Herbs are significant crop plants around the world where they are used chiefly in cooking and medicine, but have many other uses. Herb crops are grown, harvested and sold fresh; or processed to produce dried herbs, herbal oils or other chemical extracts. Some herb farms are hundreds of acres and others may be less than one acre.
Scope of Work
Horticulturists work assisting growers on and off farm, and as growers themselves. The work for some may be mostly manual, for others it can be technical or managerial.
Manual type roles include planting out crops, spraying for pests and diseases, weed control, weeding, watering and harvesting.
Technical roles can be concerned with things like product development, setting up irrigation systems and monitoring watering, or implementing and overseeing harvesting procedures.
Some farms may only grow one type of herb, but others may grow a wide range. Some do in-house processing, e.g. producing oils for aromatherapy; others may just supply raw herb material to manufacturers. Given the great variation in herb farm sizes and the focus of their operations, the type of work undertaken can be quite variable and draw on different types of skills.
What You Need to Learn
- Herb knowledge - Knowledge of different types of herbs, their names, and uses
- Harvest & post-harvest - Knowledge of harvesting methods & equipment, processing (if relevant e.g. drying herbs, extracting oils), storage
- Cultural techniques - Pruning, feeding, watering frequency/duration, planting, transplanting, staking
- Health management - Plant pests, diseases and environmental disorders, biosecurity
- Environmental control - Ventilation, irrigation & misting, heating & cooling, lighting, carbon dioxide injection
- Soils - Potting media & soil structure, chemistry, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration, etc.
- Tools & equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, cleaning tools, correct operation & use, maintenance & repair
- Communication skills - Dealing with clients, arranging appointments, giving advice
- Sales skills - How to interact with customers, sell herbs, earn repeat business, network with suppliers, place orders, keep inventories, marketing, advertising
- Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures
Starting a Career
Entry pathways include:
- Work for a herb grower/producer
- Take on harvest work
- Volunteer with gardening clubs or local horticultural enterprises
- Network at community and farmers markets
- Wherever you work, make sure you take the time to learn from other staff. Ask lots of questions!
- When you don't know something, look for ways to fill the gap. Take courses, read books, and join local associations.
Progressing a Career
Work in herb farms can be advanced to supervisory or managerial type positions through shear hard work and determination. This depends to some extent on the size of the operation.
Other roles those working in this industry could aim for include:
- Product development (e.g. testing out new herb cultivars)
- Becoming a rep of the business (visiting buyers, e.g. scented candle makers, and establishing contracts)
- Working in marketing and advertising
- Establishing their own herb farm
- Ways of keeping up to date with current trends and technological advancements in the industry include:
- Joining trade associations or bodies
- Attending garden shows, agricultural shows and trade shows
- Attending workshops and seminars
- Undertaking further study - Any courses taken should be ones which help to reinforce what you learn rather than quick fix courses. They can be evening courses or courses provided by distance education, so long as the course providers have suitably qualified tutors who can provide adequate feedback.