Warm weather is coming on quickly, and the SFA Herb Plot is responding. In my last post from early May, I warned there were a few crops that didn’t look so good coming out of winter, they were: Skullcap, Caraway, Tarragon, St. John’s Wort, Gensing, Marshmallow, Borage. Well today, one month later, I have a much more definitive list of those crops that didn’t survive. Currently, there is nothing growing in the plots of Calendula, Tarragon, and Borage. Everything else has at least one plant still surviving, and we’ll be giving those some special attention in the weeks to come. One that is doing particularly well is Catnip, or Nepeta cataria.
Many of you likely know about catnip, especially if you are a cat lover. Cats simply love the dried leaves and flowers. It has been used in herbal teas and essential oils for human consumption as well, and in those instances, it tends to have a calming effect.
For the profit-minded farmer, catnip is clearly a niche crop. Its one that could be produced and sold wholesale quite readily, but further processing would need to be close by, to reduce transportation costs. Most commercial catnip is grown in North Carolina and Washington. Some would look at that and see an opportunity. Why not “locally grown” for the discerning Midwestern cat? While it may seem a long shot, there are plenty of cats in Minnesota alone, with some estimates as high as 1.3 million. If a keen marketer could reach 1 percent of those cats (13,000) with $10 worth of catnip toys per year, there would be $130,000 gross income for a modest niche catnip business. While you wouldn’t want to start a real business on just a “back of the napkin” estimate such as this, the $130K is not insignificant, and one or two producers in MN would likely fill the demand. However, there’s enough there to consider, and that’s why we have catnip in the SFA New Crops Project Herb Plot.
The University of Kentucky has done a nice commercial catnip production publication for your reference, and of course, pictures of catnip as well as other herb crops are posted on the web. Stay tuned to this blog for more updates, and mark your calendars for October 7 for the New Crops Project Herb Field Day.