Investigate Your Local Market

The most important thing you can do before planting a seed is to visit your local markets and do some informal research. Determine what they sell, and where the opportunity exists. Take a look at the fresh herb sections and see what they have available for their customers and how fresh it is. Nine times out of ten you will be amazed at how ragged their "fresh" herbs are! Have a look at the prices, and jot them down. Also, take notes of the quantities being sold in each package. Usually fresh herbs are sold by the "bunch," which in most cases is about as much as you could grab in your hand. Study the packaging and labels used for fresh produce. Once you get started, you will need to create a unique identity for your own business and products. Visit as many small markets as possible in your immediate area. Compile your information and organize it so you can determine what is selling, and for how much. On the next page is a list of what I have determined to be the best selling herbs, in order of importance. Assign a price to each from the research you have conducted.

The Aerospring Aeroponic System

Here's an excellent online pricing reference http://www.ams.usda.gov/fv/mncs/fvwires.htm The most popular culinary herbs:

Basil: Ocimum basilicum

Dill: Anethum graveolens

French Tarragon: Artemesia dracunculus

Mint: Mentha

Oregano: Origanum

Sweet Marjoram: Marjorana hortensis

French Sorrel: Rumex scutatus

Rosemary: Rosemary officinalis

Chive: Allium schoenoprasum

Parsley: Petroselinum crispum

Thyme: Thymus

Sage: Salvia officinalis

Hydroponic Growing Systems Aerospring
A few bunches of dill, oregano and sage as grown in our Aerospring aeroponic system.

Product Quality Considerations

Product quality is, by far, the most important consideration that will determine your business success. If you are growing hydroponically, you are already ahead of the game. However, you will certainly want to perfect your method before considering entering commercial markets. If you are totally new to hydroponics and gardening, take a few months developing your green thumb, because once you go commercial you will be counted upon to consistently deliver quality produce on time. Another important factor in your success is product packaging. After you have perfected your crop and production techniques, you should turn your concentration to packaging. You will certainly want to use a visually appealing package for your product. Most commercial product is packaged in screen printed plastic bags with colorful logos. Since you are just starting out, and probably cannot afford that added expense, try inexpensive yet attractive packaging methods such as using a clear zip lock type of plastic bag with an attractive self-adhesive label. It is also a good idea to use a hole punch to make a couple of "breathing" holes in your bags to maintain product freshness. Give an extremely fine misting with water before sealing the bags. Use a small kitchen scale to weigh your herbs to ensure uniformity from package to package. photo courtesy Five Star basil & spice.

Consistency in labeling, marketing and advertising will build a brand for your business and give a competitive advantage in the marketplace!

I-lflSil spice

Many patrons of gourmet markets will identify with a wholesome looking label indicative of the origin of the produce. An excellent method of building and growing your business is to invest some time and money in creating a visually appealing label and "brand" name for your packaging. By creating your own brand, people will recognize your products and have a handy "name" to refer to when telling their friends how fresh and wonderful your produce is. Creating your own brand will also allow you to enter into larger markets because your following will already be familiar with the quality of your product and attribute it to your "brand." This is how the mega-brands are created, and although you might not be thinking in terms of nationwide branding and becoming a "mega-sized" operation, it is nice to know that your hard work is building your reputation, and at the same time, positioning your business for future growth.

King of the Italian eatery is the very common Sweet leaf Basil

Once you have a high quality sample product available, even if it is from your first round of crops, package a few bunches, apply your labels, and introduce yourself and your products. It's a great idea to bring a cooler along with you, packed with ice to keep your samples as fresh as possible. This way, when you introduce your local merchants to your products, they will be fresh and appealing. This is especially important if you live in a hot climate and you plan to spend the whole day on the road, visiting merchants. It is also a good idea to print up simple business cards that match the labeling on your products. Take advantage of the software available today that helps you design materials for starting a small business. There are literally hundreds of titles on the shelf that include templates and royalty free artwork you can use to get started. If you can afford it, a good graphic designer is an excellent investment in your future success. Remember to position yourself as a wholesome grower that only uses the finest nutrients, purest water and NO insecticides, fungicides or herbicides in the production of your herbs. This alone will help sway people to trying your brand.

Herbs 101

Herbs 101

Learn what you can do with herbs! How to Plant, Grow, and Cook with Natural Herbs. Have you always wanted an herb garden but didn't know how to get started? Do you want to know more about growing your own herbs in the privacy of your home and using them in a variety of cooking?

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