market the crop successfully, and work out quality control details.

Bee Balm

Monarda fistulosa

perennial

sun

leaf/flower

yes

MF-2605

G/F

M. fistulosa did well in field trials, but M. didyma did not.

Blue Vervain

Verbena hastate

perennial

sun

leaf/whole herb

yes

MF-2606

G/F

Nice plant, though had heavy insect damage in some years.

Boneset

Eupatorium perfoliatum

perennial

sun

leaf/above ground portion

yes

MF-2607

G/F

Nice white flowers, does well under field conditions, even when dry.

Feverfew

Tanacetum parthenium

perennial

sun

flowering tops/leaves

yes

MF-2614

G/F

Grow this plant like an annual rather than a perennial.  Poor winter survival.

Gingko

Gingko biloba

woody perennial

sun

leaves

no

G

F?

Limitations are market and harvest method. Adapted landscape tree common in Kansas.

Heal All

Prunella vulgaris

perennial

sun

leaves

yes

MF-2636

G/F

Attractive plant, did ok in field trials, but may be difficult to harvest, low growing.

Heartsease/Wild Violet/Wild Pansy/Johnny-Jump-Up

Viola tricolor

annual to perennial

sun or shade

fresh aerial parts, 2-3 harvests per year possible

no

G

Approved by Commission E for inflammation of the skin, used both internally and externally.  Often found as a “weed” in flower beds.

Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis

perennial

sun or partial shade

collect leaves before flowering and/or branching.

no

G/F?

Great in tea, seems to be expanding market.  Observations so far indicate it is winter hardy in a moderately protected area.

Lemon Verbena

Aloysia triphylla

tender perennial, somewhat woody shrub

sun or partial shade

lateral branches harvested in the fall.

no

G

Propagated by runners or cuttings.  Used to flavor teas.  Probably not hardy in Kansas.  Bring inside each winter.

Mullein

Verbascum thapsus

biennial

sun (needs good drainage)

leaves for tea, flowers for infused oil.

yes

MF-2619

G/F

Attractive, adapted plant for garden or field.  Harvest leaves first year, flower in second.

Oregano

Origanum vulgare

perennial

sun

leaves

yes

MF-2621

G/F

Adapted to Kansas.

Round Head Lespedeza

Lespedeza capitata

perennial

sun

whole herb tops

yes

MF-2626

G/F

Native to Kansas, looked good in the field.  Small market now.

Sheep Sorrel

Rumex acetosella

perennial

sun

whole herb top and/or leaves

yes

MF-2627

G/F

Great in garden as a salad and/or tea herb.  Limitation in field might be how to pick such a low growing herb.  Spreads a LOT.

Skullcap

Scutellaria lateriflora

perennial,

sun

aerial part of 3-4 yr old plants harvested in June

yes

MF-2628

G/F

Did great in field trials.  Attractive plant.  Market for tops now, roots in future?

Stevia

Stevia rebaudiana

tender perennial

sun

aerial portions.

yes

MF 2630

G/F

Did great in field trials.  Is from Paraguay, and a tropical plant, so grow like an annual.

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

perennial

partial shade

leaves (now a market for roots also)

yes

MF-2631

F

A bit “stingy” for the garden, but grows well here, even in full sun.

White Sage

Salvia apiana

tender perennial, but grow as an annual.

sun

whole tops

yes

MF-2633

G/F

Attractive in the garden.  This is a plant used for ceremony, not cooking or other herbal preparations.  Not winter hardy here.

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

perennial

sun

flowering tops

yes

MF-2634

G/F

Attractive in the garden, did well in the field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Root

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Cohosh

Actaea racemosa

perennial

shade

by hand?

no

G?

 

difficult to germinate seeds, difficult to grow in Kansas, but is endangered species in the wild.  Expanding market.

Blue Cohosh

Caulophyllum

thalictroides

perennial

shade

by hand?

no

G?

 

difficult to germinate seeds, difficult to grow in Kansas, but is endangered species in the wild.  Expanding market.

Burdock

Artium lappa

biennial

sun

root is most marketable, fresh or dried, but leaves and seeds also used.

yes

MF-2609

G/F

Does well in Kansas.  Main limitation will be harvest.

Chinese Milkvetch

Astragalus membranaceus

perennial

sun

by hand, or use root digger to loosen soil first.

yes

MF-2612

G/F

Many uses, including anti-viral and immune-stimulating.  Potential for high demand, used in many formulations.  Grows well in Kansas, but difficult to dig this root.  Poor survival on soils that are not well drained.  Attractive plant.

Dandelion

Taraxacum oficinale

perennial

sun

roots and tops marketed

yes

MF-2613

G/F

best yields under cultivated conditions, though could harvest small plants at home as "wild greens."

Echinacea

(Narrow-leaved coneflower)

Echinacea angustifolia

perennial

sun

hand or machine dig root

yes

MF-2620

F

Direct seeding seems to be more successful than transplanting.  Poor survival.

Echinacea

(Pale purple coneflower)

Echinacea angustifolia var. pallida

perennial

sun

hand or machine dig root

yes

MF-2620

G/F

Easier to grow than E. angustifolia. Larger tap root, but unclear market.

Echinacea

(Purple coneflower)

Echinacea pupurea

perennial

sun

hand or machine dig root

yes

MF-2624

G/F

Easiest Echinacea to grow.  Limited as commercial crop by ‘Aster Yellows” disease.  Flowers can also be sold to floral shops.

Garlic

Allium sativum

winter annual

sun

hand or machine

no

G/F

Common vegetable crop in Kansas. Many varieties well adapted.

Ginseng

Panax quinquefolius

perennial

50% shade

by hand

yes (observation)

N

Poor survival.  Have tried for several years under “simulated woodland” conditions.  Too hot and dry here.

Goldenseal

Hydrastis canadensis

perennial

50% shade

by hand

yes (observation)

G

Better survival than ginseng.  May be worth growing on a small scale, but probably not a good field crop for Kansas.

Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorim purpureum

perennial

sun

by hand or root digger

yes

MF-2615

G/F

Attractive, though tall garden plant.  Did well in field trials, even when dry, though it prefers wet locations.

Licorice

Glycyrrhiza uralensis and G> glabra.

perennial

sun

by hand or root digger to loosen first

yes

MF-2616

G/F

Both did well in field trials, but be prepared for some plants to spread via rhizomes.  Difficult to harvest root, as its “all over the place.”

Marsh Mallow

Althea officinalis

perennial

sun, partial shade

Roots, also leaves harvested.

yes

MF-2617

G/F

Attractive relative of hollyhock, did well in the field, few pests.

Pleurisy Root

(Butterfly milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa

perennial

sun

root (leaves are toxic)

yes

MF-2623

G/F

Great for gardens, adapted to field, but time consuming to dig. 

Valerian

Valeriana officinalis

perennial

sun or partial shade

hand or machine dig roots

yes

MF-2632

G

Seems to survive in a garden setting, but very poor survival in field trials.  Root diseases or other problems limit this as a crop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Equipment Needs and Capitalization:

 

Growing the crop.  The equipment needed to plant and cultivate an herb crop will be similar to that needed for grain and vegetable crops.  Harvesting may be quite different, and will be discussed in a later section.  If herbs are the first enterprise on a farm, this equipment will need to be purchased, rented, or borrowed, but if one is adding herbs to an existing farm, many of these items will already be available or in use.  When calculating cost budgets however, make sure to include depreciation, repairs, and other equipment costs in your budgets to give a fair accounting.

