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Selling herbs? Worth it?

January 4, 2005

Hello, everyone, i am very much a newbie here, altho i've lurked for a few days tring to soak up some info.

I am pretty much a new gardner, but i've fallen in love with it. I've been growing herbs for a few years, mostly for the butterflies, and some for me.

There is a local farm stand that has everything, except herbs. i am considering asking them if they want to sell herbs.

I am looking at this to make a little extra money (i'm not trying to get rich). I can't have a major time commitment- i have a regular 40 hr job, and would wnat to work on this for about 5 hours/week. (Ultimately, i'd love to support myself, but i don't have the inclination/experience/resources to consider that an option right now). I was thinking of providing about 7 or 8 basic herbs, and whatever he/they would request. There are a few more outlets around here, a few restaurants and a very small farmers market.

Do you think it would be worth it to attempt this? I don't want to go out and get a biz name at this point, really the only thing i ahve to lose is a growing season and the $$ i put into seeds. Basically, i'm asking you if i'm nuts for trying to do something on such a small basis, with minimal experience?

Thank you for your comments.


Comments (59)

  • garliclady

    Just check with your state not all states consider dried herbs processed

  • herbgal921

    Dried herbs are considered home processed here too and we do have to have a grocer's permit to sell them. We have a commercial kitchen so it is not a problem for us. But, I should have mentioned that...thanks.

    Our state has just come up with farmers market regulations and you are supposed to attend the home processing classes in order to sell fresh cut herbs! You can sell lettuce without it, but you better go to school to sell basil! I think that's strange.

  • chinamigarden

    Angie, I would suggest you contact that farmer who runs that stand and just ask. it doesn't sound like you have the time or the desire to run a table at a market. So why not ask and see what the farmer has to say. If he says no, find out why. Maybe his experience will lead you toward a better way of selling your herbs. Or he might say yes and there you go. Either way, good luck

  • gardenguru1950


    Everything is worthwhile. As long as you do it well and intelligently. Most mom and pop buinesses start "small".

    I think the real key is finding your own niche. I don't think growing commodity herbs in commodity forms is going to help you even break even. As evident here, everybody has a different -- and VERY creative -- way of doing things. You need to know YOUR market and you need to find a way to get that market excited about your product. Don't get trapped into thinking you're just a "grower"; you have to be a marketer, too.

    chinamigarden has a good idea: ask the farmer at the stand what HE wants. Essentially he's your customer. But beware: he doesn't offer herbs for a reason. And although it may be because he never thought of it or because he doesn't know how to grow herbs, it may also be because he tried it once and it failed miserably. Or it could be that he'll tell you what HE likes but hasn't a clue what his customers really want.

    Have you thought, too, about growing small live herb plants in liners (2-1/4" pots), up to 4" pots? This is one of the hottest items in the FM's here. (As long as it's not basil -- almost every vegetable farmer has some of that for sale.)

    Do something special, almost unique. Do something nobody else is doing yet everybody (well, at least lots of customers) wants.


  • etznab

    I've not had much success selling herbs at my exisitng veggie stand at a once a week farmers market. But I do sell lots of little herb plants. These are small, in styrofoam cups that I sell for $1. I do sell a few bunches of herbs but not enough to warrant going to market it thats all I had.

    I can't sell dried herbs at my local market unless they were dried in a certified kitchen.

  • katycopsey

    I agree with most of the information above. Selling herbs at the farm market can be a fun idea, but is hard work - it is a business. I spent 10yrs selling organic (certified)potted herbs and fresh herbs (no veggies or flowers) on the markets in the midwest. 3 or 4 herbs will not cut it, you need to produce a variety of plants - I sold close to 50 varieties (and that was on the low end) but I chose to specialise rather than diversify.
    As a guide - 4" pots (perennial) - $5, 6" - $7 annuals $1.
    Groups of plants in one pot were also popular. These sold throughout the summer, the smaller pots didn't. Thats wwhen I switched to fresh cut - basil, chives and a few other basic culinary herbs. Keeping them fresh was a pain at 85 for 4 hrs!! I did have a certified kitchen, so could sell dried herbs and herb vinegars too to eek out the summer months. Towards fall, I did wreaths and dried herb things. I also sold to a few restaurants and farm shops.
    It was a full time enterprise, and with small kids, hard work - but for me, better than 40hrs a week out of the house.
    Now I write about growing and selling herbs and other things that are garden related, so I still get to stay at home -we moved so farming is not an option here.

