U.S. farmers are looking for new crops that will help diversify their farms and increase their profits. With the rising popularity of natural products, some farmers are interested in growing medicinal herbs. The dietary supplement industry is growing with global sales estimated at $84.5 billion for 2010 (Nutrition Business Journal, 2011). The strong “buy local” movement in the United States and new federal regulations affecting the manufacturers (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2012) favor increased domestic production of raw materials for the medicinal herb industry. Still, few farmers in the United States are growing medicinal herbs because they do not know which herbs to grow, how to produce and process them, or how to access the markets. Our interactions with farmers in North Carolina also revealed that they are not aware of the good agricultural practices (American Herbal Products Association, 2006) required by most buyers or the federally mandated current good manufacturing practices, which affect raw material purchasing by manufacturers (U.S. Food Drug and Administration, 2012).
North Carolina has been an important source for wild-harvested roots and herbs for hundreds of years (Persons and Davis, 2007). For the past 25 years or so, some farmers in North Carolina have cultivated medicinal herbs in their woods and open fields. Because agricultural production was not keeping pace with the growth of the rest of industry, we surveyed former and current medicinal herb farmers in the state to ask about their experiences. Through these surveys we learned there were many issues related to cultivation and marketing of these herbs that restricted expansion of agricultural production in the state.
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