it outside in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maine. The Mennonite Church had been looking for a way to preserve its small farms, said Peter Johnson, of the Amish-Mennonite Center of Sustainable Agriculture, in Wenham, Mass.
“We are convinced that this is the crop that will keep our young kids on the farms,” he said at the workshop.
Ara Lynn, of Amazing Flower Farm in New Ipswich, N.H., has planted some saffron to supplement her business of raising an- nuals and perennials.
“It gives a potential income stream at a time when we’re doing nothing or, if we are, we’re just paying workers and all the money’s going out and nothing’s coming in. So it makes a lot of sense,” she said at the workshop.
But she worries about marketing.
“If we can’t find a way to market it and get that kind of money that they’re talking about, then it’s just another endeavor that doesn’t work,” she said.
UVM researchers believe the more growers, the better. “How can you start encouraging a market for saffron if you only have a few growers growing it?” said UVM researcher Margaret Skinner.
One of the biggest questions for the American Spice Trade Association is whether labor costs would have a significant effect on the cost of the product, said Cheryl Deem, executive director.
The process of picking the flowers, gathering the delicate stigmas and drying them is labor-intensive, but only for about a month — a very short period of time — and in the offseason, not dissimilar from maple syrup, Skinner said.
“It’s the simplest crop you’ll ever grow,” Johnson said. “It works. It really does work. It’s unbelievable.”