Virginia growers meet exploding demand for fresh herbs
Fresh herb production in Virginia has been steadily increasing, and so are the number of farms growing them.
“There are many opportunities to grow herbs in Virginia,” noted Tony Banks, commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Herbs are very popular among farmers for consumer direct sales at farmers markets. There are also several wholesale herb producers that provide cut and live herbs for restaurants and grocery stores in Virginia and beyond.”
Fresh herb sales rose for the third year in a row, increasing nearly 5%, according to Farm Journal’sProduce Market Guide, a resource for produce growers.
In Virginia, 207 herb farms produced 84 acres of fresh-cut herbs in 2017. The number of growers has more than quadrupled since 2012, when 51 Virginia herb farms grew 29 acres of fresh herbs.
Banks attributed the increased demand to the growing desire for locally grown produce as well as greenhouse operations being able to provide fresh herbs year-round.
The Harrisonburg Farmers Market is stocked with a selection of locally grown herbs to meet consumers’ demand.
“All farm products at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market are grown near here,” said market manager Josie Showalter. “Customers know they will find whatever is in season, and right now vendors have fresh herbs, cut flowers, berries and early summer produce.”
If you don’t grow your own herbs, freshly cut, packaged herbs are a tasty addition to many recipes, Showalter noted.
The Growers Exchange in Charles City County sells fresh, organic potted herbs online to consumers. The company began in 1985 as a retail garden center in Richmond and has evolved into a greenhouse operation on a 900-acre family farm. Today, its modern production facility includes five greenhouses, a packing warehouse and an office complex in Henrico County.
“We’ve moved into a modern new greenhouse to supply the growing herb demand we receive every year,” explained Briscoe White, co-owner.
This spring, workers in the greenhouse planted, packed and processed up to 400 orders per day. Popular herbs at The Growers Exchange include basil, cilantro and oregano.