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Herb drying, packing, sales
Herb drying, packing, sales: Manage the entire herb drying and dehydration, packing, processing, and sales space for herb processors and packers.

Herb drying, packing, sales

Herb drying, packing, sales:  Manage the entire herb drying and dehydration, packing, processing, and sales space for herb processors and packers.

Herbs are widely utilized in food and health industries. Their beneficial effects to the human body have been attributed to the presence of active phytochemical ingredients with some efficiency for disease treatment as well as for beauty and health enhancement. Public awareness on the adverse effects of synthetic chemical products also increased the demand for herbal products. Highly efficient herbal processing and extraction technologies have been developed to obtain the optimal amounts of active ingredients from herbs and cope with the rising demands for herbal products. This article reviews the state-of-the-art development in herbal processing and extraction methods from the year 1991 until 2015. We start with a brief history of herbal usage, followed by descriptions of 10 types of extraction processes and critical analysis of their relative advantages and disadvantages. Scale-up considerations of the extraction methods are shared, and a highlight of the current and future challenges facing the herbal industry is presented.


The current status of herbal product processing is described in the paper. The processes highlighted are processing of crude herb materials, highly concentrated standardised extracts and purified extracts. The raw materials for the processes are called herbal materials. Herbal materials are parts of plants such as roots, rhizomes, barks, seeds, fruits, and leaves, flowers and stems. The value of the herbal materials is related to the content of the active ingredients in the herbal preparations. Suitable processing techniques are employed to maintain the quality of the products. Herbal product processing involves both farms and processing facilities. The primary herb processing steps include drying, size reduction, grinding and sieving. The secondary processing involves extraction with the aid of suitable solvents, concentration and drying. Solid¬liquid extraction equipment such as the Turbo-Extractor Distiller, Advanced Phytonic process, superc ritical extraction process, spray drying and freeze-drying are described. The products of secondary processing are in the form of whole extract, concentrated extract and powdered extract. The extracts are then standardised based on a recognised herbal standard. Further purification to obtain pure phytochemicals requires elaborate separation and purification steps such as solvent-solvent extraction, solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography. Finally, aspect of Quality Assurance based on CGMP for herbal processing is presented.


Herb processing is a matter of strictly controlled operations. This preserves the natural ingredients and aromas.

Herbs are widely utilized in food and health industries. Their beneficial effects to the human body have been attributed to the presence of active phytochemical ingredients with some efficiency for disease treatment as well as for beauty and health enhancement. Public awareness on the adverse effects of synthetic chemical products also increased the demand for herbal products. Highly efficient herbal processing and extraction technologies have been developed to obtain the optimal amounts of active ingredients from herbs and cope with the rising demands for herbal products. This article reviews the state-of-the-art development in herbal processing and extraction methods from the year 1991 until 2015. We start with a brief history of herbal usage, followed by descriptions of 10 types of extraction processes and critical analysis of their relative advantages and disadvantages. Scale-up considerations of the extraction methods are shared, and a highlight of the current and future challenges facing the herbal industry is presented.


Herb processing: STEP BY STEP

Herb processing
Herb drying, packing, sales

Taking the herbs from the field and turning them into the end product is a long process. Even so, some steps are extremely quick. For example, we use short transport routes to deliver the freshly harvested herbs to our herb center in Laufen. Over 1,400 tons of fresh herbs are processed at the center each year. After drying, they are cleaned, cut and stored. Mixing is the final step. These herbs are used to create the unique 13-herb mixture which serves as the basis for all Ricola products.

Herb processing: A WELL-KEPT SECRET

The herbs are transferred from the herb center to the production facility via an underground route. The valuable ingredients are extracted from the herbs at this facility. The extraction process itself was designed by Ricola and is top secret. It was developed to ensure that the intensive aromas of the herbs are fully preserved.


