Tammi Hartung, 37, and her husband, Christopher, 36, purchased their 10-acre farm in Colorado in December 1995. The start-up costs for Desert Canyon Farm and Learning Center amounted to nearly $300,000, including a home on the property.
Some $17,000 went to securing water rights. "You have to go where the water and soil are good," says Tammi. Buying certified organic farmland--which means the grower uses no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers--was also key, she says, because the natural-products companies she sells to demand it. (Certification may be handled by a state agency or a private organization, depending on your state.)
Today, the Hartungs' farm is a thriving operation; it brought in $120,000 last year. It's also a case study in maximizing the year-round productivity of an herb farm. "In the summer, we grow medicinal herbs that are harvested and shipped fresh to manufacturers of herbal products. We also do small-scale seed production for companies looking for native or organically grown plants," says Tammi. "In the winter, we use our greenhouse to do our own [starter plants]. We sell potted herbs to garden centers and nurseries."
The Hartungs' success can be attributed in part to their 20 years of experience with herbs and plants. Before starting the farm, Tammi worked as an herbalist and her husband managed an arboretum.