Basil is one of the most popular and versatile culinary herbs. Not only are the fresh leaves in high demand for making everything from fresh pesto and tomato sauce to mozzarella salads, but the leaves can also be dried and stored for future use. Selling your homegrown basil to restaurants or shoppers at farmers markets is only part of the equation. Another option is to sell wholesale starter plants to garden nurseries. Whatever your game plan may be, the decision to start a basil-growing business can be an exciting and potentially lucrative prospect that is worth exploring.
Decide if your business will be seasonal or year-round. Since basil is a heat-loving plant, it will grow the best throughout the year in warm climates. However, not living in the Sun Belt doesn't mean having a basil growing business is impossible. The summertime can be an ideal time to grow basil, and it is possible to extend the season for several weeks or more by utilizing grow tunnels or cold frames. It is also possible to grow basil in the winter in colder climates with the use of heated, lighted greenhouses. However, the start-up supplies and heating and electric bills can be quite high, which can make this option cost-prohibitive for smaller-scale basil farmers.
Figure out the purpose for which you plan to grow the basil and who your target audience will be. You may choose to have a basil farm that sells the basil leaves to local restaurants, food co-ops, markets or the public or you may opt to grow it to dry the leaves to sell in bottles or bags as seasoning. Another option is to sell assorted varieties of basil seedlings and transplants to gardeners, either for the wholesale or retail market. Once you've established what the basil will be sold for, investigate the need for a basil growing business in your area and ensure that there is sufficient demand for your product.
Determine what size basil-growing operation best suits your needs. A small-scale basil farm can be comfortably managed by one or two people, whereas a medium-sized or larger operation will require more employees, time and effort. Many people opt to start out with a smaller basil-growing business and expand it as necessity and demand for more product grows.
Estimate what your start-up costs will be. Factor in every potential expense, from buying or renting the land to the cost of basil seeds, seed-starting needs, watering supplies, organic or standard pest control products and fertilizers, employee salaries as well as any necessary permits or business licenses needed in your locale to run an herb-growing business. Additional considerations for basil farmers interested in season-extending items and or larger-scale production are the cost of cold frames, grow tunnels and greenhouses as well as grow lights, heaters and commercial-grade garden benches.
Come up with a marketing plan to promote your business once you get started. Start with a core list of short-, mid- and long-term goals that will help you sell as much basil as possible. Brainstorm creative and alternative methods of advertising, as well such as hosting a basil-tasting event where you can serve myriad basil-infused dishes to local restaurant chefs to show them the versatility and different types of basil that you grow. By "thinking outside the box" you can help to inspire the most sales and gain repeat customers.