Herb processing:

Video: Processing

Primary Herb Processing and Storage

Primary processing – drying, cutting, sifting and storing freshly harvested medicinal plants – is the step that makes or breaks quality. Because these steps typically happens in the country of origin, parts of the world with less rigorous quality control standards and fewer resources for developing drying and storage facilities, this is also the stage where most things go wrong. Josef Brinckmann said that most buyers who have visited their suppliers (it is amazing how many buyers have not done so) know that the best way to retain the quality of the raw material is to transport it out of the country of origin as soon as possible.

Primary Herb Producers

Most medicinal plants on the international market are handled by production facilities in the countries of origin, called primary producers or processors. These in-country companies typically source directly from farmers or farmer cooperatives and wild plant collectors. In some cases, finished product companies buy directly from these primary producers. In other cases, a larger company, say Martin Bauer Group of Germany, handles the logistics of orders/transportation, storage, and a round of quality control testing (finished product companies will repeat many of these tests for their own assurance and as required per regulations in their country). Finished product companies committed to developing longterm relationships with their suppliers may insist as part of their contract that they can have direct relations with the primary processor. This way they can do site visits to fields and collection sites, develop relationships on individuals at the processing company, and have a direct say in maintaining the quality of the plants from the point of origin through the whole supply chain.

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Primary Processing: The Herbal Products Supply Chain
Herb drying, packing, sales
Primary Processing of Medicinal Plants
Herb drying, packing, sales
Primary Processing: Drying Herbs at Zackwoods Farm
Herb drying, packing, sales
Primary Processing: Drying Medicinal Plants in Germany
Sustainable Herbs Project Production of Medicinal Plants
Herb drying, packing, sales
Primary Processing: washing and drying
Herb drying, packing, sales
Primary Processing: Sorting Turmeric in India
Herb drying, packing, sales
Primary Processing: Bagging Herbs in Hungary
Herb drying, packing, sales

Steps and Issues in Primary Herb Processing

Watch the video above to best understand processing herbs – not just the technical information but the actual experience of what is involved. As someone for whom ‘processing herbs’ meant chopping freshly dug Echinacea root and mixing it with Vodka in a mason jar, this level of the supply chain was perhaps the most surprising. The noise, the dust, the machinery, the huge amounts of herbs. It seemed impossible that anyone was keeping track of which herbs were in the machines at any point in time or as importantly, was overseeing quality and cleanliness of the whole process. As I learned more, I came to see what buyers look for in deciding whether or not to source from particular companies. There are ways of keeping track and of keeping things clean. Among other things, it involves a keen attention to detail and scrupulous record keeping. Below are some of the steps and what to look for. But again, the best way to understand this step is to watch the video above.

  • Labeling: In the certified chain of the industry, primary producers typically have contracts with farmers that have been placed in advance. They have different ways of purchasing wild collected plants, sometimes these purchases are handled through collection sites that are organized by the processing facility. Other times the primary processor may buy directly from wild collectors who bring herbs they have collected by just to see if the company is interested. Most times, companies do a bit of each. These herbs may be fresh or dried. For certified herbs, correct labeling is crucial to ensure traceability. Labels must include the name of farmer or collector, date of harvest, amount harvested, and area from which the material was harvested. The primary producer is responsible for proper labeling.
  • Drying – Drying is one of the most challenging steps in the entire supply chain. The constituents quickly degrade after the plant has been harvested, so the closer drying facilities are to the fields and collection sites, the better. I visited a number of driers built within a kilometer of the fields, ranging from rudimentary but very effective set-ups for drying under shade cloth (mostly in rural India), to very elaborate driers able to dry huge quantities of medicinal plants from fields in Germany. Wild collectors typically dry the harvested plants in their own homes and later bring the dried plants to collection facilities for storage. The bags of herbs are then shipped to processing facilities for the next stages of production
  • Storage – These herbs are then stored at the primary processing facility until the time for processing and fulfilling orders from manufacturing or finished product companies. Herbs should be stored in clean bags so they aren’t exposed to fluctuations in humidity. I visited a huge range of storage facilities – from incredibly organized facilities to those where dried herbs were in huge piles or opened bags on low shelves close to the ground. Cats slept on some of the piles and exposed beams covered in grime were above. Moisture is the biggest challenge in storage. Storage areas must be set at a controlled temperature, less than 70% moisture (correct?) and around 25 degrees C. Companies should have insect controls inside buildings and rodent control outside. Cultivated herbs are a problem because if there are larvae, the company won’t be able to sell the herbs.

