Farmer markets dandelions to Japan
Turn a stubborn weed into a cash crop
A P.E.I. farmer has found a market in Japan for what many North Americans consider the most offensive of weeds.
Raymond Loo of Springfield in central P.E.I. has a contract with a Japanese company to produce almost 1,400 kg of dried dandelion root. The product is sold as a coffee substitute in Japan. It's also used medicinally, as a diuretic.
"Dandelion is only a weed because they're not worth anything," Loo told CBC News on Friday.
"As soon as we get paid money for it, it'll no longer be a weed."
For frustrated urbanites who find it nearly impossible to rid themselves of dandelions, farming them might seem like the easiest job on Earth, but for the professional farmer, there are difficulties.
"The seeds don't behave themselves. They won't land on a nice straight line," said Loo.
If the roots are going to be easily harvested, they need to grown on hilled rows, a problem with seeds designed to fall wherever the wind blows them. To help with the job, Loo researched a specialized dandelion planter, which a local company ordered for him.
Dandelions with an edge
To secure the order, Loo needed to do more than be able to grow and harvest the roots efficiently. Dandelions are notorious for growing anywhere, so for Loo to sell his product, he needed an extra edge. He sold his it not just as any old dandelion, but as dandelions from the land of Anne of Green Gables.
"It's valued in Japan where people recognize Anne," said Loo.
And that's a fact well known to Loo's farmhand, Miyuki Nomura, who is visiting from Japan. She came to see Green Gables, to work on a farm like she did, but never expected to be working on a product that would be shipped back home.
"I'm really surprised that he's making coffee. I knew he has pigs, and dogs and cows, so I thought I will feed animals," she said.
Loo is hoping his new crop won't be limited to selling the root. He is also investigating the market for dandelion wine.