On the north side of N. River Road, between Wilshire Rd and Sleeping Indian Rd, are 600 acres of greenhouses growing herbs. The Green House Herb Farm is the nation's largest herb grower, by far, with over 500 employees. 38% of their $25 million in sales come from basil, with other top sellers being chives, mint, baby dill, cilantro and rosemary. Altogether 25 herbs and 20 edible flowers are grown there year-round.
Green House owner Paul Friedman started the company in 1983, and reports that sales of herbs are rising by 20% per year now. The home office is in Del Mar.
Freshly-harvested herbs are shipped around the country via trucking the produce to LA airports. The goal is to get the herbs to market in 24 hours after picking. Basil, for example, is refrigerated within 8 minutes of cutting.
Herb-growing requires one worker per acre. For comparison, citrus and avocado farms require one worker per 75 acres.
Their largest sales are in the Northeast and Southern California. Grocery stores are 65% of their market, with the rest going to hotels, cruise ships and institutions. Those color-coded recipes for specific herbs and how-to-use directions in grocery aisles are part of their marketing strategy.
There is no very convenient spot to view the operation, and I don't know of any stand there. A bicycle trip along N. River Road is the best way to view the extent of the fields and sample the delectable odors from the herbs.
Source: SDUT 10/8/97, FOOD-2, and personal observation.
Copyright © 1997 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 14 November 1997.