Building the foundation for a dye plant growing cooperative in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $26,919.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Salt of the North Dyes
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Maddy Bartsch
Salt of the North Dyes


  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants, Dye plants


  • Crop Production: cover crops, drought tolerance, irrigation, pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, feasibility study, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: mulching - vegetative, mulching - plastic, physical control
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban/rural integration

    Proposal summary:

    Reliance on petroleum-based synthetic dyes has led to devastating impacts on our air, water, and soil. Natural dyes have the capacity to create a beneficial impact on the environment while offering economic opportunities to increase profitability for farmers and meet the growing demand of conscious consumers. With few natural dye retailers in existence and the majority of natural dye production occurring outside the country, our project will develop methods of dye plant production for farmers in Zone 4. This will increase profitability for farmers who already grow species that can double as dye plants, while utilizing unused areas to incorporate pollinator and soil friendly plants that yield dye pigment. By identifying dye plants that are best suited for our climate, we can offer research-based guidance to farmers of the potential value-add that including dye plant crops as part of their rotation can have on their overall operation. Through measuring yields, comparing growing techniques, and studying available markets for dye plant products, we will be able to provide education for farmers and community members and increase access for eco-conscious consumers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Identify dye plants that perform well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4.
    2. Identify preferred production methods to increase dye plant harvest, yield, and pigment saturation. 
    3. Evaluate the added value of using dye plants to increase market opportunities for farmers. 
    4. Documentation of the project via social media (Instagram) to spread awareness.
    5. Share findings through field days, natural dye classes, conferences/events, and through relevant fiber and farming organizations in the area (SFA etc.).
    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.