Opportunity is knocking for area farmers interested in the expanding medicinal herb market. The topic will take center stage at this quarter’s Buncombe County Friends of Agriculture Breakfast on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
“There’s been a huge demand for domestic products that’s come around from consumers,” says Margaret Bloomquist, a research assistant with N.C. State University’s department of horticultural science. Bloomquist, who is stationed at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, will speak at the breakfast.
For decades, Western North Carolina has been known as a producer of high-quality medicinal herbs — from its vast array of native plants to those in cultivation. The region’s many herbal schools and health-savvy residents have created a large local market that even small-scale farmers can tap into.
Bloomquist says the Mills River program is only one of several regional efforts addressing the exploding market and connecting growers with buyers. “Collaboration and networking is and will continue to be our greatest asset to stay on the map,” she says.
Ultimately, Bloomquist and her colleagues at NCSU want to see area farmers filling regional herb needs while also helping drum up widespread domestic demand. Success in doing so is one way farms can stay profitable, they believe.
But, as the saying goes, opportunity is dressed in overalls and looks like work. “This is a complex industry, and some of these herbs are easy to grow, some aren’t. Some take a year, some take 10,” Bloomquist says.
Bloomquist stresses that her talk won’t necessarily highlight an easy path, but it will share exciting opportunities that could pay off in the long run for local farmers. She hopes to see growers, small manufacturers, landowners, land seekers and buyers at the breakfast, as well as representatives from restaurants and herbal schools.