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What crops are high $ yields?

 
Cortland Satsuma
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I am looking to fill our food forest with diversity. At least 25 percent of which we would like to cultivate high $ yield crops. Our zone is 7b-8a. We would prefer items that will be harvestable with in 5 years of planting. (I am aware of the high dollar ones that take 15-20 years; and, that is why they are expensive.)
 
Renate Howard
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A lot of it is marketing. If you grow rare foods and find the people who relish them they'll pay, but often the rare foods are unknown to most so hard to sell. I had a very willing buyer for my sunchokes because they were hard to get and a health food store in my area was always being asked for them.

Some options: aronia berries - it's one of the best antioxidant sources out there, tops blueberries and acai.

Figs: if there are Italians in the area you'll have a very willing market, or anyone else who knows what they are and how good.

Sourwood honey: I read it sells for $15/oz - supposed to be the very best honey money can't buy - very rare to find.

You may make more money by also propagating the plants and selling the plants in containers in farmer's markets in the spring - they get ridiculous prices for container plants some places! Natives and exotic fruit-bearing would probably do well.

If you're prepared to do value-added, and want to make jellies/jams then sour cherry and Native Plum (and Aronia) make amazing jam - tart and bursting with flavor and you almost never see them for sale. Some states require you to have a professional kitchen to make/sell jelly so you'd need to check the rules for that in your state, but some churches have the right kitchen and will lend it out, maybe as a barter for jelly-making classes or some of the jelly. My old church made up baskets for people who were sick and it included a jar of homemade jelly the ladies made.
 
R Scott
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There can be a huge market for herbs and herbal teas--mint, lavender, etc. The $/acre can be insane. Even common red clover buds bring crazy prices if picked, dried, and put into tea mixes. Mostly perennials, too.

Garlic and mushrooms can make money in otherwise unproductive spaces.

Renate is right that it is a lot of marketing AND market research. You need to find your niches--you should have more than one to stabilize income as one niche can close or get stomped in the blink of an eye.

 
John Polk
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High-ticket items vary regionally. Try growing things that you don't see at the farmer's market.

Almost every farmer's market I have been to had 90%+ of the vendors selling tomatoes.
And most of the vendors took the bulk of the tomatoes home with them at the end of the day.

The one guy selling fingerling potatoes and onions took his empty baskets home with a big smile on his face.
Low value crops, but he had no competition.

If you have an early growing season (or hothouse) cut flowers can often be big sellers.

Look at what the competition is doing, and then find something else.

 
Cortland Satsuma
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Thank you all for the input! I am very aware of the local farmers market (within walking distance); and, have made note of how to do much better than what I observed. A local farm has already carved out the mushroom niche...we can play off her success, but it falls in our 75% category. As do the chokeberries. Marketing is not going to be an issue for us; as we have excellent resources there and not where we were going with this question. Basic herbals do not command high dollars; but, rarer ones are quite valuable per a pound. Although, a good mix of the basic ones are part of our 75%. I was actually hoping for more specific zone appropriate suggestions that others have tried in their mix; versus a business plan input.

It is more of a two fold question that I presented poorly:

1) Lessor known fast producers (fruit, nut, herb, flower, leaf, sap, wood) that are known to be valuable

of these...

2) Those that thrive in zones 7-8 in a food forest (what do they guild well with?)
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Renate

Sourwood honey could definitely be cultivated in zone 7-8. It is sold at about $15 per a bottle (12 oz). It is a one pour per mid summer. I do think it would be a good mid season add on; would love more input on the trees from anyone who has additional info. I think this would still fall in our 75% selection; although an excellent niche product with many viable markets.
 
Bob Anders
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For us it's clover, dandelions, ginseng, onions, garlic, and shallots.

At the farmers market.
Dried clover and dandelions sells for $8.00 for 8 oz.
Fresh clover and dandelions for $12.00 a pound. Pre orders only.
Dried / smoked onions sell for $10.00 for 8 oz.
Dried / smoked garlic and shallots sell for $8.00 for 4 oz.
Fresh shallots are $12.00 for 8oz.
I sell ginseng above market price.

We buy the onions and garlic in bulk, but we grow the rest. We have a green house for the shallots. The ginseng is once a year, goes fast, and has a paper trail.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Bob

Excellent information! We had not put much consideration into the shallots or ginseng...definite items for the 25% list. Although, do the shallots have to be green housed? The others are in our 75% list; just need to reconsider their value and market niche. Is that the red clover? Is dried just the heads or whole plant? Thank You!
 
chris cromeens
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Our best seller per lb. when we did the farmers market was ground cherries. planted once and let em self seed, keep however many you want the next year chop the rest. They have done very well in early succession food forest, keep very well, never see them at our local fm's.
 
