Ginger provides niche market for smaller-scale growers

COLOGNE—Charlie and Miriam Maloney are proving that ginger can be grown successfully in Virginia.

Earlier this year they placed 225 of the plants in a high tunnel greenhouse at their Dayspring Farm in King and Queen County and harvested their first ginger roots this month.

The tropical plant is a high-value crop that until recently has been imported from outside the United States, said Dr. Reza Rafie, who is working with the Maloneys on their ginger trial. Rafie is a Virginia Cooperative Extension horticulture specialist at Virginia State University. A grant from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services enabled VSU and the Maloneys to grow ginger in a high tunnel.

"It is a considerable niche market opportunity," Rafie said at a ginger field day to demonstrate how it can be grown. "Fifteen to twenty dollars per pound is the going rate for fresh Virginia ginger."

Susan Dawson, a Fluvanna County farmer, attended the field day. She is growing a small amount of ginger in a hoop house where she keeps a flock of chickens. "I want to find out how to harvest my ginger," she said.

Ginger seeds need to be planted in early February in a heated environment and can be transplanted at the end of April into a high tunnel. The plants mature by the following January but can be harvested in September as baby ginger, which has a more delicate taste preferred by some chefs, Razie said. The yield is 2 to 3 pounds of baby ginger per plant, compared to 5 to 7 pounds from a mature plant. The mature ginger is the type usually found in grocery stores, and it provides seed rhizomes for future crops.

In addition to selling fresh ginger, there are many value-added products that can be made with it, said Theresa Nartea, VSU Extension marketing and agribusiness specialist. They include tea, candy and spa products.

"The market is there for a small producer to sell fresh or value-added ginger products," Nartea said. She said farmers should determine five things before they start growing it: what form of ginger they will sell; their target consumers; a selling price; where the ginger will be sold; and how it will be promoted.

Contact Rafie at 804-524-5840 or Nartea at 804-524-5491.

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