Orchid plant parts (stems, leaves, tubers, flowers or roots) are commonly used in the fresh state to prepare medications in folk medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) also makes use of fresh material, but in a very large country, this is not always possible, so there is a tradition of using dried herbs. Proper processing is essential to get the best value for a herb and to allow for prolonged storage. The various steps in the processing of medicinal plants used in TCM, dosage and administration of a herbal product are described in this chapter. Shihu (medicinal Dendrobium) is presented as an example to illustrate the usage of an orchid herb.


Herb processing:
Herb drying, packing, sales

Converted tobacco driers used for drying medicinal herbs in Hungary.

  • Cutting and Sifting Once an order is ready to be processed, raw material from different collectors and different fields is mixed together to form larger lots to be cut according to the specifications agreed to in the sample when the order was placed. The primary processing company is responsible for keeping track of which herbs go into these lots in order to ensure traceability for certification. This means that if any quality control problems arise further down the supply chain, the company knows which fields and/or collectors are potentially responsible and can take steps to prevent those problems in the future.
Herb processing:
Herb drying, packing, sales
Primary Processing in the Herbal Products Industry
Herb drying, packing, sales
Herb processing:
  • Cleanliness – Simple things like washing hands and providing collectors and growers with clean storage sacks are key in preventing contamination. Other things like cleanliness of the facility, drying racks, washing rooms, etc. are also key to preventing adulteration and microbiological contamination.
  • Terms of payment Processing facilities have to pay collectors on the spot. Yet these companies don’t get paid for the herbs until after the buyer places receives the shipment, which can be months after the primary processor has purchased the raw material.  Depending on the buyer, the processing facility still might not get paid for 3 months, sometimes longer. These companies bear the greatest financial risk in the whole supply chain. I asked Anna Charytoniuk, in charge of International Sales for Runo, a primary processing facility in Poland, what made a good company. “One that pays on time,” she replied, with no hesitation.

For a primary processing company to succeed, the key is to keep overall costs as low as possible by having really good systems in place so they are as efficient as possible.

The current status of herbal product processing is described in the paper. The processes highlighted are processing of crude herb materials, highly concentrated standardised extracts and purified extracts. The raw materials for the processes are called herbal materials. Herbal materials are parts of plants such as roots, rhizomes, barks, seeds, fruits, and leaves, flowers and stems. The value of the herbal materials is related to the content of the active ingredients in the herbal preparations. Suitable processing techniques are employed to maintain the quality of the products. Herbal product processing involves both farms and processing facilities. The primary herb processing steps include drying, size reduction, grinding and sieving. The secondary processing involves extraction with the aid of suitable solvents, concentration and drying. Solid¬liquid extraction equipment such as the Turbo-Extractor Distiller, Advanced Phytonic process, superc ritical extraction process, spray drying and freeze-drying are described. The products of secondary processing are in the form of whole extract, concentrated extract and powdered extract. The extracts are then standardised based on a recognised herbal standard. Further purification to obtain pure phytochemicals requires elaborate separation and purification steps such as solvent-solvent extraction, solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography. Finally, aspect of Quality Assurance based on CGMP for herbal processing is presented.


A THOUGHTFUL PROCESS

Our actions are guided by our preference for simplicity over processing, and our trust in what nature has built over millennia of human history. Our extraction process is designed to be as gentle as possible on the herb itself. Often, our finished extracts contain just the herb extractives and the liquid used to extract them. It’s a thoughtful process with a simple result: high-quality herbal extracts.

Herb processing
Herb drying, packing, sales

START WITH QUALITY

Quality extracts begin with quality herbs. Growing our own herbs (more than 65 species of them) is one way to ensure we have the control we need. We know exactly how to grow herbs and when to harvest them so that the desired phytochemicals are concentrated in the plant part we collect. Learn more about this part of the process in Our Farm.

