Selling herbs? Worth it?

angiebeaglesJanuary 4, 2005

Hello, everyone, i am very much a newbie here, altho i've lurked for a few days tring to soak up some info.

I am pretty much a new gardner, but i've fallen in love with it. I've been growing herbs for a few years, mostly for the butterflies, and some for me.

There is a local farm stand that has everything, except herbs. i am considering asking them if they want to sell herbs.

I am looking at this to make a little extra money (i'm not trying to get rich). I can't have a major time commitment- i have a regular 40 hr job, and would wnat to work on this for about 5 hours/week. (Ultimately, i'd love to support myself, but i don't have the inclination/experience/resources to consider that an option right now). I was thinking of providing about 7 or 8 basic herbs, and whatever he/they would request. There are a few more outlets around here, a few restaurants and a very small farmers market.

Do you think it would be worth it to attempt this? I don't want to go out and get a biz name at this point, really the only thing i ahve to lose is a growing season and the $$ i put into seeds. Basically, i'm asking you if i'm nuts for trying to do something on such a small basis, with minimal experience?

Thank you for your comments.


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Probably a farmers market (if it is good) would make more money then a stand. The problem is that you have to grow quite a bit in order that your table looks empty (which is BAD!) Youcould control this a bit with your display. You could even buy the little herb clamshells like you see at the grocrey store and stick a little lable on it. Then you could have less and look very high end.

The problem is that Saturday market alone is 5-6 hours and you have not yet picked or grown anything.

I also would wait on restauraunts until you ar sure on the quanity/quality you can provide. You don't want to alienate future customers.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2005 at 12:18PM
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Bob_Piper(NE Oklahoma)

I suggest starting out with maybe just a couple of different varieties or maybe just basil as that should be about the most popular one
Several of the better restaurants in my area are interested in purchasing fresh, top-quality basil.
You should really have a greenhouse or at least a coldframe and be prepared to supply customers for as long a season as possible. In central Texas this shouldn't be too difficult.
Get Sandie Shores' book GROWING AND SELLING FRESH-CUT HERBS, Second Edition, digest it and you will be off and running.
You don't absolutely have to have a growing house.
If I can help don't hesitate to email me.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 12:18PM
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food_4_me(z5b Chicago)

I did a small farmers market last season with my emphasis on herbs - although we grew basic vegetables too. I didn't have much success with selling bulk herbs. Perhaps my price was too high. It was also suggested that people get intimidated by bulk herbs because they don't know what to do with them and don't want them to sit and rot in their refrigerator. I had all season to play around with different ways to market the herbs. I'm a total newbie by the way. I tried making herbed vinegars, selling potted herbs, selling herb seed, selling small herb mixes and telling them exactly what to use them for, selling them with recipe cards... I tried a lot of things and all of them did better than selling straight herbs!! It was a little frustrating. However I enjoyed finding creative ways to get people to buy them.

It was also interesting having to come up with ways to use all the unwanted herbs when I came home from the market! Something you have to think about.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 3:33PM
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Patty_WI(z4 WI)

food 4 me
Would you be willing to let us know what recipes you gave out? Or maybe e-mail me some?
Thanks, Patty

    Bookmark   January 13, 2005 at 10:34AM
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I have found that with the exception of basil (sold with a pesto recipie) herbs sell best in quantitites similar to the grocrey store (1 ounce). Also the plastic clam shells like at the grocrie store with a lable while expensive ($.25 ea once you add the cost of the lable which we print ourselves) sells very well at 1.50-2.50 each. That comes to $20 to $36 a pound after you subtract the cost of the clam shells. Not bad but a lot of labor.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2005 at 12:24PM
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hmeadq: Sorry to kind of go on a bit of a tangent here, but how do you decide on how much to grow? I haven't been able to find yield information, like there is for vegetables (lbs/100'), and I've only grown basil in quantity so far. This year, I'm trying a full herb selection (10+), but I don't know how to estimate how much of each to put in for my production target (50-100 units a week)...