  • HerbLady49

    Angie. I did all that plus brought some herb plants. Everyone wanted the plants. So I only grow herb plants. I grow 1000's each year. Quit my job in 1991 and never regretted it. I started very small and gradually grew each year. I now only sell from my home(I'm zoned agricultural). I start my seeding in January and open the end of April till the end of June. I keep it at a size where it's still fun. I started selling in 1989 and never grew a plant from seed or knew what a perennial was until 1988. There was a wholesale flower distributor around me that wanted to buy all the cut flowers I could grow and I did that for awhile but I had to give that up because I just didn't have the time or energy. I could to that in the summer after the plants season is over but I like having a quiet summer .I read everything I could get my hands on and prayed alot. Keep dreaming and God bless.

  • HerbalAffair

    You people inspire me. Keep talking! I may start that little dream job, yet.

  • herbalnut

    As a wholesale/retail grower of medicinal and culinary herbs, I have developed two series of "Talking plant Cards" that contain 36 cards in each series of herbs (72 total cards in all) that covers very common and not so common medicinal herbs. These cards are in PDF format and fit 4 cards on a standard 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. You would simply download the file to your computer, print, cut out, laminate and stick in your plant pots or trays.

    These Cards have been sold to many Nurseries throughout the U.S. in the greenhouse industry and farmer market vendors. We ourselves have sold out on over 200 gallons of herbs and numerous trays of them within 3 days of our 7 day only sales. The cards start out with a "cute, funny or catchy question or phrase to capture the customers attentions and continues on to state a short description on how the herb benefits them medicinally along with what part to use and how to use it.

    Someone said here, people don't buy herbs because they don't know what they are for or how to use them! this is so true...and the Talking Plant cards take care of that! Customers are not only amused, but informed. Each series is only $12. Now if you sold just 2-3 gallons of herbs..that covers the cost of the cards real fast! We made over $3,000 in 3 days just selling herbs with the help of these cards...and so have many other Nurseries and growers that have used them!

    For instance for the herb card Wormwood: "Wormwood says...Are You bugging me?" I'm the best thing you have to repel insects in your garden, around your plants and on you! i also have been known to cure intestinal worms for years! Steep my leaves for tea for fast results and healing or place me around your garden!

    Now, if you would like to see a sample card and really want to start selling herbs...please e-mail me and I will send you a sample and how to attain the full series.

    Hope this helps you all!

  • equinecpa

    Herbalnut-your email isn't listed in your profile. Please contact me about your talking plant cards.

  • teauteau

    I guess it depends on your market. At one market, I could hardly get rid of anything but basil. At my Sunday market, I had no problem selling cilantro, basils, dill, sage and mint. We made them in small bundles and sold each bundle for $1.00 a piece. The dill was $2 and was usually a couple heads. I purchased a 99c bag of ice from Sonic on my way to the market in the morning and stuck the batches of herbs in a plastic tray with the ice. Most of it would be gone in 1/2 an hour. I would sell maybe $30 worth of herbs. I know this isn't a lot for some of you big boys and girls but it helped get people to my table who ended up buying other items including my jams and jellies.

  • boulderbelt

    I used to sell a lot of basil in 1 ounce bags and than a farm came in and started selling basil plants and once everyone found out how easy it is to grow a basil plant my sales along with a couple of other farms that used to sell a lot of fresh basil dried up to the point that it was no longer worth growing or harvesting it for market for me. So my CSA members got a lot of basil last year.

  • magz88

    At my market basil sells well. We had a small amount of parsley and that sold well. We also had requests for dill.

    I am doing Barbq rosemary this year which I know people will go for since barbecuing is so popular here.

