News
Written by Dennis Moxley
Sunday, 23 January 2011 23:41
PDF Print E-mail

Sego's Herb Farm in the News

Clark County at Work: Sego's Herb Farm.

205846_segos_herb_farm6957_t640

Brianna Loper

An employee at Sego's Herb Farm weeds the ginseng crop. Because everything the farm does is organic, all the weeding is done by hand by the five employees.

By Mary Ricks

As of Friday, July 5, 2013  

205846_segos_herb_farm6959_t180

Business name: Sego's Herb Farm.

Owners: Kathleen and Roger Sego.

Address: 4820 N.E. 306th Circle, La Center.

What the business does: Sego's Herb Farm is an organically certified medicinal herb farm on 55 acres which grows and sells goldenseal, ginseng, and ginkgo. The primary market is to wholesalers located throughout the world.

Steps to build your business: Roger Sego said he and his wife have added additional fields, expanded markets and distribution channels, and expanded their brokerage and advisory business. In 2010 they built a building with improved facilities for their workers. The farm also recently opened a retail store.

Greatest challenge: Sego said his biggest challenge is dealing with the zoning of their property, which effectively reduces their ability to grow. The Segos' home and the farm are on a single lot, which limits their ability to obtain financing for the business. The county has been unwilling to allow them to split the property into two separate lots, Roger Sego said.

What's ahead: Sego said they have orders for their entire crop this fall so for the next six to eight months they will be harvesting and shipping their products. If he could get the zoning issue resolved, Sego said the farm could begin planning for expansion. Sego is looking into the possibility of selling limited quantities of organic ginseng to the local market on an appointment basis.

Owners' business history: Roger Sego's background was primarily in sales in the insurance industry prior to moving to the Northwest. In 1989 he returned to school at Oregon State University to obtain a degree in horticulture. He then worked in the golf course industry and in the organic fertilizer industry prior to starting the farm. Kathleen Sego was an investment banker prior to coming to the Northwest, and is currently chief financial officer for Certified Languages International and Avatron Software. She also is on the board of the Columbia River Economic Development Council and is active in Clark County PubTalk.

Year established in Clark County: 1998.

Employees: Five.

Telephone: 360-263-7757, 503-819-8934.

Fax: 360-263-7749.

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Website: http://www.segoherbfarm.com

Hours: Call for times.

Brianna Loper

Roger Sego, owner of Sego's Herb Farm, holds dried ginseng in his warehouse. The farm washes and dried their own ginseng. Part of the product is left in barrels for consumers to pick through, and choose their own ginseng.

205846_segos_herb_farm6960_t180

Brianna Loper

Roger Sego holds dried ginseng.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

     

2010: Frontier Natural Products Co-op awards grant to Sego's Herb Farm

Meet Our Goldenseal Grower

goldenseal

In 1996, concerned with the dwindling number of goldenseal plants in the wild and the overuse of the precious herb goldenseal for non-effective purposes, Frontier launched the "Save the Goldenseal" project. One of the aims of the project was to encourage cultivation of this important medicinal herb so that we could eliminate wild-crafted goldenseal from our purchases. In only three years, we were able to do just that. Frontier has sold only cultivated goldenseal root ever since and much of the industry has moved to cultivated goldenseal, greatly reducing the pressure on the plant's wild populations.

usmap "Save the Goldenseal" led us to meet growers Roger and Kathy in 2006. Since 1999, they had operated their small farm in Washington, primarily growing organic goldenseal as a cash crop and produce for their own needs. Roger and Kathy built their business slowly and sustainably with the help of several long-time employees. Roger and Kathy describe their relationship with their workers as "extremely family friendly." Employees' families spend a lot of time at the farm, growing and processing organic vegetables with Roger and Kathy, as well as feasting on fresh garden produce to celebrate the summer holidays. Roger and Kathy even added a poultry flock because their workers asked for it.