There are some herbs that our region doesn’t lend itself to growing. Maca, for example, does best in the high altitudes of the Andes of South America. When we can’t grow an herb ourselves, we source it ethically from responsible growers and wildcrafters. We prefer to use cultivated sources, when possible, as they reduce the strain on wild plant populations, but there are instances when wildcrafting is the best way to obtain an herb. Our search for ethically sourced herbs, both cultivated and wildcrafted, has taken us to every continent on the planet, except Antarctica. Learn more about this process in Our Sourcing.

TESTING, TESTING AND MORE TESTING

We’re unapologetically meticulous about making sure every herb and every extract meet our rigorous specifications. We take seriously our commitment to creating consistent, high quality products.

We verify the identity of 100% of our herbs, whether we grow them or source them. We also subject the herbs we grow, and every lot of herbs we obtain from our partners, to testing based on basic criteria and an herb-specific risk assessment.

When creating our extracts, we’re careful to use only those parts of a plant that contain the highest concentrations of the sought-after phytochemicals. In some cases, we extract the whole plant, but in many more, we extract only a part of the plant – a root, a flower, a leaf. To confirm that each herb consists of the right plant part we begin with a macroscopic evaluation of its morphological features. Then as needed, we go a step further and run microscopic analysis.

Herb processing
Herb processing

To verify that a plant meets our quality specifications, we check the plant’s sensory profile (what it looks, smells and tastes like) through organoleptic analysis. We have a testing program for heavy metals and pesticide screening, which includes pesticides, fungicides, miticides and herbicides. We test for microbiological contamination, and we evaluate for foreign materials, which can include unwanted parts of the plant. For example, we may reject a batch of a plant’s leaves if it contains too much connected stem.

Once the extracts are made, we do more testing. We do organoleptic analysis and high performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC) analysis to verify the quality and reconfirm identity of the extract.

These tests are then crosschecked against phytochemical standards, botanical reference materials and previous batches of the extract to ensure we are producing a consistent product.

For us, precision is a way of life. So, as needed, we do even further testing.

Are you interested in agriculture, specifically the production of herbs?  The herb industry is larger and more diverse than what people might imagine. The perfume industry uses oils that are obtained from herbs to make perfumes. The pharmaceutical industry derives significant raw product from herbs, and the food industry obtains flavourings of all types from herbs. Even the mint that flavours our tooth paste comes from herbs. There are many alternative therapies that attribute medicinal properties to plants – aromatherapy, flower therapy, herbal medicine, to name but a few.

Learn how to grow your own herbs or how to use these valuable plants more diversely, from cooking and medicinal herbs to aromatherapy and herb processing, this course will give you all these. You will learn how to grow, harvest and use herbs for personal enjoyment in cooking, crafts or therapies and then go on to develop these skills for business purposes.

This course is designed for people who are involved, or wanting to become involved in the business of herbs. It covers less horticulture and is focused more strongly on herbs. It is more appropriate for the small business operator who not only grows herbs but also harvests and value adds (eg. perhaps producing herbal products like body and hair creams, etc). It is ideal for anyone wanting to make a serious business or career from herbs as: a herb grower (producing dried herbs, herbal oils, fresh cut herbs, etc); a herb manufacturer (growing and/or producing herb products -edible, culinary or aromatic); a herb marketer (eg. herb shop owner, herb product distributor); a herb nursery proprietor; and a landscape designer or contractor, specialising in herb gardens.

Learn about Herb Production and Use

Most people who grow herbs, are likely to be self-employed. Whether you plan to begin on a modest scale in your back yard or to make a substantial investment, careful forethought is needed.  The herb industry is larger than just the growing of herbs though. Marketing, processing and manufacturing are all involved in aspects of this industry as well. Consider the perfume industry alone.

This course deals with all the points that need to be considered before you start; stressing at every stage the various decisions which should be taken to avoid problems later on.