Renate Howard
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Sourwood trees are very attractive. They need protection because animals like the leaves - I planted 3 and my pigs ate 2 of them when they escaped. I got mine as plug-grown which I don't recommend because the roots are very slow to grow out of the plug material, which seems to be some sort of florist foam.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Chris,

We planted 3 different types from the ground cherry family last year. Very poor cropping for us. Which ground cherries are you having success with? How have you guilded them? Thank You!

@ Renate,

I do know they attract the nibblers; any other info on guilding or other benefits beyond pollen? Thank You!


@ Bob,

Do you do goldenseal as well? Is your ginseng natural to your property or did you get seeds / plants elsewhere? Between selling root price and being a shade lover, we definitely want to cultivate it in our food forest under the canopy at the back of our sun catch-u.
 
Bob Anders
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@ Cortland

With the clover we just pick the flowers and put them in the solar dehydrator for about a day.

We use a green house for the shallots so we can grow them year round and so they can have 6.5 PH soil. They take about 4 months to grow and can grow 128 in a 4' by 8' bed.

A 50 lb bag of onions is $12.00. Peal, wash, run through a slicer, a day in solar dehydrator with a few sticks of wood, and bag them up. We get around $400 out a 50 lb bag.

20 lb of peeled garlic $24.00. Through the slicer a day in solar dehydrator with a few sticks of wood, and bag them up. We get around $275 out of 20 lbs.

My wife goes to the farmers market on Saturday in a sub compact car and sells $3,500 to $4,000 in goods in a couple of hours. I have never sold ginseng at the market.

Ginseng dose grow naturally, but have moved some of it to where we want it to grow.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Bob

Great information! Thank you so much for sharing! If most of your ginseng was not naturally on your property; did you wild forage or did you find a good supplier to get you started. I have seen a couple plants on our property; but that is it. Do you have an onsite market / stand as well? (We have the good fortune of of over 90% of those driving to our farmers market must first pass us.) We had never considered the onions and garlic as you have; will need to investigate, as it is a high profit margin add on.
 
Bob Anders
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I sold wild ginseng one year and with the demand there was I know I had to cultivate it somewhere else. The next year I would take 1 seed off each plant and try growing it in different paces. I know have it in growing in 3 places that I want.

We drive to the city to sell our stuff.
 
Marianne Cicala
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Best advice I can give you is go to your farmers market and to the local natural/health food store. You will see in short order what the customer base wants, especially in at the natural/health store. They cater to their customer base, so you'll see what people want. Odds are good that the same customer base goes to the farmers market. I will say mushrooms will net a dependable market. Although I'm west of you, even carrots that aren't orange won't sell well enough to make a difference. Prepped food is always wanted, like the dried smoked varieties Bob mentioned. We sell more jams made with our organic fruit than the individual fruits (except blueberries)- really weird to me. Keep in mind that the market changes year/year depending on what's grown well. This year, in our area because so many gardens got creamed with the rains, tomatoes are over $3 per pound and if you could find local string beans, you could name your price. Butter beans are going for $6 a pound. Last year, you couldn't even give them away. Late annual crops in our zone are dependable - I have trays of heirloom tomatoes 2 weeks away from being planted, so when local fresh are spent, I'm just harvesting and they move quickly.
fresh asparagus is a must, but I think we've already chatted about that. Variety, Variety, Variety cause the market is always changing.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Marianne

Thank you for your input! I found our farmers market takes most things home again unsold; and, this year they are growing the same items, doing the same sales plan and returning home with 70-95% of what they hauled there...again. I have found their business strategies very different from what was common in other regions I have lived; and, not what we plan to do. The full grocery health food stores in outlying areas import a lot of tropicals / Mediterraneans; fresh herbs are pretty standard; dried herbs and teas run the gambit, but move very slowly. On our 75% selection, we are planning multiple rotating as we know all too well that one season can be filled with an item and next it can be non-existent...and, direct buyers are fickle sheep that follow the latest craze. Our 25% selection will be items with value historically; not fad items. (IE. ginseng has been valued for 1000's of years...it comes and goes in the "health craze fads", but its base never wanes). We are not looking to make most our money from our on site stand; we will be fully using the diversity options available with it (canning, planting, eggs, chicks, yogurt, soap, cheese, breads, teas, herbs, wool, etc). Fad items that mature in one season, we would add in our rotating 75% selection. I see the "sheeple" do gravitate towards home canned fruits and jams...I have some insight on that...but, it is for a different topic...or when we stop by your store! Again, on this post, I am trying to gather a list to consider and select from for our 25% high profit per unit producers. And, yes, with your advise (thank you!), we will try asparagus again next season as part of our 75% grouping. Bob's prep'd items are a great sales add on too; however, like him, I would probably just buy bulk not grow that amount for harvest. Both items will be growing every where they companion well for light harvesting.
 