In spring of 2010, Roger and Kathy's farm became a Frontier Well Earth partner. We especially like how they have worked to build a sustainable goldenseal farm, utilizing local waste materials to build their soil, developing an intercropping method of controlling fungal disease, and producing their own goldenseal rootlets on the farm to ensuring organic planting stock. Other sustainable practices include composting crop residues, recycling gray water to use in irrigation, maintaining a five-acre wooded buffer along the stream that runs through the farm, and maintaining a natural grassy, wetland on the property. We love the quality of the goldenseal we get from Roger and Kathy and are pleased to have them as a Well Earth supplier. We are also pleased that, as part of our support for Well Earth suppliers, we were able to award them a grant for $6,500 towards purchasing root cleaning equipment and to purchase seed stock to conduct trials of new herbs for cultivation.
 Copied from Frontier Natural Products Website

 

 

2010: Sego's Herb Farm was featured in an article in The Oregonian.

Goldenseal pays off for La Center's Sego's Herb Farm

RogerSego-goldenseal

DEAN BAKER, Special to The Oregonian, Published: Friday, September 17, 2010, 5:49 PM

Roger Sego shows off harvested goldenseal at his farm outside La Center.

After 12 years of working the rich loam near Mount St. Helens, Roger Sego has found a golden key to organic farming success: a medicinal herb called goldenseal.
He's succeeded in growing the medicinal herb while the rush to grow such herbs, especially ginseng, has faded nationally. Farmers glutted the market a few years ago, driving the price down. Where once there were 50 medicinal herb farms in Clark County, now there are three.
The biggest success is Sego's organic goldenseal. It's still worth $40 a pound or more, or several hundred thousand dollars a year to Sego.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is traditionally found in the wild and used to treat digestive problems, skin problems, diarrhea and liver conditions. It is marketed as a blood purifier and also used for colds and sore throats. Demand for the commercially and organically grown herb has grown substantially as less has been picked by wild crafters working in the forests.
Sego, 62, a former insurance executive, has joined his wife, Kathleen, to spend their retirement growing goldenseal along with organic ginkgo biloba, echinacea angustifolia and ginseng on a 55-acre former cattle ranch, five miles east of La Center.
Sego's Herb Farm is one of two organic ginseng growers in North America; the other is in Ontario, Canada, Sego said. He sells his product to companies that make it into powder, capsules and tinctures. It's sold in health food stores. The Segos hit upon the notion of growing medicinal herbs in 1998. Like ginkgo, ginseng is an herb used to improve memory and fight stress and fatigue; it can be mixed into food such as casseroles. Echinacea is promoted as a remedy to shorten or lessen the symptoms of colds. After Roger Sego picked up a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University and worked for a time selling organic farm products, the couple scouted for a place with rich soil and turned the La Center cattle ranch into an organic herb farm. In a few years, they found there wasn't any profit to be made in echinacea and ginkgo, and they shifted their concentration to ginseng. When that market faltered, they switched mainly to goldenseal.
"It's turned out as well, if not better than we had anticipated," Sego said. "We're adding a new facility."

goldenseal-closeup

Dean Baker / Special to the Oregonian

After drying, goldenseal is turned into capsule form for sale in health food stores.
The new building will include a state-of-the-art 6-foot-by-40-foot stainless steel washer and dryer to treat harvested goldenseal and ginseng root, which six to eight workers now process entirely by hand.
"It'll be like a little Jacuzzi, and that will enable us to do an acre in less than a week where it used to take us two months," he said.

