IS PROCESSING YOUR HERB NECESSARY? Until a few years ago our main crop was Echinacea purpurea fresh whole plant wanted by
manufacturers for fresh plant tincture.
All we had to do was pull it out of the ground and wash the roots thouroughly, let to dry
and stack it in the back of the truck and take a journey to Queensland to a manufacturer.
Suddenly they didn't need us to produce this crop anymore and we all had to get dryers
built quickly for the next years harvest.
If we had known the change in the market we would have been in a better position to
financially cope with the change. We had to find the money to build one, and it wasn't
So farmers now who want to grow herbs must think of the expense of setting up a herb
Herb farming now involves growing, maintaining, harvesting, processing and packaging your
produce, even to the cost of value adding your produce to make a particular marketable
product sold directly to stores like we do at Pleasance Herb Seeds.
The product you produce must be top quality dried herb. There must be no foreign materials
present, like dirt, wire, nails, dead frogs and snalil shells. Believe me it took me a
long time to try and figure a way to extract these foreign materials from my fresh herb
before it went into the dryer.
Farmers only wanting to grow herbs and not want to process it in any way, will have to pay
to get it dried, milled the way a buyer wants it (whole, hammermilled, chaffcut or
Processing costs takes out a big chunk of the profits of your product, and leaves you
wondering if it's all worth it.
Growing Echinacea tops for the current price of $6 a kilo
is not worth it. But when you lift the roots at the end of the season, dried and packaged,
they are worth $35 a kilo. This makes it balance out a lot better, and more profit is
If growing a crop for aerial parts only, in the Northern Rivers area like we are situated,
we will get between three and five cuts in a summer, and with some winter growing herbs,
maybe one cut till spring comes.
When a hundred fresh kilos of Skullcap reduces to 18-20 kgs dried, and we get $16 kg
maximum, it gets to the stage where you have to produce 500 to 1000 kilos of fresh
Skullcap a season to make any money for your effort.
If this is the case, you either have a band of eager family workers by your side like the
old days, or have mechanical harvesting equipment ready to use, when you need it.
So when people come to me and ask me to tell them how to grow herbs, I tell them there is
more to it than it looks.
Homework is essential. There are not many figures available to help you complete loan
applications and overdrafts like I have been asked to do, but these are the raw hard facts
of producing a crop.
Over the last three and a half years I have compiled some figures for likely growers to
look at to see whats involved in the setting up their first crop. I will display thes
figures on the 1st of july as there is a lot of data entry to do.