Beginner’s Guide to the Herb & Spice Business

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Beginner's Guide To The Herbs & Spice Business


by Home Business Publications

Grow, process (if necessary) and sell fresh, preserved and dried herbs
(seeds, parts, plants). Examples are dill, basil, cumin, celery seed and
cilantro (coriander).

It is surprising that with so many gardeners and the high prices of
herbs on the shelves of the supermarkets, that many more haven't gotten into
the lucrative field of herb growing and processing.

When you in the store for herbs and spices, they are usually expensive
-- $2.00 per ounce and up. Still many still grow wild! Bay leaves for example
are available free by the bushel on bay trees that grow all over the south.

Herbs and spices have been around for centuries -- they were used in
ancient times to mask "funny" tastes in meats that could not be
refrigerated, "people odour" before deodorants were invented and of
course, to add a little variety to the same foods eaten day after day,
because all that was available was what was in season.

Spices were discovered and brought in by caravans to liven up otherwise
drab diets and making living "up close" more tolerable. Winters in
the European areas were limited to foods that wood keep; potatoes, salted
meats, turnips -- but nothing green or fresh!

When spring came, everyone welcomed the new vigour they found in such
"magic" plants as spinach, celery, and various "greens."

We now know they were replenishing their supplies of vitamins
(especially) and minerals that were missing from their winter diets -- but
they only knew that by eating certain plants, or drinking their juices or
"wonder elixirs" they felt better!

We also know a healthy patient recovers from most any aliment better
than a frail one -- but in those days, "magic" plants were
sometimes given credit for healing all sorts of things: even broken bones

In the 18th and 19th centuries (before refrigeration), there was a
thriving trade in HERBS to rejuvenate, cleanse the blood and cure just about
anything.. To this day, the difference between herbs and species is mainly
that spices can be dried for long, overland camel caravan trips; while herbs
are fresh and ready use!

To be successful in the herb and spice business, grow things that do
well in your area -- that you adequate facilities and room for. Of course,
you can expand the list of possibilities with a greenhouse and various
climate control devices, plus soil manipulation.

At the least you will probably need a small greenhouse (or hot frame)
to start your plants and perhaps a screened area for growing and/or drying
that is secure from insects and other pests.

Not only can you market plants and seeds as individual items, but there
is also a lucrative market in blends of herbs and spices. Fortunes have been
made with these!

Once you establish a market,make agreements to buy from other growers
(even out of state) at wholesale rates of course to enable you to offer a
well rounded selection to your customers.

You can also buy or compile booklets on herbs and spices (their
history, uses, reputed therapeutic properties and folk lore) that can enhance
your sales and profits.

To get started, the first thing to do is some HOMEWORK.

Get several books from the library,local (new, used, half price)
bookstores, and mail order (see Business Sources). Find out which plants will
do well in your situation by studying their climate, soil and sunlight needs
and estimate the market that might be created.

When you decide which ones you would like to try, Learn something of
their background (history, medicinal value, folklore, etc.). This is very
important in herb farming - people may not be interested in the history of a
turnip,,, but mints once used to "clean" eating boards (no dishes)
for royalty might catch the fancy of a customer or two.

Make arrangements with a local printer or desk publisher to make nice
(and unique) labels for your jars, bundles and packets. Have little folders
of information on the more interesting ones -- this will help raise the
price. When you ship packages of herbs or species, always include some of
this type of literature -- these are some of your more profitable sales, and
you want them to order again!

Some indoor herbs, such as basil are notorious for attracting while
flies, a perennial greenhouse pest. They don't do all that much damage (unless
they are really bad), but they are a nuisance and extremely difficult to

One way to help control them is to keep herbs that attract pets away
from each other as much as possible; another is to move the plants to an
outside location where the wind help control the size of the colony.

When confronted with a plant pest fungal problem find out exactly what
the problem is -- then tale immediate steps to correct it. Too many gardeners
and greenhouse growers waste their time, money and plants (to say nothing of
needless building of immunities) by erroneous or "too late"

There are numerous chemical insecticides and fungicides that can help
-- and many non-chemical (organic) techniques as well.

Rotating crops, picking off pests and introducing natural controls,
such as milky spore disease (Japanese beetle, lady-bugs, praying mantis,
lizards, (geckos) or frogs and washing with insecticidal soap sprays are
considered "natural," controls, Reuter Laboratories specialise in
"natural pesticides, which are sold under the trade name

It may become necessary to decide whether your herb garden will be
"normal" organic. In most cases, organically grown herbs are more
in demand and bring higher prices.

Your decision may be influenced by the type and number of pests in your
area, your luck in controlling them, demand. If you use toxins, be very
careful for your own safety, and be informed to protect your prospective

Tip: One of the more effective controls for white flies is malathion,
which is usually can be sold or eaten a week later (check the label for
accurate instructions).

Some experts tell use that when mixed with some city waters will break
down into harmless (to the bugs) solution in as little as 15 minutes! It
still smells like it is working for hours, but it isn't. You can either check
on your local water situation or apply malathion fast and in small mixed

Toxic chemicals are rated by a factor called LD. The "acute oral
LD factor" indicates how much it takes at the indicated strength to kill
50% of orally dosed specimen (those who eat the treated leaves).

There is also a dermal LD rating that concerns the effect on the nose,
throat, eyes and skin (through absorption). The low numbers are more toxic :
LD 1 to 50 is highly toxic; LD 500 and above is only slightly toxic.

Most chemical pesticides available today are designed to breakdown into
harmless compounds within a week or so, but there are also "hard
chemicals" (DDT, Deldrin, Aldrin, Heptachlor, Endrin, Lindane and
Chlordane) that remain toxic up to twenty years.

