Growing Catnip Commercially: Cash Crops for Small Farms
Small farmers and suburbanites alike can earn extra income by growing catnip to sell.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is easy to grow in many areas of the United States. In fact, it's often considered a weed! Because it's so easy to grow, however, it makes a great, low input home business opportunity.
Catnip can be started from seed, propogated from stem cuttings, or divided from existing plants. It grows best in full or partial sun and grows well in a variety of soil conditions, though it prefers neutral or slightly acidic, well drained loam. The aroma is strongest when grown in sandy loam. It is hardy from US zones 3a to 9b, has few natural pests and diseases in North America (other than the local cat population!), and self sows freely.
Catnip can be marketed for a number of different purposes.
Its most famous use is in cat toys. Almost all cats find the scent of catnip completely irresistible, and there is a booming business in catnip filled toys for America's estimated 88.3 million household cats. If you have sewing or other craft skills, you may be able to both grow your own catnip and make your own cat toys to sell as value added products.
Catnip is also valued for its herbal and medicinal properties. Catnip makes a soothing tea that is commonly used as a cold remedy and to calm the digestive and nervous systems. It can reduce flatulence, indigestion, and colic, and is sometimes used to relieve teething pain in young children. The mild sedative effect can help relieve insomnia.
Catnip can also be used similarly to mint as a culinary herb and added to salads, soups, and more. It is high in vitamins C and E, among other nutrients.
Recently, catnip has been receiving a lot of attention for its mosquito repellent properties. Studies have found that essential oils produced by the catnip plant are ten times more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes! Catnip oils also seem to repel termites and cockoraches.
In addition to providing value added products such as catnip toys, indoor "catnip gardens", and tea bags, you can increase your income by growing catnip for the organic market. Organic catnip fetches a higher price than non-organic catnip.
Catnip also attracts bees, and would combine well with a beekeeping business.
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