Paul Bellezza, 46, planted his first crop at Bellezza Vista Farms in Parksburg, Pennsylvania, about two years ago. He expects to harvest the crop this fall. So far, 14 acres of his 33-acre property are planted or being planted with ginseng and echinacea. He's financing further planting with income from the sale of herb seeds.
Bellezza anticipates revenues of $20,000 to $40,000 per acre from wholesale brokers, but he's quick to point out the uncertainties inherent in herb farming: "I have letters of interest for the herbs," he says, "but they aren't ready to harvest yet, and we won't have any money in our hands until they are."
To drum up interest, Bellezza called potential buyers and listed his crops in the Herb Growing and Marketing Network's classified ad section. Eager customers are already calling to ask about his soon-to-be-harvested crop.
Bellezza and his wife, Mary, also 46, invested about $200,000 of their personal savings to buy farmland, a used tractor and most of the seeds for the first crop. Before planting, Paul researched which plants would be easiest to grow in the local climate and soil. "We grow herbs that are drought-resistant and require little care," he says. "[The goal is] to pick things that naturally grow in your area."