Develop Skills in both Business Management and Herb Growing in the same course.
This can lead you to working in your own business, or working for someone else.
Comment from someone who studied this course with us:
Catherine - I wanted to study herbs but I could not find a course at my closest TAFE, and traveling to Adelaide each day was not practical. ACS offered the best option - study at home, at my own pace and still tutor contact when I needed it. I was undecided in the facet of herbs that I wanted to specialise in - that was until I completed an assignment to produce three herbal products. My tutor tested my products and encouraged me to set up a small business making and distributing a range of natural herbal cosmetic and household products. His guidance has helped me establish an interesting and profitable business from my studies.
Note that each module in the ADVANCED CERTIFICATE IN HERBS - APPLIED MANAGEMENT is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN WORKING AS A HERB GROWER?
There are many avenues to take if you want to be a herb grower. You may choose to grow herbs to sell, as a specialty herb nursery grower. This may be as a wholesale or retail operator. Selling may be via local nurseries if you choose retail, or an alternative retail outlet would be farmers markets and fairs, or possibly as an online supplier.
A herb grower may be growing small plants as a wholesale operation to sell to others who will be planting these out in the ground as a crop for later harvest of the roots, stems, flowers, leaves or seeds. This gives ideas for other aspects of herb growing, perhaps you would like to grow herbs to collect the seed and be a supplier of herb seed?
Herbs, such as crocus (for saffron), curry plant, oregano, lavender are grown to produce the dried product for resale. These herb crops are usually grown out in the open ground in specially prepared growing fields.
Some growers produce herbs for the fresh vegetables trade such as basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, coriander, dill. There are three main choices of how you produce these crops. They are either grown in the open fields, grown in greenhouses where they can be given optimum growing conditions and the growing and production season can be extended. Alternatively they may be grown hydroponically in shade houses, or greenhouses- where all the growing levels can be controlled including feed, spraying, light levels and temperature.
Growing herbs as an aquaponics operation, may be another enterprise.
Microgreens is a popular current trend, which is usually producing herbs and sometimes vegetable and flower mini-seedlings (hydroponically), to use as a fresh crop or garnish. It can be used straight from a punnet, or trimmed and harvested two or three times, before the plants are renewed.
Some herb growers specialise in only the scented dried market and grow roses, lavender, lemon verbena, mints and similar herbs for use as dried in potpourris or for herbal teas.
What they do
Herb growers often work outdoors for long periods. They sell fresh and dried products, young plants, seedlings and produce seed for retail and wholesale customers.
They are familiar with the growing principles of their crop, from the seed raising stage right through to harvest- depending on whether it is a plant l seedling, fresh cut leaf crop, fresh cut flower crop, dried flower leaf or root product or a seed crop. Herb growers need to be able to supply the right growing medium or soil, manipulate fertilisers and nutrients, provide adequate water, sunshine, pest and disease protection for the crop. They also need to be able to harvest it appropriately and hygienically, to meet government food preparation standards. Other roles in the operation are packaging the crop, storing it correctly, marketing and distributing it according to consumer demand and government food handling regulations.
The optimum goal to be an established and successful producer in this area, where the crop is often very short lived and fast growing as well as seasonal is- to produce a consistent, quality crop that buyers can rely on, all year round.
There is huge potential in this area of herb growing as the demand for edible food, essential oils, gourmet products and organic fresh produce escalates in most countries of the world.
Choosing a location close to large local potential markets, customer bases and restaurants, so products can be supplied regularly, fresh and with minimum travel expenses is preferable for success.
What is needed
You need a sound knowledge of horticulture and herb growing to be a successful herb grower. If you choose to grow the plants and sell them you need a sound knowledge of nursery operations, commercially, retail and possible also knowledge of business and marketing and online advertising.
A background in farming or other crop growing and the principles of organic growing would also be useful. An ability to research, see, watch for, and analyse trends will also be the key to success.
To grow hydroponically you would need a sound knowledge in this area and of aquaponics, or micro greens if this is the direction you choose. You would also need a knowledge of the crops you intend growing preferably knowledge from the seed stage to full flower and seed production, as well as your crops nutrient needs and its common pests and diseases. A knowledge of mechanics, chemistry and irrigation would also be useful for hydroponics and aquaponics.
TIPS FOR HARVESTING AND USING HERBS
These are extracts from a book by our principal, John Mason. This and other books can be found in our online shop at www.acsbookshop.com
HANDLING FRESH HERBS AFTER HARVEST
Once pickled, most fresh herbs deteriorate quickly unless properly handled. They will quickly wilt and lose colour, essential oils and other aromatic compounds. This deterioration can however be slowed down in a number of ways.
Plants grown under optimum temperature and soil moisture conditions don’t deteriorate as fast. In other words, the healthier and more vigorous the plant is when harvested, the longer it will last. If harvested when the aromatic compounds, oils and so on are at optimum levels, deterioration is slower. In some plants, including rosemary and sage, this is just before flowering; for other plants the optimum harvest time may be at a different stage of the plant’s growth.
