Herbs are hot. From echinacea to ginseng, herbal remedies once considered on the fringes of medicine are popping up in pharmacies everywhere. Consumer demand for medicinal herbs is growing phenomenally, culinary herbs are growing strong, and herb farms are springing up across the country to meet the demand.
"The driving force right now [in the herb market] is the interest in alternative health-care products, herbal supplements, herbal medicinal products and dietary supplements," says Maureen Rogers, director of the Herb Growing and Marketing Network, an industry association in Silver Springs, Pennsylvania.
Besides processing herb plants, fresh-cut herbs and dried herbs, some growers also formulate and manufacture their own herbal products (e.g., shampoos and skin creams), which are sold by mail order or at retail stores on the farms.
An herb farm start-up faces the same risks as any farming enterprise, but if you're comfortable with the long start-up phase and the often significant capital investment, the rewards can be considerable.
Marcie Geffner is a freelance writer in Los Angeles who reports on small business and real estate.