NORTHWOOD, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota's only mint farmer is about to begin harvesting his unusual and aromatic crop.
Troy Uglem of Northwood told the Grand Forks Herald on Thursday that he plans to harvest the spearmint within a few days.
Uglem said he's been growing the crop since 2001, but it's only a small part of his 4,000-acre farming operation.
In the the past five years, production and prices for wheat, corn and beans have been high. It's more difficult to "pencil out" profits raising spearmint, Uglem said. He's reduced his mint acres to 100 this year, a third or less of what he used to grow.
A decade ago, Uglem was one of three farmers in the state growing spearmint. He said those farmers have since quit doing so. One farmer in Pierre, S.D., also grows mint, he said.
"It's not like any other crop grown around here," Uglem said.
The mint oil Uglem harvests is used to flavor gum, toothpaste, food and liqueurs. A little goes a long way: A 55-gallon drum of mint oil can flavor 5.2 million sticks of gum, according to the Mint Industry Research Council.
Uglem produces 40 to 50 pounds of spearmint oil per acre, which fetches up to $15 per pound.