    Bookmark   January 13, 2005 at 9:27PM
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We are still very much working that out. We just started herbs last year and the amount you get from herb plants seems to be VERY dependent on how much care you give them. They seem to want to be treated more like flowers then row crops, if that makes sense. I started with 100 or 50 feet of each thing (50 feet of rosemary for example.) Since a "market unit" for us is only an ounce, a little goes a long way. (We do chives in 3x8 foot raised beds one third of the bed at a time, and we end up with 2 or 3 pounds a week (32-48 market units)

Oh, and keep good records. We failed on this last year so I cannot give you great advice. But next year, I'll be able to quote you exact numbers.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2005 at 3:45PM
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We pretty much gave up selling fresh cut herbs and now only sell dried ones. I got tired of throwing the ones that didn't sell out each week. We do have a young lady at our farmers market that does quite well with hers...mostly Basil and Cilantro. She has a unique way of displaying them. She purchased sock drawer organizers and sticks them down into a clear plastic tub with a cover. She harvests the herbs right into each section and then places the lid on it. When she gets to the market she puts some water into the tub and the herbs stay fresh all day. At the end of they day she just gives the local trees a watering. It is all very light weight and customers can pinch and smell the herbs. When she sells a bunch she puts them into an expensive plastic baggie.

The organizers are easy to find, not very expensive and they are plastic so they last forever. I thought it was a great idea and I would copy it if we still did fresh cut! lol

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 7:46AM
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Be careful about dring herbs.

Here it is considered processing and as far as I have yet been able to find out is not covered under the "Home produced items" rules.

It does not make sense, we are allowed to make jam and sell it or tomatoe sauce as long as it is labled "This item is home produced" but dring herbs is not allowed as herbs are not a "high acid" item.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 11:42AM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

Just check with your state not all states consider dried herbs processed

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 11:51AM
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Dried herbs are considered home processed here too and we do have to have a grocer's permit to sell them. We have a commercial kitchen so it is not a problem for us. But, I should have mentioned that...thanks.

Our state has just come up with farmers market regulations and you are supposed to attend the home processing classes in order to sell fresh cut herbs! You can sell lettuce without it, but you better go to school to sell basil! I think that's strange.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 5:07AM
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chinamigarden(z5 MI)

Angie, I would suggest you contact that farmer who runs that stand and just ask. it doesn't sound like you have the time or the desire to run a table at a market. So why not ask and see what the farmer has to say. If he says no, find out why. Maybe his experience will lead you toward a better way of selling your herbs. Or he might say yes and there you go. Either way, good luck

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 10:48AM
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Everything is worthwhile. As long as you do it well and intelligently. Most mom and pop buinesses start "small".

I think the real key is finding your own niche. I don't think growing commodity herbs in commodity forms is going to help you even break even. As evident here, everybody has a different -- and VERY creative -- way of doing things. You need to know YOUR market and you need to find a way to get that market excited about your product. Don't get trapped into thinking you're just a "grower"; you have to be a marketer, too.

chinamigarden has a good idea: ask the farmer at the stand what HE wants. Essentially he's your customer. But beware: he doesn't offer herbs for a reason. And although it may be because he never thought of it or because he doesn't know how to grow herbs, it may also be because he tried it once and it failed miserably. Or it could be that he'll tell you what HE likes but hasn't a clue what his customers really want.

Have you thought, too, about growing small live herb plants in liners (2-1/4" pots), up to 4" pots? This is one of the hottest items in the FM's here. (As long as it's not basil -- almost every vegetable farmer has some of that for sale.)

Do something special, almost unique. Do something nobody else is doing yet everybody (well, at least lots of customers) wants.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 10:33AM
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etznab(7 NC)

I've not had much success selling herbs at my exisitng veggie stand at a once a week farmers market. But I do sell lots of little herb plants. These are small, in styrofoam cups that I sell for $1. I do sell a few bunches of herbs but not enough to warrant going to market it thats all I had.