 

            If the crop can be direct seeded, standard planting equipment may work.  For example, medium-sized seeds like milk thistle and Echinacea may be planted with a wheat drill or planter.  Smaller seeded species like goat’s rue and red clover could be seeded using the forage seeder box on a standard planter.  Some very small seeded species, such as chamomile or St. John’s wort, will need to be seeded in the greenhouse and put into the field as transplants, or direct seeded by hand, and then thinned.  For field crop farmers, new equipment and facilities may need to be purchased to grow transplants and get them in the ground.  Transplants for some species can be purchased or contracted to another local grower who already has the facilities.  On a small scale, purchasing a transplanter does not make sense, but if one is going large scale, a transplanter can save on labor costs.

 

            With each purchase, one will need to look at the trade-off between capital investment, and the accompanying opportunity cost of that money, the interest if the money is borrowed, the expected life-time of the equipment, versus the cost of the labor that the equipment will displace.  This calculation should be performed for everything from a tractor to a root digger.  The following three tables should help you look at your own operation, and decide what scale might be appropriate, and to calculate costs associated with equipment and land.

 

            In general, equipment needed for growing herb crops is not that different from other crops, so time won’t be spent in this section discussing the details of this equipment.  For more information, see current grain or vegetable bulletins, including MF-1115, “Farming a Few Acres of Vegetables,” by C. W. Marr, KSU Extension fact sheet.

 

Harvesting Herbs.  This is where growing herbs and growing other crops becomes somewhat different.  For some items, harvesting herbs is similar to harvesting vegetables, especially if the herb is simply a leaf crop and harvested by hand, similar to lettuce harvest.  Root crops, also, may be similar, as many herb root crops can be hand dug, or machine harvested with a potato or other root digger.  Cleaning herb crops may also be similar to vegetable crops, as the customer wants clean, dust and soil-free produce. 

 

            Though some herb crops may be sold fresh, most are sold dry, and priced on a dry-weight basis.  This changes how things are done at harvest and in the packing shed or processing area.  Another difference is that many herbs, especially root crops, are perennial, and not annual crops like carrots and potatoes.  This means that roots harvested may be longer, more twisted, and harder to extract from the soil than carrots or simple tubers like potatoes.  Thus, mechanical diggers may need to be modified to handle these situations.

 

            In researching the literature on herb harvesting equipment, very little is found with any degree of detail.  Herb growers apparently work out the harvesting, digging, and washing for their own situation on their own farms, and you probably will too.  Instructions for harvesting found in books and growers’ manuals simply say, “dig with fork or root harvester.”  What type?  How deep?  The most useful information so far has been featured on web sites sponsored by the herb farms themselves, where the use of a chisel plow to loosen Echinacea roots was illustrated, or where rotating barrel carrot washers were featured as a way to wash herb roots.    Metal screens  mounted on wooden frames with a pressure washer/hose  can be used to speed up the root washing process, if one doesn't want to invest in a barrel.

 

             Our experience in digging roots in the field plots is that some degree of mechanization may be useful.  For example, loosening roots with a tractor-pulled chisel plow would save some of our back muscles, knees, and would have gone deeper than we were able to do by hand.  However, a lot of hand work probably remains for sorting, washing, and loading roots into the dryer.  Other equipment recommended for handling roots include a “U” shaped bar to undercut roots, or an “L” shaped bar.  These are sometimes used in the production of things like strawberry transplants, but probably won’t go as deep as a chisel plow shank.  We tried the U-shaped bar on our field plots near Wichita, on a sandy soil in the fall, with moderate moisture content.  It did a nice job of cutting and lifting the roots, but the braces on the bar prevented it from going deep enough to get things like burdock.  It did a nice job on the mallow roots, and even helped extract some of the licroice, which is a shallow, runner-type root.  The bar was originally designed for sweet potato digging, and was fabricated locally.  Also keep in mind that some roots are more fibrous, and these may be easier to dig, but harder to wash.  Echinacea pallida, for example has a nice, carrot shaped tap-root, while Echinacea pupurea has a fibrous root system.  Stinging nettle also, has a shallow fibrous root system that is easy to dig, but hard to clean.

 

            Leaf crops would be easier to mechanize, as many types, styles, and sizes of mowing equipment exist.  However, keeping the leaf matter clean, and then loaded into a dryer without contaminants would limit the kind of mechanization used.  Since most leaf crops can NOT be dried in the sun, one can’t simply treat their feverfew crop the way they would handle an alfalfa hay crop; mow, sun-dry, and turn in the field prior to baling.  Small scale mowers, with adjustable height (to miss the lower, less-than-perfect leaves, might be best, with a way to catch the foliage, or collect it for placement in dying rooms or frames.  Leaf crops will have the highest moisture content as compared to roots, and will need to be moved as quickly as possible from the sun into a shady area, and preferably straight into the drying area.  Some herb leaves and stems bruise easily, and need to be handled with special care to maintain the highest quality.  In some crops, leaves and stems can be harvested together at ground level; in others stems will need to be separated either in the field or later on.

 

            Flower crops probably provide the biggest challenge, and small-scale growers making herb products for themselves or for local sale often simply hand harvest individual blossoms, and pick each patch of calendula, red clover, or chamomile several times a week during the peak flowering seasons.  Some even harvest St. John’s wort as individual blossoms, though the commercially harvested product includes the top 6 inches or so of the plant as a clipped, rather than plucked product.  Hand picking blossoms probably does not pay a living wage, if one sits down to do the math, so start with some small plots and do these calculations before signing a large contract for a flower crop.  Tim Blakely (see book listed in references section) estimates that a fast picker can pick about one pound of dried red clover flowers per hour if the field is healthy, but an average picker will only pick one-half to three-quarters of a pound.  If the price per pound is only $5 to $10 this is hardly a living wage, if one also calculates planting time, land, shipping cost, etc.

 

            There are mechanical flower harvesters available for purchase, but only the largest growers could probably afford them.  It may be possible in the future for a group or co-op to jointly purchase equipment like this, and make it more cost effective to mechanize.  An in-between option is the use of “flower rakes.”  Some catalogs sell a chamomile harvester, which is a small scoop held in one hand, with long pointed metal rods welded at about the right spacing (about one stem-width)  to catch small blossoms, and “pluck” them as one lifts up the scoop.  Stem material is also gathered with this tool, which is not desirable, but it does speed up the picking process some.  It is unclear at this time whether flower crops will be commercially viable in the U.S., when consumers may purchase less expensive products grown abroad.

 

Drying Herbs.  This is where herb growing is very different from vegetable farming.  Some vegetable growers that have diversified into cut flowers, especially everlastings, or dried flowers, may be more familiar with drying methods, and may have the place on the farm ready for storing dried herb products.

 

            A few companies may give contracts for fresh herb delivery, and if so, you can skip this step. However, you will have to be careful to follow shipping guidelines and timing, and may need to cool the crop prior to, or during shipping, so that it arrives in good shape.  Some essential oils are extracted from fresh plant material, so if you find a market for oils, or a local extraction facility,  fresh shipping/hauling may work for you.

 

            Most herbalists buy dried product, mainly for practical reasons related to storage and shelf life.  In a few herbs, compounds become more or less active when dried.  A rule of thumb is that the shelf life of a properly dried and stored whole (not ground) herb is about one year.  Grinding an herb increases the surface area, which is subject to oxidation, and also leads to more volatilization of various compounds.  Thus, herbs should ground as close to the time of use as possible.