This course not only multiplies your chances of success, but aims to give you a foundation from which to build proper and appropriate knowledge, skills and business contacts; that will serve you for many years to come.

Course Structure and Content:

1. Practical Skills Training:

This part of the course is offered to give students all of the practical skills required to grow and produce herbs and herbal products to a high standard and of saleable quality.

Students will learn the following:

Introduction and overview of Herb Varieties

  • Herb Propagation Techniques
  • Pests & Disease Control
  • Harvesting Herbs
  • Preserving Herbs
  • Processing Herbs -Using Herbs for cooking & medicinal purposes
  • Herb Farming
  • Producing herbal products such as creams and ointments

High-performance thin-layer chromatography analysis verifies the quality and reconfirms the identity of each extract.

EXTRACTION BEGINS WITH THOUGHTFUL MILLING

Once the herbs have passed the required tests and they are released for use; it’s time to begin the extraction process. We capture the herb’s phytochemicals and avoid losing any of the desired constituents, by creating custom milling processes for each plant and plant part. For example, seeds require different treatment and equipment than roots. As needed, we even design unique procedures within plant part categories. Some herbs contain particularly volatile oils that will evaporate if milled incorrectly. To address this issue, we “mill” many herbs within the menstruum (the liquid used for extraction) itself. This transfers the volatile oils directly to the extract and avoids releasing them into the air.

The Non-Palm Way

Herb drying, packing, sales

Much of the world’s glycerin comes from palm trees. Unfortunately, the growth of commercial palm tree plantations has contributed to rainforest destruction in many parts of the globe. We choose to use Certified Organic non-palm glycerin to avoid contributing to this process. Read our article about this choice and the role Orangutans played in it.

Read Article

For us, precision is a way of life.

A CAREFUL BALANCE

Exposing the cellular structure, without milling too finely, requires a careful balance. We stop our milling at a coarse grind. The idea is to create particles just small enough to create an evenly concentrated mixture when they are combined with the menstruum. Too fine a grind and the solid herb can compact, forcing the menstruum away from the herb. After milling, the herb goes straight into the menstruum, if it’s not there already. By extracting herbs immediately after milling, we reduce time for oxidation and retain an herb’s characteristic aroma and flavor.

Herb processing
Herb processing
Chamomile awaits its turn for extraction.

AN EVEN SOAK

Depending on the herb, the maceration stage of our extractions ranges from two to three weeks or even longer. The menstruum in which the maceration takes place is a customized composition of Certified Organic cane alcohol and distilled water, sometimes with the addition or substitution of Certified Organic non-palm vegetable glycerin. We determine the menstruum composition for each herb through a process that includes literature review and lab testing.

Maceration is complete when the extract reaches a homogeneous state (where the liquid inside the herb is the same strength as the liquid outside it).

To achieve true homogeneity, we must shake or stir a menstruum every work day, and the herbs inside it must have been properly milled to the right particle size – not too big and not too small.

PRESSING & FILTERING

After maceration, we use a hydraulic press to separate the liquid extract from the solid plant material. Then we filter the liquid through the appropriate filter media. The marc, or remaining solid plant material, is taken to our farm, composted and spread out over next year’s crop.

This marc is the leftover solid plant material that was separated from our completed Turmeric liquid extract.
Herbs

Combining Extracts

We make both single herbal extracts and herbal formulas. When extracts are to be combined, our herbalists use experience and extensive research to carefully formulate effective compounds in proprietary ratios. Even when they will ultimately be combined, herbs are always extracted individually because this enables us to make sure that we’re getting the best result from each herb.

ABOVE & BEYOND

We thoughtfully scrutinize each step in our process, regardless of whether the plant comes from our own Certified Organic farms or from half a world away.

Our intense Quality Assurance process focuses on herbal identity, purity, strength and composition, limits on contaminants, traceability and good manufacturing practices.

In addition to adhering to our own stringent guidelines, of course, we follow the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices, a set of regulations the FDA imposes and monitors.