Marianne Cicala
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I gotta tell you that I am surprised at the results of the farmers market, especially since you're in a higher traffic area than I. Odds are really good that the Richmond market has different results entirely. Both of us flirt with rural self sufficiency and most have gardens. in the spring and hopefully in the fall as well, the bulk of $$ was made with live plants and veggie starts. Soaps & other body items are always very good and people quickly develop a loyalty to the producer. Nose around a bit at other markets in you area. We travel an hour every other week-end to hit a market in a college town and the results are far different than in our local spot. What I've found is that the market shoppers take about 5 weeks to recognize our face and our stuff. You'll quickly develop a market. Different items, like Bob offers will make a difference -
see ya!
M
 
Michael Cox
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Someone has already mentioned it, but I'll reiterate it anyway.

A good way to make high value products in a small area is to propagate plants to sell on. If your landscape has rare or unusual plants (of known varieties) you can often take 100 cuttings from just one or two plants and root them. Getting cuttings to root needs very little space, just 1 inch per cutting, so 100 cuttings would fit into a 1ft square. You can pot them on and grow them for a year or more and sell them as high value products, or you can sell the cuttings wholesale to garden centers or on ebay etc... If you plant to run an occasional market stall or open farm day, they could be a real cash getter. Here in the UK I've been around country houses where they have a simple rack with about 20 different plants (mostly herbs) for sale at £4.50 each. I spent £5.00 on the ticket to get in and about £40.00 on plants!

You have the added advantage of a crop that cannot "go off" unlike fruit or veg that needs to be sold while fresh. If you bring a few plants in pots home at the end of the day there is no loss, and even if they sit around all year they will be bigger and more valuable the following year.

Plant Propagating Business - This guy sells some DVDs and a system for propagating cuttings (he grows and sells mostly ornamentals). I've bought the DVD's and struck a few cuttings for home use. We may, one day, get around to setting up a larger system.

Some plants that are good sellers are also really easy to propagate - redcurrants for example are dead easy and if you grow them on for a year or two in pots you can sell them as "ready to fruit". Even a clump of chives divided and stuck in pots will sell.

If you invest in some infrastructure and planning upfront you could have a simple system that needs just a day or so of work in the autumn (striking cuttings), a day or so in the spring potting plants up, and then have a ready supply of plants to sell throughout the year.

 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Micheal

Thank you. Yes cuttings are already a part of our business plan. We are pretty set on a business plan; I was hoping with my actual question to obtain a new list of plants to consider or reconsider for my 25% mix of plant species that are intrinsically valuable regardless of how you process or package them. I get the impression I did a horrid job at asking my question, lol or perhaps I need to re post it in the plant or food forest section. :0 I do think you and everyone else are wonderful to want to help others with a business plan! Unfortunately, that was not the advise we are in need of today.
 
Judith Browning
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You dont need to repost...I can add this thread to a few more forums.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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Thank You, Judith! I obviously missed the mark, lol Yet, I do appreciate everyones kindness!
 
Michael Cox
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Ok, got what you mean now.

I suspect that 'intrinsic value' will be a bit of a chimera - if plants are valuable people will grow and sell them, bringing the prices back down. High price products must either have restricted supply (ie be hard to grow or low yielding) or have massive demand which supply cannot keep up with.

I think looking for species to grow will be less helpful than lookig for ways to add value to an otherwise simple and reliable crop. Solar dehydration was suggested earlier - could your 25% not be what you do with the produce rather than what plants you grow?
 
John Polk
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Value added is a great way to turn a $1 item into a $5 item.
However, most states require that any processed foods be made in a certified/inspected kitchen.

Some states are fairly lax on this, while some are quite anal.

I know a lady who used to slice some of her tomatoes and melons to give away as samples at the farmer's market.
She was ordered to stop, or face fines for Health Code violations.