 

            Drying herbs on farm is not rocket science, but there are a few general rules or guidelines.  The herb industry, in collaboration with government committees, is coming up draft versions of “Good Manufacturing Process” guidelines which can be followed, but for the most part, they are just common sense.  For example, wash your hands before handling herb for human consumption, don’t sneeze on it, don’t allow rodents to nest in it, etc.  Here are a few do’s and don’ts.

 

Do:

 

¨     move herb as quickly from the field to the drying room as possible

¨     either air dry, or use forced air to dry herbs as quickly as possible

¨     prepare a special insect/rodent free area to dry and/or store herbs

¨     clean herbs as much as possible before moving into the drying area

¨     slice roots (when appropriate) to speed drying

¨     dry all herb products thoroughly.  This may take 3 days for some leafy crops, or 3 weeks for roots.  Check by calculating the % moisture content by oven drying (or micro-waving).  The % moisture shoud be xx or less.  It can be calculated as fresh weight-dry weight = water.  Water / fresh weight = moisture content.   Also, leaves should crumble easily, and roots should be hard and/or snap.

 

Don’t:

 

n     allow herb to heat up in the field in piles after harvesting and before drying

n     allow UV light or other light to fade the herb. 

n     dry or store herb where insects or rodents will be a problem

n     sell dirty or inferior product

n     dry at temperatures above 120o F.  Most recommend temperatures between 80 and 105oF, with some air circulation.

n     store in plastic bags

n     store before the herb is completely dry

 

            The drying room will vary for different farms.  Extremely small quantities can be dried in a table-top food dryer, but it will take you virtually forever if you want to do several pounds rather than ounces of material.  Some have modified greenhouses as drying areas, but these should be shaded, as light will fade the plant material and reduce its value.  A large shed or barn with beams on which to hang tied herbs could work as a drying area, as long as it is relatively rodent proof, and one doesn’t mind tying lots of little bundles together.

 

             Our drying ovens at KSU consist of large cabinets, which can be constructed of plywood, with a fan and heat generating unit at the bottom, and a vent at the top.  A thermostat controls the heat, and the fan runs continuously.  Home-made shelves made of 2”x2” lumber and rigid screen are spaced at about every foot, for a total of 8 to 10 shelves per cabinet.  Herbs are either laid on the screen in loose layers, or small quantities are placed in brown paper bags, and dried in the bag in the oven.  Other models for drying areas, especially if they are primarily used in the summer, might be to section off a corner of a garage or shed from dust and animals, install a large fan to draw air, and possibly a de-humidifier.  The Kansas weather will provide the heat.  Home-made shelves can be attached to walls or suspended from the ceiling.  Some herb reference guides give specific drying time recommendations, but only use these as general guidelines.  Drying time will depend a lot on the condition of the plant when brought in from the field, and your drying conditions, relative humidity at the time, and other factors.

 

            Processing and packing is another step that will take place on farm, and our recommendations at this point are to get specific information from your buyer on these details.  General guidelines include keeping the product away from light, dust, rodents, and insects.  Most herbs are stored at room temperature, but “cool and dry” is a good general practice.  Generally packing in paper or other “breathable” material is better than plastic.  Anything that isn’t completely dry will encourage bacteria and fungi growth, which would not only decrease the quality, but may produce harmful substances.    The amount of herb that you have will determine how , or to whom you  sell your product.  Some buyers want ounces, some pounds, some tons.  Burlap has been used in the past for herbs, but is not recommended at this time, as the fibers may contaminate the herb.

 

            Farm or production size is also an important consideration in determining the amount of mechanization necessary to successful raise and harvest an herb crop.  Table 6 is intended to help you visualize the types of equipment relative to your scale of production.  One key to profitability is to have your fixed cost investment be scale-appropriate.  Table 7 & 8 will then help you to calcuulate your fixed costs for the herb portion of your business.  These figures will then be used in Table 10, to calculate profitability for various herbs that can be grown in Kansas.

 

 

 

Table 6.  Mechanization Appropriate for Farm Size and Operation Intensity.  (Note: these are not absolute categories - needs will vary, and one farm may use items from more than one column.  Also, in the intermediate levels, it may make sense to rent or borrow equipment listed in the "high" category rather than to purchase it.)

 

 

Range of Mechanization

 

None

Low

Medium

High

 

 

 

 

 

Tillage

Hand/shovel

small rototiller

large rototiller

tractor mounted plow, spader, rotovator

Weeding

by hand, combined with mulch, flame, etc.

some plastic or fabric  row cover, walk behind wheel hoe

walk behind rototiller/cultivator

tractor mounted cultivation equipment, flame

Planting

hand seed, hand transplant

push seeder, use wheel hoe to make furrow

rototiller to make furrow, attach seeder?

tractor mounted seeder and transplanter

Leaf harvest

by hand

hand with large loppers

electric hedge trimmer

sickle bar mower

Root harvest

shovel, fork

shovel or fork with more labor, or borrow equipment?

furrow with tractor or tiller, hand separate

root digger (carrot or potato)

Root washing

by hand, hose, bucket

mounted screens, pressure washer

rent or borrow barrel washer

barrel root washer

Flower Harvesting

by hand

hand rake (chamomile example)

modified hedge trimmer?

commercial flower harvester

Drying

air dry, small batches

air dry, large batches

small forced air heater/dryer

large forced air heater/dryer

 

 

 

 

 

Approximate size of operation:

0.1 - 1.0 acres

1.0-2.0

2.0-5.0

5.0+

Equipment Price range (per item):

$0-20

$20-$100

$100-$2000

$2000-$25,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            In Table 7, you will see an example of fixed cost budget calculations.  These are investments that are made up front with expenses that will be there whether you plant a crop or not.  The standard way to account for land costs is to either use the interest on the value of the land, if purchased, or the rental cost, if rented.  In this example, the land was purchased, and a per acre per year cost was determined ($80).  When this number is used in an actual herb enterprise budget, take this figure time the number of (or fraction of) an acre that is used for that herb.

 

            Building and equipment costs are also assigned values based on the interest if the money was borrowed (theoretically the opportunity cost of the money, if it wasn't borrowed), and the depreciation.  Depreciation is simply the total cost of the building or piece of equipment divided the number of anticipated useful years of the item.  There are some standard values used for tax purposes, but for these budgets, use your best realistic estimate.  The percentage of time or space that the herb business on your farm as compared to other enterprises is also taken into account (column 2).  The number of hours per year used for herbs (column 7) is used to come up with a per hour estimate cost for the item.  This value is used in Table 10.  After completing Table 10, or after a field season where hours of usage has been tracked you find that the total hours estimate in column 7 is wrong, re-adjust, and recalculate column 8.

 

            Now complete Table 8, using expenses and fixed inputs from your own farm.  Include land, facilities, and equipment that are part of the farm now, and also items that you intend to purchase if you go into the herb business.

 

Table 7.  Example  calculation for fixed costs budget for adding an herb business to an existing farm.

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Item

Cost of Item

Share or amount used

Total Cost

Useful life (years)

Depreciation $/year

Interest$/yr  (8% of total cost)

Number of hours per year used

Cost ($)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Cropland

$1000/A

2 acres

$2000

na1

na

$160

na

$80/

A/year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improvements and Facilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Storage Buildings

$5000

10%

$500

10

$50

$40

na

$90/yr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equipment2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Tractor

$12,000

50%

$6,000

20

$300

$480

120

$6.50/hr

     Rotovator

$3000

100%

$3000

15

$200

$240

50

$8.80/hr

     Cultivator

$500

100%

$500

15

$33

$30

70

$0.90/hr

     Farm truck

$25,000

2%

$500

5

$100

$40

25

$5.60/hr

     Storage Containers

$100

100%

$100

5

$20

$8

na

$28/yr

     Drying Frames

$200

100%

$200

5

$40

$16

na

$56/yr

     Hand tools

$200

90%

$180

10

$18

$14

50

$0.65/hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Fixed Costs

 

 

$12,980

 

$761

$1028

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1Not Applicable.

