Setting prices for botanicals in the herbal marketplace

Graphic of coins and plantsBy Michael Pilarski, Friends of the Trees Botanicals, June 6, 2018

Many people have asked me why I don’t charge higher prices for my fresh and dry herbs.  There are a number of reasons I charge relatively low prices.

1) I want my buyers’ business to be successful.  Many are my friends.

2) I find I get more orders with lower prices. If my skullcap won’t sell at one price, I will lower it so that it can find a home.  I don’t like growing plants that don’t get harvested for lack of market.  I do cut, garble, process and dry a certain % of my cultivated herbs, but can’t get to all of it.

3. My mother convinced me to become a Catholic monk in a monastery, but my dad vetoed it, as I was the first-born son. Still, on some level, perhaps I made a vow of poverty. 

4. I look at the two-thirds people a lot and consider their situation. Most of the farmers and wildrafters there get a pittance of what I get for my herbs.  Some years back I deliberately didn’t raise my prices out of sympathy with how low wages were being cut around the world. I didn’t have to be better than them.

5. Sure I would like more money and a nicer lifestyle, but the average US ecological footprint is so embarrassingly large that I decided to live a relatively low footprint life many years ago. 

6. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t all about the money. It’s also about getting healing herbs to people.

It could be argued that I am holding the price down for other farmers and wildcrafters. This could be true to some extent. I am a very small player but new wildcrafters and farmers look at my price list for ideas.

I sometimes compare my prices with “the competition” and notice that I am lower than the other famous wildcrafters. For fresh orders many of my buyers use Pacific Botanicals a lot.  For dry orders many of them use Mountain Rose. I beat both of them on a few items but for the most part can’t compete pricewise with their economies of scale.

The international herb trade sets much of US herb prices. When it comes to dry herbs of many species I am competing with China, India, Egypt, and Eastern Europe.  Domestically it is amazing what low prices are paid to wildcrafters in Appalachia!

What I can do is supply artisan quality herbs that few other suppliers can. I do small batches. I specialize in fresh botanicals shipping.  Fresh botanicals are generally about 60% of herb sales and 40% are dry. My dried herbs are carefully garbled and hand screened after drying. We do not supply c/s grade herbs (cut & sift).

Many years ago I talked to my friend Mark Wheeler of Pacific Botanicals about how he set his prices. Did he look at his competitors’ prices?  He said no, he doesn’t look at competitors’ prices. He has learned what price he needs to charge to make a reasonable profit. Years later I find myself saying the same thing.  At what price does it feel like worth doing it?  I know how hard (or easy) it is for me to get that particular botanical shipped.  My catalog prices are based on decades of personal experience, albeit the other considerations above apply. 

Someday there may again be a world where medicinal herbs are supplied locally by conscientious, loving people who have magic in their hands and hearts.  The highest quality healing plants for everyone.  

Friends of the Trees Botanicals 2018 Fresh and Dry Herb Catalog.