We voluntarily subject our process and our facility to third-party audits that can confirm we’re following manufacturing best practices.

Our process is Certified by UL with regard to NPA (Natural Products Association) Certification Schemes.

Herb drying, packing, sales

Our facility has been audited by UL Registrar LLC and meets GMP requirements listed in NPA (Natural Products Association) Certification Schemes which is uniquely accredited by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) developed in accordance with applicable sections of the FDA’s code of federal regulations.

GMP Certification Logo

Extracting Astragalus On Its Own

We extract Astragalus through a hot water process and then add the alcohol after the macerate cools down. This custom approach brings out the best of this specific herb. However, the process would be a poor fit for many other plants. This is one example of why we don’t extract different herbs together.

WHY WE CHOOSE TO MAKE LIQUID EXTRACTS

Our thoughtful cultivation, sourcing and processing all culminate in liquid herbal extracts we’re proud of. But why did we choose to create liquid herbal extracts in the first place? What are the benefits of taking herbs in this format? Explore this topic deeper in Why Liquid Herbal Extracts.

Many vegetable growers are looking for new ways to increase profits and diversify their operations. There also is an increasing number of part-time farmers who would like to supplement their income by growing small acreages of a high-value crop. At the same time demand for herbs and herb products has increased dramatically. We are now exposed to herbs on a daily basis at home, at work, and in public places. Herbs are used to flavor food and to add beauty and fragrance to our surroundings. I encourage vegetable growers to consider producing herbs because of the great diversity in herb enterprises. I classify herbs into six general categories; fresh culinary herbs, dried culinary herbs, herb plants, decorative and fragrant herbs, essential oils and dyes, and medicinal herbs. The herbs in these categories differ in terms of cultural methods, scale of production, post-harvest handling, and marketing. The first group of herbs, and the one of interest here, is fresh culinary herbs. This is production of fresh herbs for sale in the produce department of the supermarket or for fresh deliveries to restaurants, specialty shops, and food service institutions.

Popular fresh herbs include basil, cilantro, mint, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, lemon balm, sage, and parsley. Many fresh-market herb growers start out by producing small acreages of herbs and selling them directly to restaurants. In an area with a large number of gourmet restaurants, this may be a good way to supplement income. If the restaurants are few and far between, however, as production increases more and more time must be spent making deliveries. Eventually a point is reached where it doesn’t pay to deliver small quantities, a pound or two at a time, to many locations. At this stage, selling wholesale may be considered. In some areas there are wholesalers who specialize in herbs, organics, and ethnic vegetables. Bulk or retail packages can be prepared for them. Because of the perishability of the product, it is important to have markets established before herbs are harvested or even planted. It also pays to work closely with the buyer as to what to produce, when, and in what volumes.

Herb processing
Herb processing

The fresh-market herb produced in the largest volumes is basil. There are many small-scale fresh basil producers in North Carolina. Unfortunately, when most of them have product, in mid-summer, prices are low. The trick is to have fresh basil when no one else does; in early spring, after frost, and during the winter. Season extending methods, like covering plants with row-covers or trench culture, help stretch harvests into these low-product seasons. Greenhouse growers who produce basil in mid-winter rarely complain of an over-supply problem. Whatever the scale of operation, post-harvest handling is critical to the success of fresh-market herb production. The herb must be handled very gently to prevent bruising. Leaves should be harvested and cooled quickly. If the herb needs to be washed, it also has to be dried. Herbs must also be packaged for long shelf-life and to prevent damage. Use of inferior packaging to save money will probably end up costing sales in the long run. Herbs should be treated like any other vegetable and packed in the proper boxes so they can be stacked and moved without damage to the product. Value-added products can also be produced, the most common being pesto. This is the real reason for the popularity of basil right now. Pesto is a sauce made from fresh basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, and pine nuts. Gourmet restaurants present it served over pasta. There is also a demand for pre-made pesto sold fresh or frozen. Fresh herbs can also be used to make vinegars and jellies. Excess fresh herbs can also be processed and sold as dried culinary herbs. Examples of popular dried herbs include parsley, basil, rosemary, and sage. Dried herbs are sold in bulk or retail packages. Many small-scale growers sell retail packs at specialty stores or in their own shops. Dried herb production does require drying facilities. These can, however, be easily constructed by the grower. One real benefit to dried herbs is they can be stored till the market is ready. Dried herbs, too, can be used to make a variety of value-added products such as tea bags, herb blends, simmer sacks, and carpet fresheners.