 

2Note:  gas, oil, and repairs are not included in equipment costs.  A formula or percentage may be used to estimate future costs, or farm records can be used to record actual costs. 

 

3Use the numbers in this column to complete Table 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 8.  Worksheet for calculating fixed costs.  This table should include existing equipment, new equipment purchases, and used/rebuilt equipment.

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Item

Cost of Item

Share or amount used

Total Cost

Useful life (years)

Depreciation $/year

Interest$/yr  (8% of total cost)

Number of hours per year used

Cost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Cropland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Woodland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Other land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improvements and Facilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Storage Buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Dryers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Other

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equipment1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Primary Tillage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Cultivation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Fixed Costs

 

 

$

 

$

$

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing

 

A marketing plan is essential when examining growing herbs.  Marketing herbs is unlike conventional crops with established markets and where market information is readily obtained.  Markets exist for herbs, but the market is likely to be a small or niche market.  Like most niche markets, finding an accurate assessment of wholesale prices is difficult.  However, prices can be obtained for retail items, especially those that have been processed.[7]  These retail prices are often substantially higher than the wholesale price offered to the grower.  Thus, it is important that growers have a market plan in place before starting production and entering this industry. 

 

The driving force in the industry is the relatively few large corporations that control manufacturing, distribution and marketing of herbal products.  Herb marketing involves many channels.  Some growers do their own processing and market their own brands in health food stores.  Some growers have a satisfactory outlet through an individual herb distributor.  Oftentimes herb marketing is achieved by using brokers.  Many growers sell to small dealers or brokers who sell to larger dealers or pharmaceutical manufacturers who form capsules, extract or tincture that is marketed in grocery and drugstore chains. 

 

Growers must show an ability to produce before they can reach established markets.  Buyers also want assurances the grower can provide a product for several years.  Neither local dealers nor large dealers will enter into a contract with an inexperienced grower until they know what the grower can produce.  A grower might raise a trial plot to supply the dealer with a product sample and build a reputation for quality and reliability.  Thus a long-term commitment is required to grow herbs.  Large dealers and manufacturers often have minimum amounts that they will buy and will offer contracts to selected established growers.

 

Knowing what herbs to grow can be a problem.  Trends change constantly and growers need to keep informed of what the current market is demanding.[8]  Yet, there are few sources of information on the herb market to which growers can turn.  To address some of these marketing concerns, the Great Plains Herb Growers Association was organized in 2001.  This not-for profit association was formed “to foster communication among herb growers, herb buyers, retailers, herbalists, health practitioners and other interested parties; to cultivate, foster and promote interest and participation in the growing and use of herbs; to further the knowledge and safe use of herbs and herbal products; to educate farmers and others about organic cultivation practices for medicinal plants best suited for the Great Plains by region; and to provide collective resources to aid in the production, processing and marketing of organically grown, high quality herbs.”[9]  Contact information for the Great Plains Herb Growers Association and other marketing resources are listed in the references section of this handbook.

 

Economic Factors

 

The profitability of any enterprise depends on successful marketing and knowing costs of production.  However, production costs for growing herbs are hard to obtain and in fact are virtually non existent in the published literature.  Producers growing herbs should carefully assess their enterprise budgets for specific herbs to monitor whether the enterprise is profitable.

 

Factors to consider include location, size, machinery, labor use, marketing activities and growth habits of specific herbs.  The general growing habits of herbs fit into three categories: annuals, quick perennials, and long-term perennials.  Herbs classified as annuals are planted and harvested in a one year time period.  Crops such as wheat, corn, tomatoes and melons have a similar growing habit.  Quick perennials are planted one year and completely harvested at one time in subsequent years after they have reached maturity.  Not many other agronomic crops besides herbs fit into this growing habit category.  Biennials for seed production are a close example.  The last growing habit classification, long-term perennials are harvested over a number of years and are not destroyed by harvesting.  Woody and non-woody plants are in this category.  Agronomic crops that fit into this category include alfalfa, asparagus, berries, and apples.   

 

A fast growing herb may return a quicker profit, but perhaps the herb is sold at a lower price, because it is easy for others to grow too.  A longer growing, perennial herb, may be slower to return a profit, and two or more years of costs may be incurred before the herb is harvested.  However, some of these crops sell at a higher value per pound, so one could make as much or more per acre on a slow growing, but higher value crop.

 

The following tables are a starting point for developing enterprise budgets for specific crops.   Table 9 can be used to estimate the gross income per acre.  Also from Table 9, one can see how gross income will change if the price for an herb drops from $10 per lb, to only $6 per lb, for example, or how income would change if one had a drought year, and the marketable yield was only 600 lb per acre, rather than the estimated 1000 lb.  Taking these "what if" scenarios into consideration is important when estimating risk.  Some of these scenarios could also be explored using Table 10 as a template.

 

Table 9. Gross Income ($/Acre) Calculated from Estimated Yield and Price Information.

 

 

Price per pound ($)

 

1

2

4

6

8

10

15

20

30

40

50

Yield

lb/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

50

50

100

200

300

400

500

750

1,000

1,500

2,000

2,500

100

100

200

400

600

800

1,000

1,500

2,000

3,000

4,000

5,000

200

200

400

800

1,200

1,600

2,000

3,000

4,000

6,000

8,000

10,000

400

400

800

1,600

2,400

3,200

4,000

6,000

8,000

12,000

16,000

 

600

600

1,200

2,400

3,600

4,800

6,000

9,000

12,000

18,000

 

 

800

800

1,600

3,200

4,800

6,400

8,000

12,000

16,000

24,000

 

 

1,000

1,000

2,000

4,000

6,000

8,000

10,000

15,000

20,000

30,000

 

 

1,500

1,500

3,000

6,000

9,000

12,000

15,000

22,500

30,000

 

 

 

2,000

2,000

4,000

8,000

12,000

16,000

20,000

 

 

 

 

 

3,000

3,000

6,000

12,000

18,000

24,000

30,000

 

 

 

 

 

4,000

4,000

8,000

16,000

24,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 10.  Worksheet for calculating profit/loss for several herb crops.

 

How to use this table:

 

1)     Use a separate column for each herb crop, if growing a one-year annual crop.  Use multiple columns for multi-year crops, especially if yield is obtained more than one year.  Complete each column for the amount of herb on your farm.  Convert to $ per acre or $ per square foot later, to compare among crops.

 

2)     Supplies, such as seed, fertilizer, compost, can be recorded as $ actually spent in each year for each crop.

 

3)     Equipment costs can be estimated by taking the number of hours of equipment use times your farm cost in $ per hour calculated in table 8.  Land and building costs will be added in at the end under fixed costs.

 

4)     When calculating labor costs, separate into “self-labor,” and “hired labor.”  The hired labor is part of the variable cost of producing the crop, while the self-labor column will be calculated at the end of the worksheet, as the “residual” once all the variable and fixed costs are paid.  The number of hours you put in will be divided by the total net income, to figure out your return to management/labor.