  • little_minnie

    I bring huge quantities of herbs to market. Notice I didn't say I sell huge quantities of them. I sell basil ok and if any of us had dill in the last 2 seasons it would have sold great. The thing with herbs is they take up little room and are super easy to grow (thyme, chives, sage, oregano, mint). When they don't sell I dry them and make herb seasoning mixes which sell really well. I charge $1 for all herbs bunches, which are moderate sized. Sometimes I sell large pesto basil bunches for $3. The bunching of herbs takes some time on market day but I hate going without them and having someone ask for them. I bunch them with binders and put in a nice metal tub of medium size. They do fine just in the water. I help people pull out the herb they want. I keep a list of the herbs I have that week with ideas of what to do with them right under the tub. When it is cool out I sometimes put them in baggies (fold over style) and into a cute basket. rosemary does better out of water just on the table but can blow away in wind.
    Next to my herb bucket is my cutflower bouquets which I do at the same time at the end of the picking morning. Both bring people into my stand whether they know why or not. When it is windy I sometimes rub the herbs as people walk by and they get lured in LOL.

  • stevegr

    The selling of herbs is a large part of my farmers market business, but since my business is my main source of income, herbs are only about 20% of the business. I sell all my herbs potted (living). You have to know a lot about raising plants to do this if you want tip-top quality, so if you're trying it for the first year, do a LOT of reading first. Using good potting mixes (not soil), the right pot size, the right temperature, correct amt. of shading or sunshine, correct moisture (don't over or under water..most herbs like it a little on the dry side), and insect control (you can't spray with most insecticides, so you'll have to control insects in other ways such as keeping pots off the ground..some herbs can get easily eaten by bugs like arugula and basil, cilantro on the other hand is never bothered) Oh, and, by the way, don't just sell your herbs at the beginning of the season. I sell more herbs in August than in any other month!!!! Most herbs are perennial, so when it is bought and replanted doesn't really matter, so STAGGER your seedings and cuttings. I sell arugula, basil (lots and lots), borage (only a few), chervil (beautiful foliage)..grow it in the shade, chives, chocolate mint (lots), cilantro (tons)..tricky to grow in pots, dill (big pots/big plants sell better), fennel (women love the foliage), lemon grass, morjoram (force the customer to smell it, they'll love it and buy it), oregano, parsley/curley, parsley/plain (don't go too crazy with parsley), rosemary (grow it from cuttings, order plugs, and grow tons of it..they'll ALL sell), sage, spearmint, mint (english) grow lots of it, lavender (grow from cuttings like rosemary..also a huge seller), stevia (offer samples), tarragon, and thyme. Potted herbs stay fresh, they customer can cut them fresh when they want them, and if you don't sell them, you can take them home and sell them next time. Again, this type of growing will take a tremendous amount of commitment and knowledge of growing, but if you are commited, it'll pay off and offer thousands of dollars of extra income. Steve Gruenke

  • cole_robbie

    This thread got a mystery bump. It's showing up at the top of the message list without a recent post.

    The tip to grow lavender and rosemary from plugs seems like a great idea to me. Those are the only two herbs I've tried that I can't seem to grow very well from seed.

  • Desirae

    herbalnut-will you email me too pleasse

  • myfamilysfarm

    ColeRobbie, if someone edits a post, then it gets bumped. Sometimes a PIA, because they don't add anything, just attempts to edit.

  • cole_robbie

    aha. Thanks. The edit feature is new.

    The company I typically buy from doesn't sell rosemary or lavender plugs. If anyone can recommend a company, that would be great.

  • gama_garden_tx

    I think selling herbs is very worth it, as long as you keep really good records and know exactly how much to bring. For example, I almost always sell the exact same amount of basil each Saturday no matter what the price. I sell by small-medium bunches (4-6 stems), $1-$2 a bunch depending on which part of the season we are in. Beginning of the season ususally $1, because no one really wants basil when it is chilly out. The key to selling herbs is to have the best quality and display them appropriately. All of my herbs are in small glass jars with water, and then I have a full basket behind them with the herbs standing up in bunches. The reason this is important is to allow the wind to carry the smell to the customers and draw them in. I can't tell you how many times people come to my booth from more than 6 feet away because they smelled my fresh (always cut that morning) basil. Herbs are placed on the edges of the tables, and veggies/fruits towards the center. Right now, I have cilantro, and even though many people at my market have cilantro..I always sell more based on the following reasons: appearance & display, freshness & quality, pesticide free, and size of bunching. Many people don't buy bulk herbs, so it crucial to price and bunch accordingly. One ounce is the general rule. It also helps to have a unique variety of a very common herb. For example, I sell greek and italian basil, and a few others, but the italian always outsells everything. The key is to have a unique variety of a common herb but not exotic (people tend to be scared of exotics like stevia, but they like trying unique varieties of basil or cilantro for example). Also, try to extend your herbs for as long as possible. I keep selling cilantro even when it has gone to flower, because you can use it to garnish soups and several dishes, but many people do not know that. Do extensive research if all you sell are herbs.

