If you are looking for another income opportunity for your homestead, consider selling specialty herbs and fresh cut flowers.
It is easy to make money with herbs as they are becoming increasingly popular. They can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes, as well as incorporated in body care items and craft projects. Herbs can be sold as live plants, fresh cuttings, or dried. The sheer variety of the types of herbs and the ways to use and market them make herbs a great money-maker.
Starting an herb business is a great project to incorporate into other homesteading business ventures. They make great companion plants to vegetable gardens and fruit orchards and are easy to interplant between other garden plants, allowing you to make more money without requiring more space. If you have dairy goats, grow some herbs that can be added to soaps and lotions.
Herbs can just as easily be the main focus of your homestead and are a perfect idea for apartment homesteaders. If you have a sunny balcony or can install grow lights on a shelf, you can grow herbs to sell.
Starting an Herb Business
Before you decide which herbs to plant and how much you should plant, decide on the direction you want to take. The herbs you need for chefs and restaurants are different than the herbs you need for cosmetics. Make a homestead business plan and stick with it. You can always expand your product line.
Culinary herbs are perhaps the easiest to sell, as people are familiar with them. Plant the basic culinary herbs but include one or two unusual herbs to add interest.
Professional chefs and restaurants buy herbs by the pound so if this is the market you are counting on, grow large plots of herbs. If you are selling at farmers markets, grow what you think you can sell. What doesn’t sell can be dried or made into a shelf-stable value-added product.
When selling herbs to use in cooking, attach a card describing the flavor of the herb and what dishes it is commonly used in.
Another herbal market that is becoming popular with the general public is herbal teas. Traditionally, herbal teas were used medicinally, and many people are rediscovering this traditional medicine. Most people drink herbal teas for the flavor, and they are willing to pay a premium price for local herbs that have been grown without the use of chemicals.
Any culinary herb can be used as a tea, but the following list of herbs brew an especially delicious tea. Use them individually or combine herbs to create your own signature blend.
- Angelica – use the leaves of the plant
- Bee Balm – leaves and flowers
- Chamomile – flowers
- Elderberry – flowers
- Lemon balm – leaves
- Mints – leaves
- Roses – hips and petals
Fragrant herbs are another profitable niche for an herbal business. These herbs can be used fresh or dried to create wreaths, sachets, and potpourri. You can make the products yourself or sell the herbs to crafters.
Make Money With Specialty Herbs
Change your products with the seasons and add special items for the holidays. Large patio containers of mixed herbs and edible flowers work well in the summer months. Smaller pots of rosemary, sage, and thyme that can be brought indoors over the winter sell well in the fall. If you plan ahead, tabletop herbal topiaries are top sellers during the holiday months.
Once you have your herbs and have created your own line of herbal products, you need to find your market. Other than selling fresh herbs directly to local restaurants, there are five venues that you should try.
The Internet makes the whole world your shop. You can create your own e-commerce website or open a shop on Etsy. While online marketing exposes to a huge amount of potential customers, it is quite a bit to learn if you have no technical know-how. Do your research and consider hiring any website work out to a local student.
Farmers markets are another great place to sell your herbs and herbal products. You have a smaller customer base, but you meet each of your customers and can form a good relationship with them, creating a loyal and supportive customer base.
Craft fairs can be a good option if you are certain you can make more than it costs you to set up a booth. Craft fairs are usually busier than farmers markets, so be sure you have plenty of product.
Another place to sell your herbal products is in the retail market. Locally owned shops are usually open to placing local products on their shelves. If you are interested in selling to retail shops understand you will sell to the shop directly at wholesale prices. Make sure you are still making a profit. Get your foot in the door by providing samples to the shop owner and employees.
Finally, if you can offer unique items each week, pitch your items to your local CSA. Farmers who operate a CSA are excited to be able to offer their customers new products and are more than willing to include products from another local seller in their weekly packages.
Herbs make a fine stand-alone homestead business but they also beautifully compliment a homestead cut-flower business. A simple bouquet bought in a supermarket is very expensive and the flowers are not of high quality. People are much happier spending money with a local grower and you will find you have a group of customers who want to buy your flowers every week.
Creating a Successful Cut Flower Business
There are two ways to go about growing flowers for cutting. If you have the space you can grow your flowers just as you grow vegetables: in rows or raised beds. This makes planting, tending, and harvesting somewhat easier than if you go with the second option, incorporating flowers in already established gardens, borders, and beds.
Once you have decided where you are going to plant your flowers you need to decide which flowers you are going to plant. Grow a variety of plant shapes and textures so your arrangements will not just be pretty, but visually interesting. Interesting arrangements have three elements: tall, spiky flowers and foliage; large, flat, round focal flowers and foliage; and small, airy flowers for fillers.
A successful cut-flower business will make use of flowers that bloom for long periods. Annuals generally bloom throughout the summer and perennials will flower for a week to a month, depending on the variety. Stagger your plantings in order to ensure a long blooming period. To make sure your last sowing will have enough time to bloom out, count backwards from your last frost date the number of days it takes until the plant blooms. That is the last date you will be able to sow.
Before preparing your flowers to sell, it is important to know how to cut and condition them for longer-lasting arrangements. Cutting flowers with your fingers and scissors can bruise the stems and make it difficult for the stem to carry water to the bloom. Instead, use a clean, sharp knife to cut across the stem at an angle.
Carry a bucket of lukewarm water with you and immediately place cut flowers in the water. Cut flowers in the early morning or evening when the blooms are not stressed by hot afternoon sun. Cut blossoms that are just about to fully open, as they will last longer than blooms that have already fully opened.
Before arranging the flowers stand them in deep water 8-12 hours in a cool, dark place. Immerse the foliage but keep the flowers dry.
There are some simple guidelines for arranging fresh flowers. First, it is important to work with bacteria-free equipment. Start with a clean vase. Use tepid water unless you are arranging spring bulbs. Add ¼ teaspoon of bleach and 1 tablespoon of sugar per liter of water. Strip off any foliage that would sit below the water level, as wet foliage will simply mold.
Make a grid with Scotch tape across the opening of your vase. This grid will allow your three elements to stay where you have placed them. Your goal is to create a balanced look. Large flowers should be used to create visual weight in the center of the arrangement. Tall, spiky flowers direct the eyes outward if they are placed around the outside of the bouquet. Intersperse small flowers throughout as filler, as well as textural accents.
Cut flower bouquets sell quickly at farmers markets but that is not your only option. If you can supply the demand, local restaurants and specialty grocers are happy to be able to supply their customers fresh, local flowers.
One of the most stable ways to make money with your cut flowers is a weekly bouquet subscription. Visit local businesses, medical offices, and law firms with sample bouquets and offer a Friday afternoon delivery.
With some careful planning and planting along with creative packaging and marketing, you can turn your homestead into a profitable business. Not only can you make money with herbs and flowers, but your homestead looks and smells wonderful throughout the process.