I can't sell dried herbs at my local market unless they were dried in a certified kitchen.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 1:15PM
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I agree with most of the information above. Selling herbs at the farm market can be a fun idea, but is hard work - it is a business. I spent 10yrs selling organic (certified)potted herbs and fresh herbs (no veggies or flowers) on the markets in the midwest. 3 or 4 herbs will not cut it, you need to produce a variety of plants - I sold close to 50 varieties (and that was on the low end) but I chose to specialise rather than diversify.
As a guide - 4" pots (perennial) - $5, 6" - $7 annuals $1.
Groups of plants in one pot were also popular. These sold throughout the summer, the smaller pots didn't. Thats wwhen I switched to fresh cut - basil, chives and a few other basic culinary herbs. Keeping them fresh was a pain at 85 for 4 hrs!! I did have a certified kitchen, so could sell dried herbs and herb vinegars too to eek out the summer months. Towards fall, I did wreaths and dried herb things. I also sold to a few restaurants and farm shops.
It was a full time enterprise, and with small kids, hard work - but for me, better than 40hrs a week out of the house.
Now I write about growing and selling herbs and other things that are garden related, so I still get to stay at home -we moved so farming is not an option here.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2005 at 9:28PM
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HerbLady49(Z6 PA)

Angie. I did all that plus brought some herb plants. Everyone wanted the plants. So I only grow herb plants. I grow 1000's each year. Quit my job in 1991 and never regretted it. I started very small and gradually grew each year. I now only sell from my home(I'm zoned agricultural). I start my seeding in January and open the end of April till the end of June. I keep it at a size where it's still fun. I started selling in 1989 and never grew a plant from seed or knew what a perennial was until 1988. There was a wholesale flower distributor around me that wanted to buy all the cut flowers I could grow and I did that for awhile but I had to give that up because I just didn't have the time or energy. I could to that in the summer after the plants season is over but I like having a quiet summer .I read everything I could get my hands on and prayed alot. Keep dreaming and God bless.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 11:04AM
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HerbalAffair(TX Gulf Coast)

You people inspire me. Keep talking! I may start that little dream job, yet.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2005 at 10:04AM
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As a wholesale/retail grower of medicinal and culinary herbs, I have developed two series of "Talking plant Cards" that contain 36 cards in each series of herbs (72 total cards in all) that covers very common and not so common medicinal herbs. These cards are in PDF format and fit 4 cards on a standard 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. You would simply download the file to your computer, print, cut out, laminate and stick in your plant pots or trays.

These Cards have been sold to many Nurseries throughout the U.S. in the greenhouse industry and farmer market vendors. We ourselves have sold out on over 200 gallons of herbs and numerous trays of them within 3 days of our 7 day only sales. The cards start out with a "cute, funny or catchy question or phrase to capture the customers attentions and continues on to state a short description on how the herb benefits them medicinally along with what part to use and how to use it.

Someone said here, people don't buy herbs because they don't know what they are for or how to use them! this is so true...and the Talking Plant cards take care of that! Customers are not only amused, but informed. Each series is only $12. Now if you sold just 2-3 gallons of herbs..that covers the cost of the cards real fast! We made over $3,000 in 3 days just selling herbs with the help of these cards...and so have many other Nurseries and growers that have used them!

For instance for the herb card Wormwood: "Wormwood says...Are You bugging me?" I'm the best thing you have to repel insects in your garden, around your plants and on you! i also have been known to cure intestinal worms for years! Steep my leaves for tea for fast results and healing or place me around your garden!

Now, if you would like to see a sample card and really want to start selling herbs...please e-mail me and I will send you a sample and how to attain the full series.

Hope this helps you all!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 10:58AM
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Herbalnut-your email isn't listed in your profile. Please contact me about your talking plant cards.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 9:50AM
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I guess it depends on your market. At one market, I could hardly get rid of anything but basil. At my Sunday market, I had no problem selling cilantro, basils, dill, sage and mint. We made them in small bundles and sold each bundle for $1.00 a piece. The dill was $2 and was usually a couple heads. I purchased a 99c bag of ice from Sonic on my way to the market in the morning and stuck the batches of herbs in a plastic tray with the ice. Most of it would be gone in 1/2 an hour. I would sell maybe $30 worth of herbs. I know this isn't a lot for some of you big boys and girls but it helped get people to my table who ended up buying other items including my jams and jellies.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 10:13AM
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I used to sell a lot of basil in 1 ounce bags and than a farm came in and started selling basil plants and once everyone found out how easy it is to grow a basil plant my sales along with a couple of other farms that used to sell a lot of fresh basil dried up to the point that it was no longer worth growing or harvesting it for market for me. So my CSA members got a lot of basil last year.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 2:43PM
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magz88(5a - Central Ontario)

At my market basil sells well. We had a small amount of parsley and that sold well. We also had requests for dill.