 

5)     At the end of the table, compare your hourly wage raising herbs to the opportunity cost of your labor at another job for which you are qualified.  Also, compare to a living wage in Central KS, which is about $10/hr.

 

 

Individual Herbs (list)

 

 

Herb 1 (or year 1)

Herb 2 (or year 2)

Herb 3 (or year 3)

Herb 4

 

 

 

 

 

Common Name

 

 

 

 

Latin Name

 

 

 

 

Seed Source (for record keeping purposes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot dimensions

 

 

 

 

Square footage

 

 

 

 

% acre (ft2/43,560)

 

 

 

 

Date planted

 

 

 

 

Date harvested

 

 

 

 

Number of years?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yield

 

 

 

 

     Flower or Seed

 

 

 

 

Total quantity harvested (lb fw or dw) 

 

 

 

 

Marketable yield (lb fw or dw)

 

 

 

 

     Leaf or Herb Tops

 

 

 

 

Total quantity harvested (lb fw or dw)

 

 

 

 

Marketable yield (lb fw or dw)

 

 

 

 

     Root or Bark

 

 

 

 

Total quantity harvested (lb fw or dw)

 

 

 

 

Marketable yield (lb fw or dw)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return (list each part of crop on separate line)

 

 

 

 

Price per lb (fw or dw)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total sold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total gross income

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variable Costs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  Soil Preparation

 

 

 

 

soil test

 

 

 

 

plow

 

 

 

 

chisel

 

 

 

 

disk

 

 

 

 

rototill

 

 

 

 

lime

 

 

 

 

soil amendments (fertilizer, compost, manure)

 

 

 

 

hired labor (hrs x rate  = $)

 

 

 

 

self labor (enter hours)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Soil Preparation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Seeding and transplanting

 

 

 

 

seeds

 

 

 

 

transplants (or cost to produce)

 

 

 

 

planting equipment cost

 

 

 

 

hired labor (hrs x rate  = $)

 

 

 

 

self labor (enter hours)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Seeding and Transplanting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Production Costs

 

 

 

 

mulches/row cover

 

 

 

 

cultivation equipment

 

 

 

 

other equipment used

 

 

 

 

other?

 

 

 

 

herbicide (if used)

 

 

 

 

insecticide (if used)

 

 

 

 

fungicide (if used)

 

 

 

 

irrigation

 

 

 

 

fuel and oil

 

 

 

 

misc. equip. repairs

 

 

 

 

hired labor (hrs x rate  = $)

 

 

 

 

self labor (enter hours)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Production Costs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Harvesting Costs

 

 

 

 

mowing/clipping

 

 

 

 

digging

 

 

 

 

root washing

 

 

 

 

seed harvest

 

 

 

 

sorting

 

 

 

 

drying

 

 

 

 

equipment?

 

 

 

 

bags/containers

 

 

 

 

grinding?

 

 

 

 

hired labor (hrs x rate  = $)

 

 

 

 

self labor (enter hours)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Harvesting Costs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Management & Marketing Costs

 

 

 

 

shipping/hauling

 

 

 

 

brokerage fee?

 

 

 

 

hired labor (hrs x rate  = $)

 

 

 

 

self labor (enter hours)

 

 

 

 

Accounting?

 

 

 

 

other?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Management Costs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Variable Costs

 

 

 

 

hired labor (hrs x rate  = $)

 

 

 

 

self labor (enter hours)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fixed Costs1

 

 

 

 

Interest on land and buildings

 

 

 

 

Taxes on land and buildings

 

 

 

 

Cash rent

 

 

 

 

Depreciation on machinery

 

 

 

 

Interest on machinery

 

 

 

 

Depreciation on irrigation equipment

 

 

 

 

Interest on irrigation equipment

 

 

 

 

Insurance

 

 

 

 

Organic Certification

 

 

 

 

Operating loan/interest

 

 

 

 

Other fixed costs - memberships?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Fixed Costs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Fixed plus Variable Costs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returns

 

 

 

 

Returns over variable costs

 

 

 

 

Returns over total (fixed plus variable) costs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Average returns per year over variable costs

 

 

 

 

Average return per year over total costs (fixed plus variable)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total hours of self labor

 

 

 

 

$/hr for self over variable costs

 

 

 

 

$/hr for self over total costs

 

 

 

 

Opportunity costs (what you would have been paid for those hours at another job)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             

1  Divide fixed costs into amount appropriate for each crop.  For example, land cost can be apportioned to the crop actually growing on the land.  Insurance, organic certification, and other costs might be divided by the total number of crops grown, or also apportioned according to space or size of each crop enterprise.

 

 

            Make additional copies of Table 10 if needed, to work out production and marketing costs for several herbs and yield and price scenarios.  Making a business plan for the whole farm would also be a good idea.  More ideas on whole farm planning can be found in MF-2403 "Whole-Farm Planning for Economic and Environmental Sustainability."

 

            The next section of this handbook contains more specific information on how to grow the herbs.  Table 11 lists all of the herbs described in the fact sheets, and some additional herbs that we grew in observation plots. Details on seed germination requirements, and out experience with the seed is listed.   More growing information, as well as background information, and economic projections, are found in Appendix. A.  Retail prices are listed in Appendix B.  These can be used as rough estimates of the relative value of the herbs at the time the price research was conducted.  However, it should be noticed that many times there was a bigger difference in the prices of a particular herb between companies, than for different herbs within a single company. 


 

Table 11.  Germination Requirements of Herbs Grown in KSU Trials.  (Includes plants listed on fact sheets and also new plants which will appear on future fact sheets.)

 

Herb

Literature Recommendations

Our Experience at KSU

Latin Name

Common Name

Seed Treatment

Germination

Germ. %

KSU Germ.

Transplant

 Time

Recommendations

     Achillea millefolium

 

Yarrow

Light

10-12 Days

70%

6 Days

8-12 Weeks

Small seed   

     Althea officinalis

 

Marshmallow

Stratify 7 Days

3-5 Weeks

70%

11 Days

8 Weeks

Spreads quickly

     Arctium lappa

 

Burdock

No Treatment

1-2 Weeks

80-90%

7 Days

4-8 weeks

Direct seed biennial

     Artemesia vulgaris

 

Mugwort

Stratify 2 weeks.

2--4 Weeks

70%

 

10-12 Weeks

Small seed

     Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed

Stratify

Several Weeks

2-3 Weeks

40%

8 Days

12-16 Weeks

Grows slowly

     Astragalus

     membranaceus

Milk Vetch

Stratify 3 Weeks,

Scarify and soak

4 Weeks

50%

2 Days

(overnight soak)

12 Weeks

Soak overnight

     Borago officinalis

 

Borage

No Treatment

7-14 Days

75%

10 Days

6 Weeks

Direct seed

     Calendula officinalis

 

Calendula

No Treatment

7-10 Days

80%

4 Days

8 Weeks

Direct seed

    Cnicus benidictus

 

Blessed Thistle

No Treatment

7-15 Days

60%

5 Days

4-8 weeks

Direct seed

      Echinacea angustifolia

Narrow Leaf

Cone Flower

Stratify 90 Days,

Light

10-20 Days

50%

15 Days

12 Weeks

Direct seed in fall

     Echinacea pallida

Pale Purple

Cone Flower

Stratify 60 Days,

Light

10-20 Days

50%

4 Days

8-12 Weeks

Direct seed in fall

      Echinacea purpurea

Purple

Cone Flower

No Treatment

10-20 Days

70%

9 Days

8-12 Weeks

Direct seed

     Eupatorium perfoliatum

Boneset

Stratify 7 Days,

Light

2-3 Weeks

80-90%

13 Days

8-12 Weeks

Small seed   

      Eupatorium purpureum

Joe Pye Weed

Stratify 7 Days,

Light

3-4 Weeks

 

