Getting Started in Agriculture: Organic Herb Farms
If you want to be an organic farmer, but don't have any experience or know how, you might consider starting an organic herb farm. Herbs are easier to grow organically than many other crops, and you don't need much land to get started. You can have a profitable organic herb farm on a few acres. Here are a few things to consider before buying land for your organic herb farm.
Climate and Market
The first thing to do is to find out what kinds of organic herb farms already exist in your area. Talk to the farmers and find out what the climate is like, and which herbs grow best there. Ask for their advice; they are experts; treat them well and they can help your organic herb farm to be a success.
Find out what the local market for produce from your organic herb farm will be. How are other organic herb farms doing financially? Is there a large enough market for one more organic herb farm? How do others sell their produce? Do they sell herbal products as well as herbs? What equipment is needed to make those products?
Just as you would with any business, do a thorough market analysis before deciding to start an organic herb farm.
Look for Land
There are several things to consider when you start to look for land. How much land do you need? Do you want cleared or wooded land? Do you want previously cultivated land? Is there an existing organic herb garden for sale (the best of all possible worlds)?
If you plan to live on your organic herb farm, you'll want to make sure there's a livable home on it. Check out the outbuildings to make sure they are adequate for your needs. If you are currently a city dweller, don't forget that you need to find out about water supply, electrical supply and septic.
Since you plan on starting an organic herb farm, try to find land that has not been treated with chemical additives. It's important to get the history of the land and to know everything that has been done to it, at least for the past five to ten years. That's how long you have to go back to get organic certification for your organic herb farm.
Decide on a Crop
There are several ways you can go with an organic herb farm, and you may want to choose more than one option. The pictures you see of acres of lavender look gorgeous, but monoculture farming sets you up for disaster. It's better to have more than one kind of crop in case one doesn't do well.
You can grow perennial herbs on your organic herb farm, such as lavender, rosemary and thyme. You can harvest and sell the herbs directly to consumers, to food producers or to cosmetic and other industries. You can make herbal products, and sell them, as well. Annual culinary herbs, such as basil and oregano are usually grown hydroponically these days. You can also grow them in the ground. Culinary herbs are a good cash crop.
There is a growing market for native or naturally growing herbs. You can harvest "high value native plants" wherever they grow on your land. Many of these herbs grow best in wooded areas, and you can interplant them in your woodlot. Ginseng, goldenseal, cohosh and Echinacea are all examples of native herbs that have commercial value. Most native herbs are used for medicinal purposes.
Starting an organic herb farm could be the perfect way for you to become an organic farmer. There is a lot to learn, but you can start your organic herb farm with a relatively small investment and without a degree in agriculture.