  • stevegr

    @Cole Robbie. You can buy rooted plugs from NC Farms or Richters. It isn't too difficult to root your own, and you can get unrooted cuttings cheaply from NC Farms.

  • gama_garden_tx

    @ Steve, where do you buy your chocolate mint? I've been looking everywhere for it. I've had tons of customers request mint...and I would personally love to have chocolate mint.

  • 2ajsmama

    Wholesale customer who bought tomatoes last year wants herbs this year. Any idea what, how to package, how much to charge? I admit I'm an herb killer, but also I wonder if selling wholesale is worth it (for resale, this isn't a restaurant) b/c they'll want me to package and label it?

  • brookw_gw

    I have failed miserably at selling herbs. The only herb I sell with great consistency is dill, and I sell well over 50 lbs of it a year, which is great because it is all self-seeded plants that don't cost me a dime. I have several mints, including chocolate, apple, and pineapple, and have sold not one sprig. I have a bed of perennials--sage, gr and it oregano, eng thyme, regular thyme, chives, lavender, rosemary and haven't sold a leaf. I plant regular, cinnamon, and lemon basils to no avail. Savory, marjoram, cilantro, tarragon--none of it sells for me. I like it and will continue to grow it, but it has been a commercial bust for me. The same is true for flowers, but I like them and am increasing them considerably this year. Additionally, the birds, butterflies, and bees like both the herbs and flowers, so I guess that's good.

  • myfamilysfarm

    Would selling herbs for a wholesaler need the GAP, since it's for reselling? Just thinking.

  • 2ajsmama

    I don't know about GAP. I couldn't find anything on state website last year when they mentioned it for tomatoes, asked another farmer who does wholesale and he said it wasn't required.

    I'm just thinking I could end up spending more on packaging than I'd be making wholesale, that's if I can manage to grow anything besides oregano this year...

  • cole_robbie

    Thanks for the recommendation, Steve, I just now saw it.

    I haven't tried selling cut herbs, but direct-seeded in 4" pots, they are my easiest sale as live plants. Basil, cilantro, and parsley seem to be what people want. I'm planting dill for the first time this year, because so many people asked for it.

  • 2ajsmama

    Our state taxes live plants, though not fruit, herbs or seeds. I guess I could just plant all my herbs in pots, take them to market and cut them there? Would be easier (though take up more room) than cutting and bunching and keeping cool for 6 hrs.

    Does dill do well in pots? I thought it grew tall.

  • cole_robbie

    "Fern leaf" is the short variety of dill. Mine is bouquet, which does get tall, but the little pot of it still works to use the leaf as a seasoning. Some people say they are going to separate all the little plants in the pot and transplant them into their garden. I don't know if that ever happens, but they still buy it.

    I am out of pots right now, and I'm going to order "sheet pots." They are sheets of 18 that fit in a 1020 web flat. They look perfect for use as little herb containers.

    That tax law of your state seems a little misguided. It seems like they meant to tax expensive and decorative live plants like one would buy from a florist. Live plants sold as food should be taxed the same as food. Of course that wouldn't be the first time a tax law didn't make sense :)

  • Cory N Raquel Apicella


    Do I need a permit or license to sell herbs, flowers or veggies at farmer market?

  • pryz123

    I don't need anything at my market but other places might require something. The best thing to do would be to ask someone at your local farmers market.

  • zzackey

    When I lived in Florida I needed a grower's license no matter where I sold my plants. And I needed a tax id number. I included the taxes in my sales after a lady got upset that I was charging tax at a flea market.

  • centexan254 zone 8 Temple, Tx

    It is very dependent on the area you are selling. Sometimes it can vary from one market place to another. If you make the claim "organic" you need to be USDA certified Organic to make that claim. Though one is not needed to claim pesticide free, sustainable methods, no synthetic substances used, ect....

    At the ones around here as long as you do not claim organic you can sell without a permit. I think there is some thing along the lines of you do not have to have an agribuisness license if you are not selling over $6,000 a year in sales.