I am doing Barbq rosemary this year which I know people will go for since barbecuing is so popular here.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 10:10PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I bring huge quantities of herbs to market. Notice I didn't say I sell huge quantities of them. I sell basil ok and if any of us had dill in the last 2 seasons it would have sold great. The thing with herbs is they take up little room and are super easy to grow (thyme, chives, sage, oregano, mint). When they don't sell I dry them and make herb seasoning mixes which sell really well. I charge $1 for all herbs bunches, which are moderate sized. Sometimes I sell large pesto basil bunches for $3. The bunching of herbs takes some time on market day but I hate going without them and having someone ask for them. I bunch them with binders and put in a nice metal tub of medium size. They do fine just in the water. I help people pull out the herb they want. I keep a list of the herbs I have that week with ideas of what to do with them right under the tub. When it is cool out I sometimes put them in baggies (fold over style) and into a cute basket. rosemary does better out of water just on the table but can blow away in wind.
Next to my herb bucket is my cutflower bouquets which I do at the same time at the end of the picking morning. Both bring people into my stand whether they know why or not. When it is windy I sometimes rub the herbs as people walk by and they get lured in LOL.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 10:24PM
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The selling of herbs is a large part of my farmers market business, but since my business is my main source of income, herbs are only about 20% of the business. I sell all my herbs potted (living). You have to know a lot about raising plants to do this if you want tip-top quality, so if you're trying it for the first year, do a LOT of reading first. Using good potting mixes (not soil), the right pot size, the right temperature, correct amt. of shading or sunshine, correct moisture (don't over or under water..most herbs like it a little on the dry side), and insect control (you can't spray with most insecticides, so you'll have to control insects in other ways such as keeping pots off the ground..some herbs can get easily eaten by bugs like arugula and basil, cilantro on the other hand is never bothered) Oh, and, by the way, don't just sell your herbs at the beginning of the season. I sell more herbs in August than in any other month!!!! Most herbs are perennial, so when it is bought and replanted doesn't really matter, so STAGGER your seedings and cuttings. I sell arugula, basil (lots and lots), borage (only a few), chervil (beautiful foliage)..grow it in the shade, chives, chocolate mint (lots), cilantro (tons)..tricky to grow in pots, dill (big pots/big plants sell better), fennel (women love the foliage), lemon grass, morjoram (force the customer to smell it, they'll love it and buy it), oregano, parsley/curley, parsley/plain (don't go too crazy with parsley), rosemary (grow it from cuttings, order plugs, and grow tons of it..they'll ALL sell), sage, spearmint, mint (english) grow lots of it, lavender (grow from cuttings like rosemary..also a huge seller), stevia (offer samples), tarragon, and thyme. Potted herbs stay fresh, they customer can cut them fresh when they want them, and if you don't sell them, you can take them home and sell them next time. Again, this type of growing will take a tremendous amount of commitment and knowledge of growing, but if you are commited, it'll pay off and offer thousands of dollars of extra income. Steve Gruenke

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 9:56PM
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This thread got a mystery bump. It's showing up at the top of the message list without a recent post.

The tip to grow lavender and rosemary from plugs seems like a great idea to me. Those are the only two herbs I've tried that I can't seem to grow very well from seed.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2013 at 8:16PM
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herbalnut-will you email me too pleasse

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 8:48PM
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ColeRobbie, if someone edits a post, then it gets bumped. Sometimes a PIA, because they don't add anything, just attempts to edit.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 4:02PM
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aha. Thanks. The edit feature is new.