Most fresh herbs are best stored at refrigerator temperatures of around 1ºC however some herbs such as watercress and basil are sensitive to chilling injury and should not be stored at a temperature this low. Around 5-6ºC would be preferable. A 10ºC reduction in the temperature of the harvested herb will generally increase its storage life by 3 to 4 times. Harvesting your herbs in the coolest part of the morning will also help get them down to storage temperature more quickly. Do not store at temperatures below 1ºC as damage due to freezing will occur.
Water loss is less if high humidity is maintained around the fresh herb – do this with film wraps. You do not want humidity too high though as the herb may rot. If you get condensation on plant tissue, then humidity is too high and breather holes in the plastic will be needed.
Fresh herbs such as mint, basil and coriander are often very soft and can be readily damaged during harvesting. This makes them more prone to moisture loss, to discolouring and to microbial infection. Careful handling during harvest to reduce damage will prolong their storage life.
HARVESTING HERBS FOR MEDICINAL USE
To get proper results from the herbs used in medicines they must be harvested and handled properly, and most importantly, collected at precisely the right time of the year. The demand for pure, clean, properly handled material is high, both in Australia and throughout many other parts of the world.
LEAVES should always be collected on clear days, mid-morning, after the dew. For most medicines, collect when the plant is starting to flower. Leaves of biennial plants are best collected in the second year of growth. To dry, spread out on a clean dry surface, and stir occasionally until thoroughly dry. Remove all stems from leaves and only keep leaves which retain their natural colour. Leaves can turn black due to dampness and if so affected should be discarded.
FLOWERS should be collected immediately after they open. Dry the same as for leaves and only retain those which keep their natural colour.
BULBS should be collected immediately after the leaves of the plant dies (usually autumn). Remove the outer scales of the bulb, slice it then dry it using artificial heat of no more than 38°C.
BARKS should be collected autumn or spring. It is normally the inner bark which is required. Most barks should be dried in sunlight (but not wild cherry which can be dried in the dark).
SEEDS should be gathered on ripening. Only larger, fully developed seeds are useful.
COOKING WITH HERBS
Fresh herbs impart delicious flavours to a whole range of foods.
Herbs are not foods in the strict sense of the word, but they do provide essential nutrients in the diet, not to mention the flavours they can add to foods. But it is important to use herbs correctly in cooking. They are an easy way to greatly enhance the flavour of a dish, but can just as easily ruin a preparation if used incorrectly. Too much of a herb can make the flavour overpowering and completely overshadow the natural flavour of the food it is added to, while too little of a herb in a food will achieve nothing.
The addition of herbs must be balanced to complement the flavours which are already in the food. It is important therefore to blend different herbs in appropriate proportions to achieve the best results.
The amount of flavour imparted to food by a herb depends on many things:
- The stage of growth at which the herb was harvested.
- The part of the plant which is used.
- The time of year the herb is harvested.
- The length of time the herb is left to stand in liquid or solid mixtures before it is used.
- The temperature which the mixture is at while the herb is standing in it.
- The temperature the dish is cooked at.
- The length of time the dish is cooked.
- The moisture content of the dish which is being cooked.
THE ACS TEAM APPROACH
ACS was founded by John Mason in 1979 as Australian Horticultural Correspondence School.
Right from these very early times, we've always believed that the best education only comes when the student is learning from the experience of a whole range of industry experts (rather than just a single teacher).
Every ACS course is a work in progress, continually evolving, with new information being added and old information being updated by our team of internationally renowned professional horticulturists.
Over the decades more than 100 horticulture experts from across the world have contributed to these courses, bringing their individual knowledge and experiences from as wide afield as England and Spain to Australia and America.
While may colleges and universities focus on providing courses that relate only to the country where they are based, ACS has always strived to make it's courses relevant to all parts of the world; any climate, economic or cultural situation. This has been achieved by involving a large number of professionals in the course development.
When it comes to tutoring, marking papers and mentoring students, the team approach is just as strong as with our writing. ACS students have the ability to obtain advice and support from staff across the world, with horticulture tutors located in the UK, Australia (both the north and south) and New Zealand.
The ACS team approach and global focus to both course content and student support, ensures our graduates have a unique and "real world" skills set. This unique approach is highly regarded by our colleagues in horticulture.
WHAT WILL THIS COURSE GIVE ME?
This course will give you the ability to work in the herb industry and also to run your own business or help someone else run theirs.
Choosing the right course will help you gain important skills i.e. one that develops knowledge, practical skills and also your problem solving abilities. Not all courses do this. At ACS our courses focus on Problem Based Learning so this enables the student to develop these skills and at the same time using this learning method also improves you knowledge retention and recall.
What Can You do to Improve Your Career Prospects?
Choose a course that you are passionate about – be open to learning and use this course to start building your future. Today we are expected to keep learning and studying in order to keep up with a world that is rapidly changing. Learning is a lifelong experience.
Network with people in the industry, attend conferences and trade shows – make yourself known to people in the industry in general. Try to build a range of skills – multi-skilled people are more likely to succeed in a job or in a business.
Recognise your weaknesses and work on improving them - not just academically. And also know your strengths and demonstrate them.