By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

Herbs play a big role in the culinary scene since it enhances the flavor and aroma of any dish. For agripreneurs, herbs open a plethora of business opportunities as these can be sold fresh or value-added into other products for extra income. 

Realizing the value of herbs, Joshua and Joanna Bondoc started an urban garden shop in Tarlac called Lush Herbs and More so they can provide their local community with the benefits of having herbs at their disposal. 

“My older sister’s (Joanne) affair in growing herbs started last May 2020 due to pandemic and for personal consumption. She then posted the result of her efforts on her Facebook account and the rest is history. As the global pandemic creates demand for online selling, gardening, and growing your food, we realized that this will be an interesting and profitable business,” said Joshua Bondoc, the head of marketing communications for Lush Herbs and More.

Lush Herbs and More began with Joanna’s herb gardening efforts.

Their parents used to have an orchid shop in the early 1990s which heavily influenced the siblings to garden during their childhood. 

“We did not have any prior professional farming experience, rather we have growing interest and perseverance to learn the ropes of growing our herbs and spices. There are a lot of online learning opportunities and the use of open educational resources such as social media, tutorials in various gardening websites, free downloadable e-books, webinars, free online courses from the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute, and more. Agriculture Online has also been a great instrument since it features a wide range of stories about our local agriculture landscape,” Bondoc said. 

He added that joining Facebook groups are a great way for people with a common interest in urban gardening since it provides a support group and learning platform on how to grow food in the local context and share gardening experiences.

Fresh herbs and more 

Based in Tarlac City, Lush Herbs and More sells fresh herbs and nutrient-packed superfood plants. The shop started by selling 15 different kinds of culinary herbs and mulberry seedlings. It has expanded to 20 kinds of culinary herbs and added different categories such as medicinal herbs, aromatherapy herbs, rare aromatics and spices, and edible flowers.

Eventually, the siblings realized that urban gardening is lucrative and that their local community can benefit from fresh produce.

It was established in July 2020 as part of the Department of Agriculture’s Basic Urban Gardening initiatives that the siblings wanted to promote in their local community. 

“We established Lush Herbs and More because we believe that our local community deserves to have high-quality herbs with the best customer experience journey and create a fun, memorable gardening experience when they get back home,” Bondoc said. 

At present, Lush Herbs and More offers culinary herbs such as sweet basil, Thai basil, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, parsley curl, celery, chives, and rosemary; medicinal herbs such as serpentina, native oregano, and insulin; aromatherapy herbs such as citronella and lavender; aromatics and spices such as black pepper, vanilla, and galangal; edible flowers such as blue ternate, and superfood plants such as mulberry and grafted fig. 

“Our best-selling plant is blue ternate at P80. Aside from its popular health benefits, its striking blue-colored flower is versatile to any culinary dishes, baked goods, and beverage concoctions,” Bondoc said. 

To help their customers properly care for the plants that they bought, Bondoc came up with an exclusive guide that their customers can access on their mobile devices.

Customers have access to an exclusive guide to help them better care for their plants.

Sourcing plants from other areas 

With the growing demand for herbs, the Bondocs had to offer a variety of herbs and spices to cater to their customers’ needs, which is why they source plants from other areas in the country.

Ethiopian cardamom, a rare spice being sold by the urban herb garden.

In doing so, the siblings were able to work closely with local farmers and suppliers to acquire different kinds of herbs and spices. For instance, they were able to source as far as Mindanao to acquire rare spice plants. 

They later propagate these plants through stem cuttings while other homegrown herbs are directly sown from seeds. 

“We love supporting and learning from our modern-day heroes, our local farmers,” Bondoc said.

Planning is key 

Having only established their business quite recently, the Bondocs rely on planning as their key to success. 

“I believe that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail.’ You need to plan your space, facilities, how to source your materials sustainably, use your resources efficiently and effectively, and how to grow them such as water, light, soil requirements, maintenance, and pest management,” Bondoc said. 

Growing their produce gives the Bondoc siblings a great sense of accomplishment aside from the monetary and health benefits that they gain. But most importantly, they are able to be of service to their community as they provide them with healthy options that they can incorporate into their lifestyles. 

For more information, visit Lush Herbs and More on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Joshua and Joanna Bondoc.