12 Days

8-12 Weeks

Likes moisture

     Glycyrrhiza glabra

 

Licorice

Soak and Scarify

7-14 Days

70-80%

7 Days

12-16 Weeks

Soak overnight

     Glycyrrhiza uralensis

 

Licorice

Soak and Scarify

7-14 Days

70-80%

7 Days

12-16 Weeks

Soak overnight

     Hypericum perforatum

 

St. John's Wort

Light

3-4 Weeks

70%

3 Weeks

12 Weeks

Small seed   

    Hyssopus officinalis

 

Hyssop

No Treatment

10-20 Days

70%

6 Days

10-12 Weeks

Small seed   

    Inula helenium

 

Elcampane

No Treatment

3-4 Weeks

50%

6 Days

8-12 Weeks

Direct seed

    Leonurus cardiaca

Mother Wort

Stratify

Several Weeks

2 Weeks

75%

15 Days

10-12 Weeks

Small seed   

    Lespedeza capitata

Round Head Lespedeza

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Levisticum officinale

 

Lovage

Stratify 1-2 Weeks

2 Weeks

5%

12 Days

8-12 Weeks

Poor germination

  Marrubuim vulgare

 

Horehound

No Treatment

2-3 Weeks

70%

9 Days

8-12 Weeks

Small seed   

  Matricaria recutita

 

Chamomile

No Treatment

7-14 Days

70%

 

8-10 Weeks

Quick crop

     Monarda fistulosa

 

Monarda

Stratify 3 Months

2-3 Weeks

60-70%

8 Days

8-weeks

Spreads quickly

    Nepeta cataria

 

Catnip

Stratify 2-3 Weeks

2-3 Weeks

50%

 

2-3 Months

Spreads quickly

     Oenothera biennis

Evening Primrose

Stratify

Several Weeks

2-weeks

80%

8 Days

8-10 weeks

Biennial

     Origanum Vulgare

 

Oregano

Stratify 1 Week

7-14 Days

70%

 

8 Weeks

Spreads quickly

    Passiflora incarnata

 

Passion Flower

Stratify 1 Week

3 Weeks

40%

 

8-10 Weeks

Difficult to germinate

     Prunella vulgaris

 

Self Heal

Stratify 1 Month

3 Weeks

70%

12 Days

8 Weeks

Spreads quickly

     Rumex acetosella

 

Sheep Sorrel

No Treatment

7-10 Days

70%

7 Days

8 Weeks

Spreads quickly

     Ruta graveolens

 

Garden Rue

Stratify 1 Week

7-10 Days

50%

14 Days

8-10 Weeks

Handle with gloves

    Salvia apiana

White Sage

Stratify 1 Week

2-3 Weeks,

 80°

40%

9 Days

10-12 Weeks

annual in Kansas

     Scutellaria lateriflora

 

Skullcap

Stratify 1 Week

2-4 Weeks

75%

13 Days

10-12 Weeks

Spreads quickly

     Sillibum marianum

 

Milk Thistle

No Treatment

10-14 Days

90%

10 Days

4 Weeks

Direct seed

     Spilanthes

 

Toothache

High Temperature

10 Days

100%

4 Days

4-8 weeks

Spreads quickly

     Stevia rebaudiana

Stevia

No Treatment,

 bottom Heat

2-3 Weeks

30%

4 Days

8-10 Weeks

Difficult to germinate

     Tanacetum parthenium

Fever Few

Stratify 1 Week,

Light

10-14 Days

70%

7 Days

8 Weeks

Will reseed readily

     Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion

Stratify 1 Week,

Light

10-14 Days

90%

7 Days

8 Weeks

Deer love this herb

     Trifolium pratense

 

Red Clover

Stratify 7 Days

7-14 Days

75%

9 Days

4-8 weeks

Deer love this herb

     Urtica dioica

Stinging Nettle

Stratify 1 Week,

Light

10-15 Days

50%

4 Days

8-12 Weeks

Handle with gloves

     Valeriana officinalis

 

Valerian

No Treatment

2-3 Weeks

70%

14 Days

8-12 Weeks

Root rot problems

     Verbascum thapsus

 

Mullein

Plant on Surface

10-20 Days

80%

14 Days

8-12 Weeks

Needs a lot of space

     Verbena hastata

 

Blue Vervain

Stratify 2 Weeks

2-3 weeks

75%

10 Days

4-8 weeks

High seed production

     Withania somnifera

 

Ashwagandha

No Treatment

7-14 Days

70%

13 Days

12 Weeks

Needs a lot of space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kansas State University herbs propagated in greenhouse at a daytime temperature of 70  degrees, nighttime temperature of 68 degrees.

Seed started in 3" cavity cell with a media mix of Jiffy mix and compost at a 1-1 ratio. Seedlings transplanted into 4" square containers

using a media of high porosity mix and compost at a 1-1 ratio.  Fish emulsion used for fertilizer.  Beneficial insects and soap and water

for insect control. 

 

 

 


 

Glossary (taken from the PDR for Herbal Medicines)

 

abortifacient – A drug or chemical that induces abortion.

 

adaptogen – A preparation that acts to strengthen the body and increase resistance to disease.

 

alterative – Any drug used to favorably alter the course of an ailment and to restore health.  To improve the excretion of wastes from the circulatory system.

 

annual – A plant that completes its growth cycle in one year.

 

anthelmintic – An agent or drug that is destructive to worms.

 

balm - topical, usually includes oil, somewhat viscous

 

bitter – An alcoholic liquid prepared by maceration or distillation of a bitter herb or herb part that is often used to improve appetite or digestion.

 

deciduous – A tree that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.

 

decoction – A liquid substance prepared by boiling plant parts in water or some other liquid for a period of time.

 

extraction – The portion of a plant that is removed by solvents and used in drug preparations in solid or liquid form.

 

homeopathic – Substances that are administered in minute amounts with the theory that subtabnces that may cause or mimic a disease in larger amounts can be used to treat or prevent disease if given in small amounts.

 

inflorescence – The spatial arrangement of flowers along the asix.  The mode of disposition of slowers or the act of flowering.

 

infusion – The process of steeping or soaking plant matter in liquid to extract its medicinal properties without boiling.

 

mucilage – A viscid substance in a plant consisting of a gum dissolved in the juice of the plant.  A soothing application made from plant gums.

 

perennial – A plant that grows for three or more years.

 

rhizome – An underground stem.

 

salve - topical, made with infused oil, and sometimes thickened with beeswax.

 

tincture – An alhoholic or hydroalcohoic mixture prepared from plant parts.

 

tonic – A medication used to fortify and provide increased vigor.
Disclaimer:

 

Please consult reference texts, and even better, your health care practitioner(s) before taking herb products to treat a medical condition.  The intent of this fact sheet is to provide herbal information to gardeners, not medical advice.

 

For more information:

 

American Botanical Council, non-profit educational organization, publishes the quarterly trade magazine “Herbalgram,” see website at www.herbalgram.org, or contact at their headquarters P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX,  78714-4345.  Phone: (512) 926-4900.  Fax: (512) 926-2345.

                     

ATTRA, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702. 1-800-346-9140.  http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/herblist.html  Many fact sheets on herbs in general, and also specific popular herbs.  Many other fact sheets of interest to farmers looking for alternative crops.

