The American Turmeric Company

By Sandra Yerges, University of Minnesota Crookston

It was inevitable that someone in the Southern United States would take it on. Ed and Diane Taylor as well as their family began with a farm first and then, while employing the ancient art of fermentation, produced unique turmeric products. Diane said, “We chose to grow turmeric because of the research showing its health benefits.” Much to their excitement, the crops flourished in the sandy and humid conditions on their Georgia land. “Turmeric can be harvested year-round, and we produce products year-round,” Diane added.

This crop has many unique qualities, one of which is that it maintains its growth pattern throughout the year. Being that it is a perennial plant, it alters the way Ed harvests them. Unlike other farms with annual crops that demand a strict and regimented harvesting season, turmeric can be harvested whenever the plants are ready throughout the year. “Turmeric is constantly there,” Ed admitted.

Similar to a potato, turmeric is a rooted plant with rhizomes growing in the ground. These roots are dug up with each plant supplying approximately fifteen rhizomes. Instead of taking each of them to their on-site processing facility, three are saved and replanted to add to the existing plants in the ground. Given that they multiply with every harvest, turmeric plants are continuous and ever-growing crops.

Even though there is no set time for gathering these rhizomes, there are seasonal tasks for this company that occur on a regular basis. In late April, the turmeric leaves, known as shoots, make themselves visible through the soil and continue growing up to four feet as time progresses. To ensure they are well cared for in their humid growing environment, Ed waters and feeds the plants through their irrigation system. As a farm who elects to not use chemicals to mitigate weed growth, it is a “constant battle” of maintaining the existing plants while removing the weeds.

In the summer months, upkeep is the main priority. Once it reaches fall, the turmeric leaves typically fall to the ground and act as a barrier for the plants in the winter. Not only does this coverage protect the plants in the ground, but it also prevents some of the weeds from popping up once the plants sprout again in the spring. In addition to the natural leaf coverage, Ed takes advantage of their county’s wood mulch stockpile to add to the protection within their fields.

The acreage of land the Taylors farm upon is not the only land producing turmeric for The American Turmeric Company. Small-scale farmers in the area are learning how to grow turmeric from Ed while contributing to the raw commodity output. In turn, these farmers are earning incomes while growing in their knowledge of this often-overlooked plant.

Throughout their time growing the farm, Ed and Diane realized that individuals did not share the same expertise about turmeric as they did. Because local farmers were not willing or able to withstand the growing demands of creating turmeric products, the level of knowledge surrounding this plant has been limited. Diane noted, “A lot of people are misinformed because 99% of the turmeric sold in the United States is sold in powder.” Much of this powder is imported, and The American Turmeric Company is looking to change that by spreading the word about the planting process of turmeric.

“Consumers want turmeric that works. Every compound in turmeric is healing and important in the healing process,” Diane pointed out. When eaten with food and oils, an individual can be exposed to hundreds of turmeric compounds, including its oils, enzymes, curcuminoids, and phytochemicals. The Taylors indicated that the quality of turmeric products will improve when consumers understand how to recognize misleading labeling.

Ed and Diane feel strongly about this facet of farming because of the scientific-based health benefits surrounding turmeric and its properties. “Our customers give us independent and remarkable testimonies about their health. We too have seen reversals with painful skin problems - even psoriasis - and gout,” stated Diane. As it turns out, animals have joint pain too - even elephants! The American Turmeric Company was contacted by the North American Elephant Refuge to supply them with turmeric powder. Every month, this company donates turmeric powder for the elephants to consume.  

With these observable benefits in mind, the Taylors hope that scientists and health care providers turn their attention to turmeric. “The new medicine now is natural medicine,” said Diane. She further stated, “Our first boost to success has been our customers who appreciate the authenticity of our products and tell us of their positive health benefits.”

In order to achieve their goal of making their turmeric available to a much wider customer base, they sought help from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Georgia as they worked to grow their business. The SBDC provided information about the VAPG, hosted an informational webinar regarding the grant program, and gave assistance to the Taylors during the application process. After working with a consultant in preparing the grant application, they were granted $250,000 in September 2021.

From funding their shipping supplies to updating their labels, the grant has financially assisted a broad range of activities at The American Turmeric Company. There are expenses associated with running their USDA certified processing facility, obtaining raw materials for their turmeric fermentation process, and financing marketing labor. Each of these costs are offset with the reimbursement funds from the VAPG.

The grant has also been a substantial help for showing the world the power and process of turmeric farming through professional videos, photos, and social media advertisements. Their website includes many of these visual elements for customers to enjoy that were created by highly skilled marketing professionals hired with grant funds. All these marketing elements have been a huge help to the Taylors. “The Value-Added Producer Grant has really meant everything to us,” Diane expressed. Ed added, “It was a lot of work but so worth it.”

Whatever path a farmer may choose, Ed and Diane hope they research and find the best crop to suit the environment for which they live. Starting small with the available land is important as well as being open to USDA grants to assist in marketing. Their openness to the VAPG allowed them to promote and enhance their company in a way that supported their mission and benefited the public.