Country View: Mark Berry – Aloe Vera Farms – Harlingen, TX
Mark Berry bought aloe vera plants on a whim, and eventually turned it into a farm.
Radio interview source: Mark Berry, Owner, Aloe Vera Farms
While visiting south Texas, Mark Berry came across a man who was raising a big plot of aloe vera plants. Mark thought Florida had the monopoly on aloe, but the man told him he couldn't grow it fast enough to meet the demand. Mark was looking for something to get into, so he bought some aloe vera plants from the man. But there was just one problem. Mark says he studied political science in college, not farming.
"In the first year after I had the plants in, I made $15. I sold one large plant for $15 and I went down to the bank and asked them if I could open an account," he says. "He said you need $100. Then I started thinking, well this is getting kind of serious here so I started paying attention to what was going on."
It's been many years since that first plant was sold, and Mark now has 80 acres of aloe vera planted in Harlingen Texas. It takes four-to-five-years to get a plant up to production size. When it reaches maturity, the mother plant sends out offsets, which are baby plants that shoot up off to the side. The crop grows exponentially.
Mark started marketing aloe vera leaves to processors, who then sold it in bulk to cosmetic manufacturers. But the business eventually took on a different focus.
"I found some old timers that had been in it, and they had been marketing through health food stores," says Berry. "And I liked that. See, my mother died of cancer, and my older brother would say I heard of this, and I heard of that. When I got down here and discovered all the stories, the tales about aloe vera and how much good it was doing people, this was something I should have been into a long time ago. I could have helped my mother, I can help a lot of people."
Mark sells a variety of aloe vera products, including flavored juices, gels and lotions, cosmetics, and supplements.
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