Growing up on the tropical east coast of Australia, Ross Harding fondly remembers stopping at one of the region’s ginger farms while on a family beach trip.
“I didn’t grow up on a farm – I’m actually a chemist,” Harding says. “But it was one of those things we’d always do.”
When his career brought him to Savannah, the city’s wet, humid climate and sandy, well-drained soils reminded him of his childhood home, so Harding and his business partner, whose family owns Lebanon Plantation, began brainstorming on new ventures.
“At the time, we were very deliberately talking about ‘superfoods.’ The ginger family is very good for you, and it also tastes good, so we said, maybe we should grow ginger,” Harding says.
“We saw the opportunity and deliberately set out to grow organic ginger and turmeric to make high-quality value-added products like snacks, cookies, candies, syrups and wellness products,” Harding says.
He adds that in recent years, ginger has become increasingly more popular because of its wellness benefits, but it’s still an ingredient that seems to intimidate people.
“Ginger is one of those products that almost everyone knows about but they’re not sure how or where to use it,” he says.
Through their line, Verdant Kitchen, Harding and his business partner are working to make the ingredient more accessible through tasty and nutritious products, including ginger pecans, ginger sauce, ginger syrups, ginger ale and their Savannah Snaps cookies, which won first place in the snack foods category at the 2015 Flavor of Georgia Contest.
Since they began Verdant Kitchen, Harding says the business has doubled every six months.
“We double and triple the size of planted acres each year,” he says.
They’re also looking at producing ginger capsules as a supplement.
“We’ve really been so fortunate and couldn’t have done it without the people who helped along the way,” Harding says. “We get to work with a wonderful network of organizations that are there to help new businesses in the foodie network,” he adds. “They really have been a huge help.”