The growing distrust of the pharmaceutical industry is a great opportunity for the herb grower who wants to sell herbs. Monthly searches on Google for “herbal medicine” number in the tens of thousands. People want to know how to heal themselves and reduce their dependences on chemical drugs.
For the small farmer, this presents an incredible opportunity. Many herbs are easy to grow and these 9 ways to sell herbs will help you identify a ready made market of eager buyers who want to take control of their own health or help others do the same.
1. Sell Herbs on Etsy and eBay
Etsy is one of the easiest online marketplaces for selling all handmade or homegrown items. The fees are reasonable; $.20 to list an item and 3.5% of the selling price once the item sells. You’ll need to add PayPal or credit card processing fees on top of that. PayPal charges $.30 per transaction and 2.9% of the total.
Etsy offers a lot of customization option to sell herbs. I see many sellers selling by the ounce, allowing buyers to get exactly the amount they need, often at a much higher price than by the pound.
When selling online, you’ll need to figure out packaging, shipping labels and shipping methods. For light products like herbs, USPS is going to be the most economical option. If you can offer free shipping, you’ll get an advantage over many other sellers, just make sure your pricing gives you room to profit.
Between Etsy and eBay, my preference for handmade/homegrown items will always be Etsy, but recent policy changes have narrowed the gap between the two. eBay can give you customers that Etsy doesn’t have, so if you sell on one, sell on the other as well to increase your income potential. eBay’s fees are more complicated, so it’s easiest to simply use the fee calculator to get an idea of how much your items will cost to sell there.
2. Sell Herbs at Farmer’s Markets
If you like dealing with people, farmer’s markets are a lot of fun and a great way to develop strong relationships with your customers. Markets charge a fee as well; our local market charged 10% of sales. For that, we’d get a 10’x10′ space to put up a booth and set out our displays. The markets bring a lot of customers so if you have a unique product to offer, you can do a lot of business there.
Displays are everything at a farmer’s market. I like to find unique baskets, bowls and trays at thrift stores and yard sales. Invest in a good set of tablecloths to cover your display tables and try to make everything flow together in an attractive, appealing way to invite buyers into your booth.
Efficient packaging is another important consideration. Think of how customers shop at markets – they often have their hands full, so bags with handles for them to carry their purchases are a good extra touch.
3. Sell Herbs on Craigslist
Craigslist is one of my favorite places to market just about everything. I’ve used it to generate writing clients, sell goats and eggs, sell items I bought low at yard sales and sell my handmade items. Craigslist’s terms prohibit selling in other geographic areas than your own, but you can build a good customer base of local Craigslist shoppers to sell herbs to.
Crafting a good headline and ad copy within your ad are important on Craigslist. Your headline is what entices people to click in and see what you’ve got. I like to split test headlines; trying a couple different ones to see which gets the most interest.
When I used it to get writing clients, I’d rotate through about half a dozen headline and ad copy combos until I found the ones that got me the most emails.
Because Craigslist costs nothing to use, this is one method of selling herbs you should prioritize.
4. Sell Herbs on Facebook
Facebook has really changed online marketing for small farms. In most areas you can find local groups for selling just about everything. Join as many of those groups as you can and also participate in the Marketplace to really drum up visibility. If you use Facebook groups in conjunction with a Facebook page, you can get prospective buyers to “like” your Facebook page and stay informed whenever you have something to sell.
For Facebook, the pictures are the most important part. Practice taking good pictures that highlight your herbs. You can make a low cost lightbox by cutting out large holes in four sides of a cardboard box and then covering them over with white tissue paper. Shine a daylight light over the top and place your herbs (or other products) in the box to get a clean white background.
Alternately, use artsy backdrops that help convey the uses of herbs. Look at how other herb sellers are doing it and get ideas for creating your own flair.
Since it costs nothing, Facebook is another important one to add to your herb marketing toolbox.
5. Sell Herbs at a Roadside Farm Stand
Having a roadside farm stand is a dream of mine. We bought our new property (2 years ago, will it ever stop being the “new” property?) and it’s right on a decently traveled road so I want to make the most of it. Dried herbs, with their longer keeping power, are a perfect addition to a farm stand. Sell them as whole bundles, dried, cut and sifted in bags and even fresh if you have the traffic.
Like farmer’s markets, your displays are one of the most important considerations. Play around with different setups to find a balance between ease of access and artistic appeal.
6. Sell Herbs to Essential Oil Companies
The essential oil market is booming. It reminds me of stories of the gold rush. Grandview Research predicts strong, consistent growth in the essential oils market, which means more product needs to be sourced by essential oil companies. If you have the space and know-how to grow larger quantities of herbs commercially, contact the main companies, such as doTERRA and Young Living, to see about becoming a contracted grower.
7. Sell Herbs Wholesale to Businesses
I believe we will continue to see similar upward trends in the retail herb business as well. Herbal retailers need consistent suppliers of high quality herbs to meet increased demand. Seek out some of these retailers, such as Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Herb Store, and approach them to become a wholesale supplier. Grower contracts can be a steady, reliable income from year to year.
8. Sell HerbsDirect to Herbalists
Do you know herbalists in your area? Are you willing to ship nationally and/or internationally? If so, contact herbalists directly and offer to sell herbs to them. Wholesale to herbalists could even be one of a multi-faceted approach on your own website; many e-commerce solutions offer the ability to specify wholesale and retail pricing, even requiring a login for special wholesale pricing. Much like selling to the big retail businesses, the ability to offer a consistent, high quality herbal supply can position you to be a much sought after supplier for individual herbalists.
9. Sell Herbs as Value Added Herbals
The more processing a product goes through, the higher a price it can command. The same is true for herbs. If you can take a raw herb and turn it into a salve, lip balm, shampoo, tincture or other value added product, you can ask a higher price for the time spent and additional supplies needed. This can open up an entirely different set of wholesale and retail opportunities. A natural food market, for example, might eagerly buy up both your bulk herbs and your herbal salves.
To sell herbs successfully, you need to find the right combination of your own unique skills and interests and pair it with the right product outlet. From Internet retail to wholesale accounts, herbs can represent a significant part of your small farm income.