Becoming a Bamboo Farmer
April 26, 2006 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to make a living as a bamboo farmer? How would I go about this? Leaving NYC might be a first step. After that, other than scaring off the pandas, I am stumped. Where should I go? How much space would I need? What do I do once it gets grown? How can I learn more? And why is this suddenly so fascinating to me?
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'll tackle the first question only. These folks appear to be making a living farming bamboo, and they might be able to help you figure out answers to most of the rest of your questions.
posted by ambrosia at 2:33 PM on April 26, 2006

I don't know the answer to your question, but bamboo is an alien weed in New Jersey. It grows unstoppably along some roadsides.
posted by landtuna at 2:37 PM on April 26, 2006

I'm not sure if you'd consider this farming but these guys do a good business, as far as I can tell, as a bamboo nursery, specializing in hardy varieties for the Northeast. They're also very knowledgeable and helpful.

Please, please, please be responsible growing running (as opposed to clumping) varieties. I've seen acres laid to waste in LI and MA by people who planted a little bit but didn't know what they were getting into. The stuff gets out of control very quickly and will obliterate anything in its path.
posted by TimeFactor at 2:43 PM on April 26, 2006

Washington State U's list of commercial bamboo farmers.

The founder of Australia's commercial bamboo growing leader's founder's story of how he got into the bamboo growing business.

The Australian Bamboo Network looks like a good resource.

So, apparently, Australia is a big producer of bamboo. The Pacific Northwest also seems to be pretty big for growing bamboo shoots for eating.

I regularly see fresh bamboo shoots for sale at my local mom&pop grocery store, so someone's growing them around here.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:01 PM on April 26, 2006

My paternal grandparents were bamboo farmers and the first three years of my life were spent in a country home adjacent to endless hills of bamboo in Miaoli County in Taiwan. That said, I doubt my grandpa actually planted any of it - he just owned this huge plot in the mountains where it grew like weeds in dense forests. Sigh, wish he was still alive to answer a question like this.

For your last question, I've always found it fascinating that for something as simple as grass, it was endlessly versatile. With my grandparents, I had three meals a day of bamboo shoots and pork (the pigs were fed bamboo scraps), eaten with bamboo chopsticks while sitting on bamboo chairs over a bamboo table. In the wild, there's something sexy about vast forests of this slender, bright green plant, the way the leaves rustle as the wind blows though, how sunlight peeks through in thin slivers...

Seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers? There are beautiful fight sequences that take place in bamboo forests.
posted by junesix at 3:03 PM on April 26, 2006

Check these guys out. It was started by one guy making trips to China to harvest some weird species and now I think he has a huge farm on the southern Oregon coast.

You'll definitely need to have A LOT of land if you want to sell running bamboo, especially the larger timber varieties.
posted by mathowie at 3:04 PM on April 26, 2006

After you have found "A LOT of land" be sure it has a lot of water, this grass is thirsty stuff. For example the Oregon coast can be dam wet place. The golden bamboo (a runner) i have regulary breaks the pot's i put it in, even the plastic ones.
What junesix said, i love those bamboo forest fights.
posted by blink_left at 8:39 PM on April 26, 2006

Bamboo is awesome. I have and really love The Book of Bamboo which has a lot of natural history, history, usage information, etc. It isn't a nursery book, it's more of a plant sociology book. I can't recommend it highly enough to a bamboo lover.

I would think that it would be a tough go to be a successful farmer of the stuff. Nursery farmer would seem to be the best route, and I know nothing about moving into that field, but it would seem to be pretty specialized.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 AM on April 27, 2006

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