Bamboo is versatile as a farm crop. Primarily income will be from
fresh bamboo shoots. Rock Ridge Cidery & Orchards in Western Washington has been selling bamboo
since 1990. The sale of bamboo shoots covers labor costs every year. Rock Ridge sells to high end
restaurants and caterers and at Farmers Markets and their farm stand. In 2010 Rock Ridge sold bamboo
shoots for $3 a pound retail. Bamboo Shoots that measured 3 inches and more in diameter sold for $5 a
pound. A Japanese restaurant buys 400 pounds each week and pays $5 a pound - happily. They are glad to get
fresh, large, uniform bamboo shoots.
To produce bamboo shoots, you thin the groves to keep them open. The poles
that are thinned are an additional farm crop. Bamboo groves maintained to maximize the size of shoots also
maximize the size of the poles. Large poles sell for more than small ones: Moso 12' x 3" retails for
$20; 1 2'x 4" for $29; 12' x 6" for $50! Poles while still growing in the grove are called culms.
Culms are round below the branches and round with a groove above the branches, sort of the shape of a
capital "D". Depending on variety and maturity, branches will start at 12 to 30 feet above the
ground. It is the branchless part of the culm that has value as a pole.
Once you have cut the branchless valuable part of the pole, you are left with the
top with its branches and leaves. Cattle, horses, sheep, goats and fowl love bamboo. They enjoy pulling
the leaves off the twigs. They thrive on bamboo leaves. It makes sense. Bamboo is an evergreen, perennial
grass. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfTxEDzJB0M "Cows Love Bamboo"
The fibers of bamboo mulch bind together. They make an excellent cover for fields.
Use the mulch to fill holes in dirt roads, to free a vehicle stuck in mud or snow and for livestock
bedding. Bag it to sell in garden centers. (We need research on bamboo shredded as an ingredient in
After livestock have eaten the leaves, shred the branches.
It takes a powerful machine to shred bamboo. Small shredding machines are clogged by bamboo. Its long fibers
wrap around the teeth and stop the machine from turning.
Chickens thrive scratching under the bamboo. They eat weeds, "bamboo grass", and
bugs. They aerate the mulch and fertilize with their droppings. Move them frequently to keep the grove
weed free. They will save you a lot of work cutting "bamboo grass" by hand and will provide an additional
income source. At least three months before shooting season, remove the chickens. You do not want their
droppings to contaminate your bamboo shoots. Return the chickens when shoot harvest is over and the new
crop of poles is tall enough not to be damaged by hungry beaks.
I do not have first hand experience with bamboo charcoal. Claims for its use for
medicine and water purification abound on the internet. I expect it burns in grills just fine and reduces
odors in cat boxes.
Use it like active charcoal for filtering water and air.
And then there is biochar, a product that enhances soil life.
When working with bamboo there always are scraps. To use them to make charcoal (another farm product) makes
Most people in the American Bamboo Society are plant collectors and
nurserymen. Most find that selling a bamboo plant is a good way for them to make money from bamboo. The
photo shows a truck and trailer hauling full size bamboo. In this case the nurseryman was paid to remove
the bamboo. You can sell large specimen plants out of your grove and still harvest shoots. My favorite
bamboo farmer, Wade Bennett of Rock Ridge Orchards, said that his mission in life was to grow food. He
stopped selling plants and concentrated on shoots years ago. Never the less, when the grove spreads beyond
where you want it, dig up the wandering culms and sell the live plants - like giant plugs of turf.
Peace and Beauty
A well maintained bamboo grove is beautiful. In the heat of summer, take your
family there for a picnic. It will be the coolest place on your farm. Ten degrees cooler than outside the
grove. Invite your friends for summer cookouts. I knew a man in Oregon who had a secret table and chair in
his grove. A retreat. I knew a man in Seattle who had a secret place to throw his sleeping bag and
Plant your bamboo inside pastures. Fence it off from grazing livestock. They can walk around it for shelter
from wind, rain, sun. Whatever comes up in the pasture, they will eat down to the ground. Use the animals to
control the spread.
Buffer and Privacy Screen
Bamboo groves are useful to separate one activity from another or to shield your
operations from a highway. If you plant bamboo along a highway, it also will advertise that you sell
shoots and poles. Nursery men say that what they sell is "privacy".