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Demand High For New Farm Crop
"I've had over 250 calls since an article about my herb business appeared in a regional farm magazine, including one from a buyer in California who wanted to buy my entire crop," says Len Donais whose company, Northern Wild Harvests, plans to harvest its first full crop of the rare medicinal herb, echinacea, next fall.
The plant is much sought after by herbalists for its ability to strengthen the immune system against colds and flu. Grown commercially in Europe and on a smaller scale in the U.S., it's processed into tablets or tincture and is sold in health stores.
Donais, of Prince Albert, Sask., says echinacea is well-suited for growing in Canada and the northern U.S. It grows wild in many northern states, he notes.
The plant itself has deep or pale purple flowers (depending on which variety is grown) and grows up to 4-ft. high.
There are eight varieties of echinacea, but only three are grown for their medicinal properties.
Donais is experimenting with all three varieties. It takes three years for the crop to mature enough to harvest the root. He currently has five acres of echinacea that will be three years old this fall, five acres that will be two years old, and five acres that will be a year old.
He got his original seed from Richter's Herb Catalogue (Goodwood, Ontario, Canada LOC 1AO; ph 905 640-6677), which sells echinacea seed beginning at $151 (Canadian) for 2 lbs. Seed is planted at 1/4 lb. per acre. Each seed needs 1 sq. ft. of space. It thrives in sandy soils with a ph of about 7.5.
While seed is pricey, echinacea roots fetch prices of up to $8 per pound, he says. Processed echinacea sells for $32 per lb. when imported from Europe, he notes.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Northern Wild Harvest, P.O. Box 154, Prince Albert, Sask., Canada S6V 5R5 (ph 306 764-4499).

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1996 - Volume #20, Issue #4