SAF­FRON

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD -

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.”

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