Organic Row Cropping of Threatened Medicinal Herbs for Market in the Northeast
Note to readers, attached is the complete annual report for FNE01-362.
Summary for 2001 Growing Season
The 2001 growing season was a season to try farmers’ souls. The severe drought encompassing the northeast brought with it the challenge of irrigating crops with water from severely depleted water tables. In the face of adversity however, the crew at Zack Woods Herb Farm rose to the occasion and prevented what could have been disastrous crop losses. We managed to meet or exceed almost all of the goals we had set at the beginning of the season relating to our SARE grant project. Our only setback was the failure of the Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) crop. Slippery elm seeds are notoriously hard to germinate but we will try to procure a new seed source for the 2002 season and make another attempt at propagating this important species. Snow cover has remained consistent though marginal throughout this winter, this combined with warmer than normal temperatures should minimize potential winter kill of the perennial crops.
Note to readers, tables are attached within the full annual report
We have established plantings of eight out of the nine species chosen for our research and have begun collecting data on the following:
• 2001 Plant health and vigor
• 2001 Size attained/ Pest & Disease Damage Rating
• 2001 Weekly External Observation for June-August
• 2001 Yields after Harvest
• 2001 Cost of Production for Lobelia inflata
Work With Collaborators:
In August of 2001 we had the pleasure of having one of our collaborators Hank Huggins, spend a week with us on the farm consulting with us on our goldenseal shade house construction and planting. His visit was highly informative and included several recommendations on soil fertility, pest control, and research-based best practices for goldenseal cultivation.
We took advantage of several opportunities to promote our SARE grant research to the public. The Stowe Reporter, one of our local weekly newspapers, came to our farm in June to interview us and take pictures of our farm. They published a feature article on our research project on the cover of their “B section” entitled, Sowing the Seeds of Medicine. We hosted several farm tours highlighting our research including groups from Sterling College, Sage Mountain Retreat Center and Botanical Sanctuary, Rooted Wisdom School for Herbal Medicine, and our local 4-H program. On September 8th, we held the 2nd annual Hyde Park Herb Festival as a fundraiser for the Vermont Herb Growers Association. Over 130 people attended this wonderful event, which included 3 farm tours highlighting our SARE research. I also published 2 articles in the Vermont Herb Growers newsletter discussing the beginning stages of our SARE research. Our summer intern who is completing her BS in environmental science at Johnson State College played a key role in collecting data for the SARE project, which she included in her final presentation. Freelance reporter Ellen Ogden interviewed us for an upcoming feature article in Vermont Magazine on the medicinal herb industry in Vermont. We thoroughly discussed our SARE research and assume she will include the topic in the article due to be published in the spring.
Lobelia inflata is an annual and therefore is the only crop we have yield and cost of production data for so far. Our data showed that growing this crop from transplant was not profitable, therefore we will make an attempt at direct seeding Lobelia this season and compare the results. Drought conditions definitely contributed to the low yields but 3 seasons of growing this crop from transplant have convinced me that direct seeding is the preferred method due to the small growth habit of the plant. Attached to this report are 2001 data reports including: Crop yield and cost of production analysis for Lobelia inflata, pest and disease damage ratings, and weather observation data.
Cate Farm Rd.
East Montpelier, VT 05651