Mad About Saffron: Growing A Valuable Global Seasoning In The Midwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,927.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2020
Grant Recipient: Foraged & Sown
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Rachel Tayse
Harmonious Homestead LLC

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: Edible flower


  • Crop Production: cover crops, food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, organic certification
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Produce growers are faced with the challenge of harvesting enough highly-valued crops to create a financially sustainable farm. Mad About Saffron investigates the viability of ecologically growing saffron (crocus sativus) threads and bulbs in the Midwest.

    Mad About Saffron will discover the potential for saffron to be grown with ecologically-sound methods by planting 120 raised-bed row feet and 24 agricultural tote containers on Foraged & Sown’s certified organic farm.

    Because saffron has only six to eight weeks of above-ground growth, yields are highly susceptible to weed pressure. This project will test whether flame weeding, mulching, or cover-cropping is the best organic weed management practice. Some bulbs will be raised in bench-growing conditions to compare the efficiency of container to in-ground plantings.

    Saffron could be perennially profitable because both threads and mature bulbs can be sold. Mad About Saffron will carefully record the investment, fair labor costs and market potential to calculate a multi-year profitability estimate per row foot of saffron.

    Finally, Mad About Saffron will explore consumer interest in culinary saffron from socially-responsible growers. This project will develop print and social media pieces about how to grow and use saffron and reasons to source it locally.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Document and evaluate ecologically-sensitive weed management, harvesting, and storage practices for in- ground and bench-grown saffron over two growing
    2. Calculate a potential ‘profit per square foot’ estimate for saffron threads and bulbs grown on Midwestern
    3. Share findings about best ecologically-sensitive growing practices through an online video, print fact sheet, conference presentation, and field
    4. Evaluate packaging and marketing methods for harvested saffron
    5. Share reasons to choose and use locally-grown saffron in a customer-targeted online video, print recipe card, and farmers’ market
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.