    That is for actual produce, and herbs. Anything cooked, canned, or processed will require its own license. Those requirements vary from not only from state to state. They can vary from one county to another.

  • Cucuta Cristina

    I have lavander to sell

  • denisegunn20

    Herbalnut, can you email your Talking Plants card info? Thank you.

  • zzackey

    Do you have any Spike lavender for sale?

  • zzackey

    If you can grow some herbs from seeds or cuttings it would be profitable.

  • orlabyrne10

    Herbalnut can you please email me on cards also my email is orlabyrne10@ hotmail.co.uk, thank you.

  • gardenlovingirl

    Herbalnut please email me your talking plant cards. My email is theillerk831@gmail.com Thanks!

  • bcskye

    In Indiana you need a Indiana Sales Tax permit to sell anything. To sell veggies, pickles, jams, etc., flowers, baked goods or crafted items, you need a Vendor, Peddler and Hawker permit from each county you plan to sell in. If you want to sell plants, you need to get two permits from the DNR and they have to inspect your place where you grow the items before they'll grant you a permit. By the way, to anyone in Indiana, you can get the Vendor, Peddler and Hawker permit from any county free of charge if you are a Veteran. I just got my Sale Tax permit and the Vendor, Peddler and Hawker permits from two different counties within the last two weeks.

  • PRO
    Elwell's Supplies

    We always complimented our veggies by selling herbs and transplants. Basil always seemed to be the best, and it gives off a nice pleasing aroma for shoppers. We had the best luck selling in small pots like these plantable pots.

    Presentation is definitely key. The OP mentioned selling basically on consignment. I say go for it, As a hobby to make money to support your hobby. If it grows into something great, if not, no harm no foul.

  • Andra Wenger

    Herbalnut - could I bother you to email me a sample of the "Talking Plant Cards"? I am interested in purchasing them. My email is andrawenger@gmail.com

    Thanks so much!

  • alliski

    Does anyone know if any licensing, certificates, or completed forms are required (needed) to sell herbs in North Carolina at farmers markets, etc? I want to sell culinary and medicinal herbs in pots (roots attached), cut herbs, and bouquets. There is a lot of information for herb farming in North Carolina but absolutely NO clear information for what the state requires as far as licensing and such. Can anyone help?

  • trianglejohn

    I'm in Raleigh and I've researched it for Wake County as well as the state and as far as I can tell, if you plan on selling any woody plant materials (bushes & trees) you will need a nursery license. Depending on the size of your growing area the cost will vary. The smallest (which I think is less than 6 acres) is $15 a year and you get inspected once every 3 years. If you plan on selling annuals, they are treated as bedding plants and do not require any permits. Some markets require a nursery license and some do not. Some ag agents do not consider rosemary, lavender or bay leaf bushes woody material and some do, so you have to be careful. Some inspectors ignore a few woody plants if the bulk of what you are selling is bedding plants, some don't. How all this is handled can vary from year to year and market to market so it is best to play by the rules (you will probably know more about the law than the market manager). When I was looking for a market to sell at, all the managers I talked to did not want another veggie vendor. They all wanted plant vendors but they meant bedding plants or ornamentals (they don't know that the season for those things is very short and hyper-competitive around here). Good Luck!

  • ddesselles

    Herbalnut, I also would like a sample "talking card." Thank you. Diann

  • glamshay

    Has anyone received a reply from Herbalnut? I'm interested in a sample talking card as well...shannoneperry@hotmail.com

  • Christopher Moerbe

    I'm interested. Please contact me herbalnut. Chrismoerbe@hotmail.com

  • Michele Locey

    herbalnut I'm interested as well! Please contact me mmtrix@yahoo.com

    Thank you!

  • Christopher Moerbe

    I never received a reply from Herbalnut. It’s a great idea and I wonder if anyone else is doing something like it. If anyone reads this who knows someone that is doing what Herbalnut spoke of, please contact me at chrismoerbe@hotmail.com or mention it here. Thanks in advance.

  • Cathy Kaufell

    When I first started my nursery business I only sold perennials. Then I added herbs, which became 80% of my business. If I had to do it over again I would only grow and retail herbs.

    see https://theherbladyblog.wordpress.com

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