 

Kansas State University, see website www. oznet.ksu.edu, especially publication MF 2532 “Economic Issues with Echinacea.”  Also, www.ksre.ksu.edu/kcsaac/ for hot links to other herb websites.

 

North Carolina, see website www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/.  Check out the specialty crop fact sheets for information on both culinary and medicinal herbs.

 

Seed Sources:

 

Horizon Herbs, LLC, PO Box 69, Williams, OR 97544. ph. 541-846-6704, fax 541-846-6233, hhcustserv@HorizonHerbs.com, website at www. chatlink.com/~herbseed/.  Seeds grown by well-known herbalist/writer Richo Cech and his family.

                        

Johnny’s Seeds, See website at www.Johnnyseeds.com, or contact at 184 Foss Hill Rd, Albion, Maine, 04901. Ph. 207-437-4301.  Sells vegetable seed to gardeners and professional growers, good selection of culinary and medicinal herb seed, including some organically grown seed.

 

Prairie Moon Nursery,    Route 3, Box 1633, Winona, MN 55987-9515, Phone (507) 452-1362,   Fax (507) 454-5238,  http://www.prairiemoonnursery.com,  pmnrsy@luminet.net.  Large selection of seeds for prairie plantings and restoration, including medicinal plants from the prairie.

 

Richters Herbs, see www. Richters.com, or contact at: ph. .905-640-6677,

Fax .905-640-6641, Goodwood, Ontario, Canada. L0C 1A0  Company founded in 1970 to sell bedding plants and herbs.  Good selection and informative catalog and website.

 

Seedman.Com, Jim Johnson, Seedman, 3421 Bream St., Gautier, MS 39553, ph. 800-336-2064, fax 228-497-5488, support@seedman.com, www.seedman.com/medicine.html.  Carries large and varied selection of seeds from around the world.

 

Associations:

 

Great Plains Herb Growers Association - for those considering herb production on a commercial scale.  1-year membership, newsletter $25.00.  Send to Rhonda Janke, 2021 Throckmorton, KSU, Manhattan, KS 66506.  Can be added to mailing list for future herb workshop update mailings for free.  Contact Christy Dipman, 785-532-6173, e-mail cdipman@oznet.ksu.edu.

 

The Herb Growing & Marketing Network, PO Box 245, Silver Spring, PA 17575, ph. 717-393-3295, fax 717-393-9261, www.herbnet.com and herbworld.com, HERBWORLD@aol.com.  Non-members can learn a lot from visiting this website, reading their newsletters, and member benefits include website design and hosting, listing your herb business in the Herbal Green Pages Online, and discounted rates for product liability insurance.  Membership prices start at $40/yr, and higher.

 

Books-General:

 

The Bootstrap Guide to Medicinal Herbs in the Garden, Field, & Marketplace.  by Lee Sturdivant and Tim Blakley.  1999.  San Juan Naturals, PO Box 642, Friday harbor, WA.  Great guide to herb growing and marketing by two individuals who are actually doing it.

 

The Complete Book of Herbs - A practical guide to growing and using herbs,  by Lesley Bremness. 1988. Penguin books.  N.Y.  Lots of information about growing herbs here.

 

Complete Illustrated guide to the Holistic Herbal. by David Hoffmann. 1996.  HarperCollins Publishers, London.  Nice photographs, good listing of herbs.

 

The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody. 1993.  Dorling Kindersley, N.Y.  Great photos, some history, nice reference tables in second section.

 

Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants.  by Bradford Angier.  1978.  Stackpole Books. Cameron and Kelker Streets, Harrisburg, PA.

 

Flora of the Great Plains.  by R.L. McGregor, T.M. Barkley, R.E. Brooks, and E.K. Schofield.  1986. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

 

The Green Pharmacy, by James A. Duke. 1997.  St. Martin's Paperbacks.  St. Martin's Press, New York, NY.  This very affordable book offers scientific insight and practical herbal remedies for everything from baldness to bad breath.  Dr. James Duke was a career research scientist for the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland. 

 

The German Commission E Monographs, translated by Mark Blumenthal, available through American Botanical Council.  Recommendations of a scientific council, based on published research, for herbal supplements that may be prescribed by physicians in Germany.

 

Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.  2000.  Storey Books, Schoolhouse Road, Pownal, VT.  Good section on germination and growing requirements for 100+ herbs.

 

Handmade Medicines - Simple Recipes for Herbal Health, by Christopher Hobbs. 1998.  Interweave Press, Inc. Loveland, Colorado.

 

Herbs for First Aid - Simiple Home Remedies for Minor Ailments and Injuries, by Penelope Ody. 1997.  Keats Publishing, Los Angeles.

 

The Honest Herbal, by Varro E. Tyler.  1993 (third edition).  Haworth Press, Inc. New York.  Provides some information about using herbs, some well researched, and some anecdotal.  This book is written by a skeptic, but is fairly balanced.

 

Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie, an Ethnobotanical Guide. by Kelly Kindscher.  1992.  University of Kansas Press, Lawrence. KS.

 

Peterson Field Guides: Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs.  by Steven Foster and James A. Duke.  Second Edition, 2000.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

 

Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines, 2000.  Second Edition, Medical Economics Company, Montvale, New Jersey.   The most thorough reference we’ve found yet for describing herbs, supplements derived from herbs, summarizing the known efficacy, and warning about side-effects and drug/herb interactions.

 

The Village Herbalist, by Nancy and Michael Phillips, 2000, Chelsea Green Publisher, see www.HerbsAndApples.com for more information.  A great book.  Discusses the “how” of herbalism at the home and village scale, as well as providing some information about the plants. 

 

Books- for large-scale growers:

 

Herb and Spice Production Manual, 1999.  by Connie Kehler.  Produced by the Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association, printed by Print It Centre, Regina, Sask.  (available through Richters Catalog).

 

Grower’s Crop Monographs.  Frontier Organic Research Farm, Norway, IA. (available through Frontier’s website).

 


 

Appendix A.  Specific growing requirements and field data from herb in the KSU test plots.

 

 

Common Name

Latin Name

Fact Sheet Number

 

 

 

 

1

Bee Balm

Monarda fistulosa

2605

2

Blue Vervain

Verbena hastata

2606

3

Boneset

Eupatorim perfoliatum

2607

4

Borage

Borago officinalis

2608

5

Burdock

Arctium lappa

2609

6

Calendula

Calendula officinalis

2610

7

Chinese Milkvetch

Astragalus membranaceus

2612

8

Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale

2613

9

Feverfew

Tanacetum parthenium

2614

10

Evening Primrose

Oenothera biennis

2611

11

Heal All/Self Heal

Prunella vulgaris

2636

12

Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium purpureum

2615

13

Licorice

Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Glycyrrhiza glabra

2616

14

Marsh Mallow

Althea officinalis

2617

15

Milk Thislte

Silybum marianum

2618

16

Mullein

Verbascum thapsus

2619

17

Narrow-Leaved Coneflower

Echinacea pallida

Echinacea angustifolia

2620

18

Oregano

Origanum vulgare

2621

19

Pleurisy Root

Asclepias tuberosa

2623

20

Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea

2624

21

Red Clover

Trifolium pratense

2625

22

Round Head Lespedeza

Lespedeza capitata

2626

23

Sheep Sorrel

Rumex acetosella

2627

24

Skullcap

Scutellaria lateriflora

2628

25

St. John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum

2629

26

Stevia

Stevia rebaudiana

2630

27

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

2631

28

Valerian

Valeriana officinalis

2632

29

White Sage

Salvia apiana

2633

30

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

2634

 

 

 

 

 


 

               The plants described in the following fact sheets were grown in KSU test plots in either Hays, Colby, Wichita, or Olathe, KS.  Four replications of each species were generally included at a site, though not all species were screened at each site, or screened each year.   The number of replications of location-years is included in the summary table with each fact sheet, and the detailed data can be found at www.ksre.ksu.edu/ksherbs.  All plants were grown from seed in the greenhouse, and transplanted in the field in May or June.  Depending on the location/year, either 5 or 10 plants per plot were established.  All plants at each location were used to determine the percent survival, vigor rating, and insect and disease ratings.  Three plants per plot were measured for height, and only one plant per plot was harvested for yield each year.  Since there were 4 plots, this allowed us to estimate yield from 4 plants at each location/year.