The company I typically buy from doesn't sell rosemary or lavender plugs. If anyone can recommend a company, that would be great.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 1:51PM
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I think selling herbs is very worth it, as long as you keep really good records and know exactly how much to bring. For example, I almost always sell the exact same amount of basil each Saturday no matter what the price. I sell by small-medium bunches (4-6 stems), $1-$2 a bunch depending on which part of the season we are in. Beginning of the season ususally $1, because no one really wants basil when it is chilly out. The key to selling herbs is to have the best quality and display them appropriately. All of my herbs are in small glass jars with water, and then I have a full basket behind them with the herbs standing up in bunches. The reason this is important is to allow the wind to carry the smell to the customers and draw them in. I can't tell you how many times people come to my booth from more than 6 feet away because they smelled my fresh (always cut that morning) basil. Herbs are placed on the edges of the tables, and veggies/fruits towards the center. Right now, I have cilantro, and even though many people at my market have cilantro..I always sell more based on the following reasons: appearance & display, freshness & quality, pesticide free, and size of bunching. Many people don't buy bulk herbs, so it crucial to price and bunch accordingly. One ounce is the general rule. It also helps to have a unique variety of a very common herb. For example, I sell greek and italian basil, and a few others, but the italian always outsells everything. The key is to have a unique variety of a common herb but not exotic (people tend to be scared of exotics like stevia, but they like trying unique varieties of basil or cilantro for example). Also, try to extend your herbs for as long as possible. I keep selling cilantro even when it has gone to flower, because you can use it to garnish soups and several dishes, but many people do not know that. Do extensive research if all you sell are herbs.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 8:20PM
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@Cole Robbie. You can buy rooted plugs from NC Farms or Richters. It isn't too difficult to root your own, and you can get unrooted cuttings cheaply from NC Farms.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 8:03PM
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@ Steve, where do you buy your chocolate mint? I've been looking everywhere for it. I've had tons of customers request mint...and I would personally love to have chocolate mint.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 1:27PM
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Wholesale customer who bought tomatoes last year wants herbs this year. Any idea what, how to package, how much to charge? I admit I'm an herb killer, but also I wonder if selling wholesale is worth it (for resale, this isn't a restaurant) b/c they'll want me to package and label it?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 2:09PM
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I have failed miserably at selling herbs. The only herb I sell with great consistency is dill, and I sell well over 50 lbs of it a year, which is great because it is all self-seeded plants that don't cost me a dime. I have several mints, including chocolate, apple, and pineapple, and have sold not one sprig. I have a bed of perennials--sage, gr and it oregano, eng thyme, regular thyme, chives, lavender, rosemary and haven't sold a leaf. I plant regular, cinnamon, and lemon basils to no avail. Savory, marjoram, cilantro, tarragon--none of it sells for me. I like it and will continue to grow it, but it has been a commercial bust for me. The same is true for flowers, but I like them and am increasing them considerably this year. Additionally, the birds, butterflies, and bees like both the herbs and flowers, so I guess that's good.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 2:39PM
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Would selling herbs for a wholesaler need the GAP, since it's for reselling? Just thinking.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 3:21PM
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I don't know about GAP. I couldn't find anything on state website last year when they mentioned it for tomatoes, asked another farmer who does wholesale and he said it wasn't required.

I'm just thinking I could end up spending more on packaging than I'd be making wholesale, that's if I can manage to grow anything besides oregano this year...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Thanks for the recommendation, Steve, I just now saw it.

I haven't tried selling cut herbs, but direct-seeded in 4" pots, they are my easiest sale as live plants. Basil, cilantro, and parsley seem to be what people want. I'm planting dill for the first time this year, because so many people asked for it.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:09PM
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Our state taxes live plants, though not fruit, herbs or seeds. I guess I could just plant all my herbs in pots, take them to market and cut them there? Would be easier (though take up more room) than cutting and bunching and keeping cool for 6 hrs.

Does dill do well in pots? I thought it grew tall.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 7:51AM
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"Fern leaf" is the short variety of dill. Mine is bouquet, which does get tall, but the little pot of it still works to use the leaf as a seasoning. Some people say they are going to separate all the little plants in the pot and transplant them into their garden. I don't know if that ever happens, but they still buy it.

I am out of pots right now, and I'm going to order "sheet pots." They are sheets of 18 that fit in a 1020 web flat. They look perfect for use as little herb containers.

That tax law of your state seems a little misguided. It seems like they meant to tax expensive and decorative live plants like one would buy from a florist. Live plants sold as food should be taxed the same as food. Of course that wouldn't be the first time a tax law didn't make sense :)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 12:49PM
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