The Segos have 11 acres under cultivation, and each herb crop grows for four years before harvest. Workers harvest three acres a season, but the Segos hope to step that up to four acres soon. The farm's other 44 acres are in pasture, where workers raise some of their own produce and chickens. Goats will be added in the near future.
With goldenseal bringing $40 to $50 a pound, and the yield is 1,500 to 2,000 pounds an acre -- $60,000 to $100,000. Times three, that makes a solid profit. The overseas market that Sego is working to develop, from the Czech Republic to Great Britain, will bring $70 to $80 a pound, he said.
The other herbs are much less profitable. Gingko will bring no profit, he said. It goes for about $6 to $9 a pound.
Echinacea sells for about $14, and used to be $24, Sego said.
"The break-even is about $10 a pound." So there is a little profit margin for that herb.
The ginseng market appears to be making a comeback, he said.
"I'm being told that people are desperate for organic ginseng and it will bring between $50 to $90 a pound, and if we get 500 pounds to the acre, then it will be a little bonus for the system."
Charles Brun, horticulturist for Washington State University and Clark County, said the Segos are likely to remain one of the few financial success stories in the medicinal herb market.
Sego's Herb Farm Visit: Roger Sego welcomes visitors to the farm by appointment only. Learn more: 360-263-7757 or segoherbfarm.com
"It costs $20,000 an acre just to set up to grow ginseng," he said. It's simply too expensive for farmers wanting to get started now.
The Segos got into the market at the right time, and went organic, and now their front-end expenses are mostly paid, Sego said. Goldenseal seals the deal, he said.
Of course, he also plans to keep his full-time job buying and selling textbooks, and Kathleen Sego also works full time giving financial advice to startup companies. The paychecks add to their security.
"We don't plan to retire," he said. "The guys here run the farm," he said. "I come out here on weekends, and this is fun for me."
He admitted it also adds to the bottom line.
--Dean Baker, Special to The Oregonian
Goldenseal pays off for La Center's Sego's Herb Farm (printable PDF)

 

 

2001: Sego's Herb Farm was featured in an article in The Columbian.

The article below is reprinted with permission of the author.