 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Micheal

Your understanding of macro economics is sound. On our 12 acre grid we are carefully and wisely considering what will be placed on every square (and cubic) foot. We have divided the growies of this grid into 2 distinct groups (That are planted inter mingled) of a 75% grouping of named plant species and a 25% grouping of named plant species. Our 25% species we are selecting on a basis of gross per a square foot; with an emphasis on the productive yield (whatever it may include at what ever quantity) to be with in 5 years of placement. AND, the species must be able to thrive in zone 7b-8a (Where the grid is). Bob's suggestion of Ginseng fits this model perfectly. IE Plant has special needs that restrict it mass growing, but fit our model fine. Plant can be harvested in two years and has low space requirement. Market has wide fluxes but is up to $700 per a lb of root. 1000's of years of know intrinsic value that has brought a high financial return. I would love to know what plants other growies have had success with (or know of) in zone 7b-8a that match this model; I do have lists; but, would love to have the benefit of your personal knowledge that fleshes out the pages of a book...ink and soil often differ greatly!

@ John

Oh, so true!
 
John Polk
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Goji berries are past their prime 'fad food' era, but the dried berries still command high prices.
They should do well in your climate. Though I can't say how much volume they will yield per sq/ft.
 
dirk walls
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Bob Anders wrote:
A 50 lb bag of onions is $12.00. Peal, wash, run through a slicer, a day in solar dehydrator with a few sticks of wood, and bag them up. We get around $400 out a 50 lb bag.

20 lb of peeled garlic $24.00. Through the slicer a day in solar dehydrator with a few sticks of wood, and bag them up. We get around $275 out of 20 lbs.


Does the wood you add to the solar dehydrator get hot enough to smoke?
 
Bob Anders
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dirk walls wrote:
Bob Anders wrote:
A 50 lb bag of onions is $12.00. Peal, wash, run through a slicer, a day in solar dehydrator with a few sticks of wood, and bag them up. We get around $400 out a 50 lb bag.

20 lb of peeled garlic $24.00. Through the slicer a day in solar dehydrator with a few sticks of wood, and bag them up. We get around $275 out of 20 lbs.


Does the wood you add to the solar dehydrator get hot enough to smoke?


No I do not put wood in the dehydrator. I use the wood to start a small fire at the air intake tube.
 
dirk walls
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Ah, thanks Now I feel like an idiot
 
Michael Cox
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Gotcha - so from my quick bit of reading Ginseng takes 5 to 10 years for the root to mature, requires quite specific habitat (deep woods, moist but well draining soil).
"while wild and wild-simulated root has averaged around $350/dry lb for the past 10 years" Growing Ginseng


So annualised yield is more like $50/pound/growing year. Still very respectable if you have the right conditions to grow it (or can make the right conditions?)

Wasabi cultivation has just been started here in the UK - a similarly high value plant, but I believe the life cycle to harvest is only two years. Trouble is that lots of farmers are trying to get in on the act now that the method is known so the price will come crashing down.
 
Michael Cox
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Saffron? Harvest april/may. It is very valuable because of the high labour involved in harvesting it.
 
Adam Klaus
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great conversation with some good insights here, thanks to all who have made it so-

For me, high $ yields can be looked at it lots of ways. space efficiency, time efficiency, labor efficiency, marketing efficiency all are important but different measures of high yield. I think a lot of high profit margins comes from growing crops that work especially well on your site or in your markets.

More and more, value added seems to be the way to go. I make herbal salves, medicinal syrups, etc that make the grade on all the above points. One challenge, is actually growing the raw materials, as sometimes purchasing in bulk is so cheap that it disincentivizes actually growing the thing. IE red clover blossoms. But I think there is meaning in doing it yourself and not just marking up wholesale products. If your products rely on using fresh herbs as opposed to dried herbs, then you take care of that issue. I also make honeyed medicinal root candy. Its a real hit. Requires fresh juicy roots, but has high value. Marshmallow honeyed roots is super easy and a good product.

Sometimes something that is really space extensive, like pasture raised dairy, is actually high yielding from a monetary standpoint because the factors of labor and marketing efficiency are so good. That is the case for me. I find too that select leafy greens work really well. Chard and kale, lowly vegetables that they are, turn out to be very high yielding because of their long harvest season, heavy leaf weight, and good price per pound. Anything that is a repeat harvest seems to be much much more profitable than a root that gets picked once and is done.

I find that profitability is about the sweet spot in the production/marketing matrix, not just going for the highest dollar products. I like to gain my profitiablity through lower production costs rather than higher prices, though I definitely go for both. Chasing fads isnt good business, IMHO. Round here, hops are all the rage. Good price, easy crop, etc. I dunno, just doesnt light my fire. Similarly berries are very marketable, but labor costs make them a poor choice I find.

Tobacco is one crop I have always seen a real opportunity for. Sure you would have to deal with the extra nice folks at the Bureau of ATF if you wanted to get at all big. But if you kept it homescale, customer direct, I think there would be a huge potential for artisan tobacco. Easy crop to grow in abundance too. Processing is not too difficult. I dont smoke so it isnt my passion, but for folks that do, I would imagine it could be great.

