Virginia growers meet exploding demand for fresh herbs

Photo by Casey Jenkins
Herbs are delicious, salubrious and lovely. Virginia farmers like Idyllwood Farm at the Christiansburg Farmers’ Market are increasingly offering herbs by the bunch and the pot.

Fresh herb production in Virginia has been steadily increasing, and so is the number of Virginia farms growing them says the Virginia Farm Bureau.

“There are many opportunities to grow herbs in Virginia,” noted Tony Banks, commodity-marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Herbs are very popular among farmers for consumer direct sales at farmers markets. There are also several wholesale herb producers that provide cut- and live-herbs for restaurants and grocery stores in Virginia and beyond.”

Across the state, fresh herb sales rose for the third year in a row, increasing nearly 5 percent, according to Farm Journal’s Produce Market Guide, a resource for produce growers.

In Virginia, 207 herb farms produced 84 acres of fresh-cut herbs in 2017. The number of growers has more than quadrupled since 2012, when 51 Virginia herb farms grew 29 acres of fresh herbs.

Banks attributed the increased demand to the growing desire for locally grown produce as well as greenhouse operations being able to provide fresh herbs year-round.

The Christiansburg Farmers’ Market hosts vendors who offer a selection of locally grown herbs.

“Herbs are one of the few commodities that can be grown and sold year-round in Virginia,” said Christiansburg Farmers’ Market Manager, Casey Jenkins. “We have seen a steady up-tick in vendors who produce and sell herbs such as Idyllwood, Weeping Willow and Bird and Hopper farms.

Jenkins noted that fresh herbs and all other produce is grown locally here in the New River Valley, supporting the market’s mission and devotion to shop and eat local.

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