Toothpaste Flavor Grown Here

Spring is a critical time for perennial crops in Wisconsin to develop properly. One of those unique perennials is mint.

Fourth-generation farmer Richard Gumz of Gumz Muck Farms in Endeavor grows 600 acres of mint. It’s mostly peppermint and some scotch spearmint. The oil from the mint is used in products such as toothpaste and chewing gum. He says mint does better with a warm spring with adequate rainfall. He says irrigation is usually only necessary if the mint is grown on high, light ground.

The 600 acres at Gumz Muck Farms this year is the least amount of acres the family has devoted to mint. Gumz explains this is because the end-users of mint oil are sourcing it cheaper from Asia. However, North American mint is of the highest quality because of the unique weather conditions, which gives Wisconsin mint a more robust and long-lasting flavor than its international counterparts.

Mint fertility programs mimic corn, using potash, nitrogen and phosphate. Gumz says the inputs have been available, but more expensive. That will cause a pinch on revenue because mint is grown on contract. While there’s some indexing to the contracts, there will still be a marginal profit.

When it comes to pests, the flea beetle is the largest threat. This pest lays eggs in the fall in the mint crop. The larvae then chew on the root system the following year, which depletes energy in the crop. An insecticide treatment is used after harvest to control the flea beetle. Meanwhile, field rotation is used to prevent verticillium wilt, a disease most prevalent in mint.

In addition to mint, Gumz Muck Farms grows specialty potatoes and onions, and veggies for canning.