 

            The plants were dried and weighed, and top and root weights are recorded in grams.  The grams per plant are converted to kg/ha, and also lb/a for purposes of estimated field scale yield.  The population density used to calculate field yields was the optimal population density (determined by the average size of the plants) times the actual percent survival as measured in the field.  There was generally some loss due to transplant shock, and for some species, significant winter loss as well.  The plant spacing recommendations on each sheet are for within a row.  The distance between rows will depend on your farming operation and equipment used.  The minimum row spacing will be the same as the plant spacing recommendation.  For example, if plants need to be 12" apart, the rows should be a minimum of 12" apart as well.  However, if your cultivator, or your root harvesting equipment is on 5' centers, plant the rows 5' apart to facilitate cultivating and harvesting.  Adjust your estimated plant density per acre on the worksheets, if you are trying to estimate gross yield and net income.

 

            In addition to yield, some semi-quantitative ratings were done on plants in the field, including: Vigor Rating  (1 = very poor, 3 = slightly above average, 5 = very good, well adapted),  Maturity Rating  (1=vegetative, 2= early bud, 3=early flower, 4= full flower, 5=seed production, 6=senscence), .Insect Damage Ratings (scale of 0-5, with 0 = no damage, 5= severe) and Disease Ratings (scale of 0-5, with 0 = no damage, 5= severe).  Height was recorded in centimeters.

 

            The prices listed on each fact sheet are from Appendix B.  To calculate a rough gross income potential for each herb, the estimated yield is taken times the lowest and the highest retail price, divided by two.  This is a rough estimation of wholesale price.  Actual prices should be determined if one enters into a contract, and small on-farm plots can be used to determine yield, before investing money in large scale herb production.

 

            In our field trials, only organic production methods were used.  None of the land was certified organic, but compost was used as the fertility source, and weeds were controlled mechanically, by hand, or with the use of fabric and straw mulches.  Insects and diseases were not controlled, to enable us to see if there was significant pest pressure on these species in Kansas.  Higher prices are often offered for herbs that are grown organically, and in the future, non-organic herbs may be difficult to sell to a health-conscious consumer.  For these, and other reasons, our test plots used only organic methods.  In the greenhouse, standard seed starting peat mix, pots, and greenhouse conditions were used.  However, compost was added to the transplant soil mix, fish emulsion used for fertility, and biological predators and soap were used for pest control.

 

            The medicinal benefits section of each fact sheet is not intended to be a guide for use, but to help growers understand more about what consumers might want the herb for, and to give a general idea of the usefulness, and potential market for the herb.  It may be confusing in some places to find that a single species could have many, and varied uses.  At first this seems somewhat contradictory...how can an herb be used for the liver, and also for a head cold, for example?  However, as clinical trials catch up to folklore, researchers find a lot of cross-reactivity, that is, plants that were used by Native Americans for  snake bite also have activity in anti-cancer screening trials.

 


 

MF-2605:  Beebalm/Monarda

 

(also called bergamot, horsemint, Oswego tea)

 

Monarda spp.

 

Several Monarda species are native to North America.  They are in the mint family, and have a square stem, and pleasant fragrance.  All have been used medicinally historically, but only M. fistulosa is currently found in the retail herb trade.  This Monarda is native to much of N. America, from the Great Plains and eastward.  It is 2-3 feet tall, with pink/lavender flowers.  M. didyma can have reddish flowers, and many cultivated varieties of M. didyma are found in garden catalogs.  It is native to wetter areas of the eastern N. America.  M. punctata is a biennial or short lived perennial, found on drier soils in the eastern half of N. America.  It has yellowish, purple-dotted flowers in tiered whorls.  M. bradburiana, common name “White Horsemint,” has white/rose flowers with prominent purple dots, and is found on rocky wooded hills in the Great Plains and midwestern states.  Only two of the species, M. fistulosa, and M. didyma, were compared in our field trials.

 

Family:  Mint family

 

Life cycle: herbaceous perennial (Zones 4-9)

 

Native:  North America.

 

Height: 2-4 feet.

 

Sun:   Prefers full sun, will tolerate partial shade.

 

Soil:   M. fistulosa likes dry, well-drained soil, and M. punctata prefers loose, sandy, drier soil, while M. didyma prefers rich soil and fair moisture.  Note:  our field trials included M. fistulosa and M. didyma, but not M. punctata, though it is also grown as a medicinal herb.

 

Water:  M. fistulosa appears to handle drought well, but M. didyma does not.

 

Flowers:  Red, lavender, pinkish lavender, yellow, or pink- and purple spotted flowers bloom early to late summer in most regions.  Depends on the species and bio-type.

 

Propagation:  Can grow from seeds, cuttings, or root divisions.  Monarda seed does not require any cold treatment.  Cover seeds 2 times their thickness.  Will take about 9 days to germinate.

 

Pests:  Significant pest pressure was not identified in the field, but M. didyma declined rapidly under field conditions.  It is possible that some of this was due to disease, but also simply that this species is not well adapted to the hot, dry conditions of this part of the Great Plains.

 

Harvesting:   Harvest aerial parts at any time during the growing season.

 

Parts used:  Above ground aerial parts, fresh or dried.

 

Used as:  Can be used as a culinary substitute for Greek Oregano.  An oil derived from Bergamot adds the distinctive flavor to “Earl Grey” tea.  Most commonly prepared as an infusion (tea).

 

Medicinal Benefits:   The Herbal PDR lists M. punctata and M. didyma, but not M. fistulosa, which is the Monarda species most used by the Native Americans, and probably the best one to grow in the Great Plains.  M. punctata contains volatile oils, and has a carminative, stimulant, and emmenagogic effects.  Folk uses for digestive disorders, flatulence, and to regulate menstruation.  M. didyma also contains volatile oils, and also flavonoids and anthocyans, and is used for the same things as M. punctata, and is also used for PMS.  The essential oil may also be used as part of the treatment for chronic bronchitis.  The Lakotas drank a tea from the flower clusters of M. fistulosa as a remedy for fevers and colds.  A tea from the leaves was also used for whooping cough, and also considered good for people who had fainted.  Boiled leaves, wrapped in a soft cloth and placed on sore eyes overnight were used to relieve pain.

 

Market Potential:   Low to moderate, but increasing.  Current retail price ranges from $9.79 to $23.61 per lb dw for tops.

 

KSU Field Trial Data - 2000-2002.

 

MONARDA FISTULOSA

 

 

 

 

 

 

1st Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

Average

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

Location/Years

3

2

2

 

Tested in Wichita and Olathe for 3 years.

Survival (%)