These chemicals normally used only by licensed professionals for things
like termite control (where "safe" chemicals would be ineffective).
Many growers use some forms of "soft" pesticides (Sevin, Diazinon,
Pyrenthins and Malathionn that are effective against pests, but usually not
harmful to humans in the plants or are not eaten within 7 to 10 days after
the treatment.

When it comes to chemicals there is one cardinal rule: READ THE LABEL!

For an outdoor herb garden in areas where small animals, grasshoppers
or too much sun might be a problem, consider erecting a simple shade house.

Some gardeners combine a green house and shade house by constructing a
simple enclosure of treated wood, painted metal or plastic, covering it with
shade cloth AND 4 to 6 mil plastic for the greenhouse and pulling the plastic
back to reveal the shade cloth for a shade house.

A quonset frame can be used, or a corral constructed of landscape
timbers spaced 8 feet apart and connected with treated (or painted) 2 by 4s.
Stretch the shade cloth over the frame and apply the plastic -- there is your
combination shade/green house!

Note that within a shade house, you will need a means of pollination.

If all else fails, use a water colour brush to "tickle" the
flowers every few days. Herbs generally do not need fertilising. In most
cases, a good compost and a little processed (purified) manure is fine.

If you need an easy way to apply fertilisers on a large scale, consider
a siphon attachment on your watering hose. Hyponex makes one that works fine
and costs about $10 (retail).

Although it would be worthless as a learning aid for growing herbs,
Culpepper's Complete Herbal (See Bookseller, Sources) is a copy of a 17th
century book outlining the uses and powers of the various herbs.

This, and others that tell about their "magical" powers are
no longer considered factual, but nonetheless, fascinating -- they will help
create interest in your herbs!

Marketing your herbs profitably is a matter of finding those with a
need (gourmet restaurants and cooks), and coming up with something that is
different and interesting.

Check with small stores, health and gift shops. Ask them to try your
products -- even if it is on consignment. Ordinarily, you can offer a special
introductory price to entice shop keepers to try them.

Exposure of both your name and herbs is what you are after at this
early stage. Work with a printer to have a display package to show off your
products to their best advantage. A poster with a tray of products underneath
would be a nice window display.

Meanwhile, advertise (radio, cable TV spots, newspaper ads) in your
market area and write some "news release" items for the local paper
to help introduce yourself and your products.

Herbs and their accompanying folklore lend themselves well to this
approach. Of course, your little articles will also mention where one can get
such interesting things!

Put magnetic signs on your car and call on as many retailers and
restaurants as you can to establish a wholesale route.

Leave samples of your best products with the large, gourmet cooks. When
building a route, it is necessary to keep calling on prospective customers --
even when they haven't bought anything. This tends to prove your reliability
(why buy from an out of town supplier and pay freight if they can get the
same quality delivered?).

Remember that some retailers have been "burned" is the past
by those who SAY they are reliable. Since very little actual space and weight
is needed for herb delivery, your family car (with signs, of course) will do
nicely as your first delivery van.

Tip: offer a plan to place and periodically replace, live, growing
plants such as basil to restaurants. This will allow them to advertise that
they use fresh herbs!


PENN HERB, 605 N. Second, Philadelphia, PA 19123. Wholesale herb seeds.
Catalog and samples - $1.

JUDE HERBS, Box 563, Huntington Station, New York, NY 11746. Catalog -

NICHOLS GARDEN NURSERY, 1190 North Pacific Highway, Albany, OR
97321-4598. 503/926-8406. Specializes in herbs and rare seeds; full line of
supplies, mixtures, information on the general subject of herb gardening.

FOLKLORE HERB CO.,2388 W 4th Ave., Vancouver, BC Canada V61 1P1. Herb
seeds, lk herbs, sanctuary seeds, teas, oils, etc. Free catalog.

BOTANIC GARDEN SEED CO, 9 Wyckoff St.,Brooklyn, NY 11201. Wholesale
herb and wildflower seeds.

BEAR MEADOW FARM, 23 Wall St.,North Adams, MA 01247. Herbs, health
foods and related supplies.

BUSINESS OF HERBS, Box 5591, Madison, VA 22727. Magazine for herb

CAPRILANDS HERB FARM, Silver ST., Coventry, CT 06328, Herbs, health
foods and related supplies (for growers & retailers).

HERB QUARTERLY, Box 275, Newlane, VT 05345. Magazine for herb growers.

NATIONAL AGRICULTURE LIBRARY, 10301 Baltimore Rd.,Beltsville, MD 20705.
Free list of over 200 sources of information on organic gardening and

CONSUMER INFORMATION CENTER, Box 100, Pueblo, CO 81002. Write for list
of pamphlets. No. 538R, Herbs - Magic or Toxic is free.

ABLE BOX CO., 1269 McCarter Highway, Newark, NJ 07102. Boxes and

KOLE INDUSTRIES, INC.,P.O. Box 520152, Miami, FL 33142. Manufacturers
boxes, cartons and bags (some for mail order dealers).

JONES WEST, P.O. Box 1084, Rohnert Park, CA 94928. 707/795-8522.
Manufactures plastic zip-lock bags, 20 sizes, 2 x 2" to 12 x 15".

DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.,31 East 2nd St.,Mineola, NY 11051. Discount
books, clip art, stencils, etc.

QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolnshire, IL 60917-4700,
312/634--4800. Office supplies.

EDWARD HAMILTON BOOKDEALER, Falls Village, CT 06031-0358. Specializes
in discount books - references, novel, histories, special subject.

ZPS, Box 581, Libertyville, IL 60048-2556. Business cards (raised print
- $11.50 per K) and letterhead stationery. Will print your copy ready logo or
design, even whole card.

WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short run
business cards, stationery, etc. Good quality, but limited style or colour

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