As with any new crop, the first order of business is to establish markets. Then, determine what time of year the crop is needed and if it can be produced then. Will it fit into the production schedule of other crops and does the grower have the time, labor, space, and equipment to grow it? Is there a good location for direct marketing? Is there a specialty grocery store, gift shop, or health food store that will carry the products? What about a farmers’ market or roadside stands? Businesses can be promoted and customers educated by holding workshops, cooking classes, garden tours, and festivals. All of these advertise, educate, and help promote new specialty items. Once a grower decides there is a market for herbs or herb products, he or she must learn how to grow the crop. An important point to keep in mind is that there is little reliable, useful production information available on fresh-market herbs. A grower must rely on his or her general horticulture knowledge and seek advice from successful herb growers. Some general recommendations include: choosing a good site out of a frost pocket, maybe with a gentle slope, with good soil and good drainage, few noxious weeds, and a good water source. A worthwhile investment is an irrigation system; preferably drip. Most herbs will not tolerate moisture stress and benefit from a steady supply of water. Use a mulch; it holds moisture, controls weeds, and keeps the foliage clean. My research has shown that black polyethylene provides high yields and a clean product. Wheat straw works well in some locations, but can harbor slugs. Wood mulches, especially composted products, can provide some disease suppression but may reduce yields compared to other materials. Keep in mind that there are very few agricultural chemicals cleared for use on herbs. Many herb producers use organic methods, but even if synthetic pesticides are used on other crops, it would be wise to learn some organic production techniques to raise herbs. Prevention is the best approach. Don’t plant in a weedy location, plant in a low lying area, space plants too close, or use a monoculture system.

Do rotate your crops, diversify your plantings, and water properly. If a grower is serious about herbs, he or she should join state and national herb associations. They can provide a wealth of information, often based on growers’ experience, that is unavailable through any other agency. They also provide marvelous opportunities for networking with other growers. Herbs are beautiful plants to work with, fascinating in their variety, fragrance, and flavor. The public is also very interested in herbs. Of course, only the grower can make the final decision as to whether herbs fit into his or her business plan and production scheme. But if the decision is made to give them a try, remember to start small and develop a market early. This is a revised version of an article which first appeared in the Proceedings of the 1993 New York State Vegetable Conference.

Processed Herbs

Non-food herbs are another potential market. Outlets include pharmaceutical and industrial uses, the fragrance industry, and dried herbs/flowers for arrangements and craftwork. Marketing for the pharmaceutical/industrial segment is specialized, competitive, and can require a substantial investment. Considerable specialized knowledge of dehydrating, processing, and extracting, is often required. and specialized machinery may be needed. Keen foreign competition exists, as import prices are often low. Because of the instability of the world market, however, many companies are looking for reliable U.S. suppliers. Growers must establish close working relationships with buyers. Information on U.S. trade and the world situation for many processed products from herbs and spices may be obtained from circulars sold by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). For information on subscription prices, contact FAS, Information Division, Room 5074-S, Washington DC 20250-1000. Telephone 202-720-7115; Fax 202-720-3229. Dr. James A. (Jim) Duke, a botanist at USDA's Agricultural Research Service Germplasm Introduction and Evaluation Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, suggests study of the Chemical Marketing Reporter (Schnell Publishing Company, 100 Church St., New York, NY 10007) for the latest continuing data on processed herb prices and dealers. Copies of the annual Oil, Paint and Drug Chemical Buyers Directory, which lists dealers, is also for sale from the publisher.



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Herb drying, packing, sales

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