COUPLE BANK ON HERBS FOR HEALTH, WEALTH

Dean Baker, Columbian staff writer August 1, 2001; Page c1

LA CENTER ---- Fresh from the world of high finance, Roger and Kathleen Sego have moved to the country here to nurture a new kind of farm on the rich loam highlands east of town. They're growing organic medicinal herbs: three acres of ginseng, two acres of goldenseal and 500 ginkgo trees. Three accompanying acres of echinacea angustifolia failed to produce a profit. Now the Segos are thinking about growing organic garlic, as well.
It could be an organic farming breakthrough for Clark County agriculture. Their effort is a beacon that might either flicker out or serve as a guide for Clark County farmers looking to launch into lucrative international markets.
Organics (pesticide-free) can work, Roger argues. But ginseng? Yes, said Roger: organic, and with plenty of cash to back it up. While more than three dozen Clark County small ginseng farmers lost their shirts in a saturated nonorganic ginseng market over the past few years, the Segos' 3-year-old, 55-acre farm is about to turn a profit. Why? Because it's serving an emerging market, based in China.
The herbs are ingredients in health-enhancing compounds used to fuel the human body, fight colds and heal burns. Most of the remedies are made in China and marketed in Hong Kong. Organic medicinal herbs are rare, and in demand. Sego named just two other organic growers: one in Friday Harbor, the other in British Columbia. There are also so-called "wildcrafters," who harvest wild, natural ginseng from the woods.
Nonorganic ginseng, on the other hand, was a fad crop in the 1990s and became quite common here. Clark County had about 50 nonorganic ginseng farms in the early 1990s; now it has about a dozen, all of them small. In Washington in 1998, there were about 160 nonorganic growers with a total of 200 acres in ginseng, according to the Pacific Northwest Ginseng Growers Association, of which Roger Sego is president. In 1998, the Washington farms produced about 12,000 pounds of ginseng ---- or one-half of 1 percent of the total U.S. production of 240,000 pounds. The 1998 Washington crop was valued at just $240,000. The production cost was about 26,000 an acre over four years, the association said, with a yield of 2,800 to 4,400 pounds. That's a bit shy of Segos' outlook for 2001-2002.
He figures on getting between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds of fresh ginseng root at $25 a pound: $75,000 an acre. That compares with the current going price of $15 a pound for nonorganic ginseng, which is down from $55 in the early 1990s, $40 in 1995, and $20 in 1998. Expenses are likely to be $20,000 to $25,000 per acre, said Sego. "I actually could get 500 pounds off this field," he said, "and break even."
He intends to have four acres of ginseng growing, one acre ripening each year, all of it hand-hoed. He plans the same amount of goldenseal. Sego thus tallies $50,000 profit each year on a different acre. He's hoping for a better price for ginseng, and said he's lately been negotiating a contract with an English company at about $60 a pound. "There could be some substantial money involved, for ginseng, on an organic basis," he said. "But that's pie in the sky. Until the fat lady sings, I just count my minimum."
Cutting into his profit was a major setback, the failure of his echinacea. He got 2,000 pounds an acre at $7 a pound ---- too little for a profit ---- and he's not growing echinacea any more, letting the land to go back to pasture grass and thinking about garlic
For the goldenseal root and leaves, Roger expects $15 a pound and about 8,000 to 10,000 pounds an acre, optimistically $150,000 an acre. The dried ginkgo leaves have gone for $7 a pound. The trees are only 31/2 feet high, so it's too early for an estimate there. "It's early in the game," said Washington State University horticulturist Charles Brun. "I hope he succeeds."
Organic pipe dream? Most farmers believe it's impossible to grow ginseng organically. "Everyone has told me from day one that you can't grow ginseng organically," said Roger, standing and smiling in the middle of his organic field. "I hope that word stays out there."
His secret is a "compost tea" he makes in consultation with plant pathologists and horticulturists at both Washington State University and Oregon State University from waste from organic Hood River apple orchards. While this "tea" and his homemade brewing method are unproven, they should be watched with optimism, experts said. Brun backs Sego. "He is somebody trying to chisel out a niche in agriculture," said Brun, "and that's what we need more more than anything else."
The Segos came to this farm well-studied in herbs and with capital from a lifetime of work. They paid about $1 million cash for the farm, formerly a beef cattle operation. The acreage is ringed by maple and aspen trees and includes a new four-bedroom house, two tractors, diggers, plows and discs
Roger was an executive with American International Group Insurance company and an organic fertilizer salesman. Kathy was an investment banker. This farm is their retirement dream. Married 30 years with two grown daughters, they lived in Portland's exclusive Dunthorpe neighborhood before moving here. Earlier, they worked in Chicago and Seattle, where they gathered up the necessary cash.
Although Kathy plans to keep working for a computer startup, Roger said he expects the farm to support the couple in style by next year and even to yield a half-million dollars a year within three years. Good timing They timed their move onto the farm. "When the ginseng price was $40 a pound, the seed was $135 a pound and you needed at least 100 pounds to plant an acre," said Roger. "That's why many didn't plant an acre. But when I got into it, the price of seed was $30 a pound." So it worked financially
"You don't start an operation like this if you don't have money in the bank," said Roger. "Your interest alone would eat you alive." It was while selling fertilizer to ginseng growers in British Columbia that he got his idea for this farm. "I came back to the hotel that night and called Kathy and said: 'I've found what we should do in retirement,'" he said.
They had been thinking of a Christmas tree farm, but this idea clicked. The right soil is the key, he said. He shopped for months across Clark County, turning shovelfuls in many fields before settling into the place two miles east of La Center. It was the right moment, he said. At one time, British Columbia and Ontario each was growing 4,000 acres of ginseng, and Wisconsin had 2,000 acres, said Roger. "With that type of supply, the price went down to $8 at one point." Then ginseng farmers dropped out by the hundreds and thousands. Wisconsin entirely got out of the business. And then the market began to recover and change, Roger said.
Organic has new appeal. But neither he nor Brun expects a great rush of farmers to grow organic herbs. Still, "if a guy was a gambler," said Roger, "now would be the time to get into the ginseng business because the price is so low." Dean Baker covers agriculture. Reach him at 360-759-8009, e-mail  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

     

Articles appear as they were originally printed in The Columbian and may not include subsequent corrections. All materials appearing in The Columbian are protected by copyright as a collective work or compilation under U.S. copyright and other laws and are the property of The Columbian Publishing Company or the party credited as the provider of the content.
Reprinted with permission of the author (the provider of the content).

     
     
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July 2013 23:42