Lots of rambing, sorry about that. Wish I had a silver bullet for ya. Thanks though to the gent with the suggestion on the smoked garlic. Gonna fire up the smoker this week and see how that floats at market next weekend. Feeling good about that idea...
 
Marianne Cicala
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VA is pretty laid back about production products - health dept. may want to come to your house to make sure you don't have cats sleeping in your stove. farmers markets have different mandates about needing a health dept. OK, most do not. Only must have is a list of ingredients on each item. Samples are encouraged at the VA markets we've been to and giving a taste moves products. With all of our fresh picked stuff, we still make the most $$ on the fruit honey and jams that we make.
 
Joe Braxton
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Adam Klaus wrote:Tobacco is one crop I have always seen a real opportunity for. Sure you would have to deal with the extra nice folks at the Bureau of ATF if you wanted to get at all big. But if you kept it homescale, customer direct, I think there would be a huge potential for artisan tobacco. Easy crop to grow in abundance too. Processing is not too difficult. I dont smoke so it isnt my passion, but for folks that do, I would imagine it could be great.


State laws vary widely, but the ATF doesn't charge tax or regulate sales of whole cured leaf. Only when the stem is removed or the leaf is cut in any way does it become a "tobacco product".
A quick google of "whole leaf tobacco" will turn up more info than most will want to know..

There are several forums dedicated to home grown tobacco if anyone wants info on growing. After the fed quota system was scrapped in 2005 anyone can grow all they want.

This applies only to the US, other countries have very tight restrictions on growing even 1 plant.
 
Adam Klaus
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Marianne Cooper wrote:With all of our fresh picked stuff, we still make the most $$ on the fruit honey and jams that we make.
\

what is fruit honey? sounds interesting and very marketable.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@ Adam

Thank you for your information. I am not familiar with honeyed marshmallow roots; I will be sure to investigate! (Any additional info appreciated). As to livestock, they are on a completely different grid in our equation separate from named plant species; but, yes, they are there. (Did not choose cows due to life threatening allergy). We all do tailor our concept and business plans to the realities we each live separately as unique individuals, zones, and properties. I too am not a smoker; and, I am very against the major companies. However, I have always wondered if pure, none chem based tobacco used for self roll or pipe might not be as evil as claimed. (reliable, non propaganda site links are always appreciated.) I am married to an ex-smoker who has been toying with the idea of researching it to see if we could develop a small local niche (smoking is pretty common here; and, tobacco grows quite well.) I agree about fad items; that is why they are not really a part of our business plan. We are here for the long term not the next year. However, we will consider them in a very small part of our 25 % plant grid if they are a one season harvest; that spot can be planted next year with what the sheeple fad is. Please remember, my question is about my 25% area; 75% is in solid tried and true plants, common or uncommon.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Have you looked at chinese artichokes?

http://www.phamfatale.com/id_2112/title_Crosnes-Sauteed-in-Butter/

I found these for the first time recently and have planted them in a pot so i can nurse them through a year and build up a supply for replanting in beds. I've seen them listed at $40 per kilo - used in asian cuisine and gourmet restaurants. I don't know what the yield is like but you can grow them beneath other layers of crops.

Some of these more unusual plants are quite valuable to propagate and sell on, and not at all difficult. Walking onions for example seem to sell for a high price on ebay because they are hard to get hold of, same with saffron crocuses, the chinese artichokes etc...
 
Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@ Micheal

Wild harvest, 10 year roots could easily net up to 30K per a pound. Personally grown and harvested on private property can be harvested as early as two years, (less value). Waiting 5 years could easily make the price per a Lb, per a Year worth the wait...if you are confident there will not be natural loss. We do currently have the ideal growing location with zero prep! So it is a definite one for the 25% group of plant species. We have considered saffron; not the ideal location for it; possibly too labor intensive in a too restricted time window...not high on our list...but, it may be perfect for another reader! Our research would put wasabi in our 75% selection of species, if we were to pursue it.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@ Micheal

Great find! I will definitely research the "chinese artichokes" for more detailed information; they sound interesting! Thank you!
 
Cortland Satsuma
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Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@ John

Precisely why we see Goji as a part of our 75% plant matrix.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@ Bob

We did realize how your smoke process works. We however, currently only have electric dehydrators. We were already planning a smoke house for other use; so the solar combo is an excellent efficiency model. We have a ton of several types of hickory (and wild cherry) to use for smoking. We too, have greatly appreciated your input!
 
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