When customers ask Diane and Ed Taylor about the pain-relieving properties of turmeric, they tell them about Bo and Tarra.

The two Asian elephants, who live on the 850-acre Elephant Refuge of North America (ERNA) in southern Georgia, no longer suffer from arthritis since they began taking a turmeric supplement grown and sold by the Taylors.

“Since Bo and Tarra have been on their turmeric, they have displayed no signs of stiffness or joint pain,” Carol Buckley of ERNA said. “What a blessing to have this premium grade organic turmeric grown right here in South Georgia.”

The Taylors have been growing the golden rhizome—known for its properties as a powerful anti-inflammatory—for almost 10 years.

Both Taylors come from farming backgrounds, but it wasn’t until Diane experienced a traumatic brain injury that she began to grow medicinal herbs. Diane experimented with plants such as aloe vera and scoured medical journals for information on how she could lessen her use of pharmaceuticals and improve her health outcomes.

Ed Taylor harvesting turmeric from his farm in southern Georgia. (submitted photo)

In 2015, Diane discovered turmeric at her local market and wondered if it would grow well in South Georgia. Before she knew it, Ed had planted 1,000 turmeric plants in their home garden.

As the plants were growing, Diane would go outside to weed. She would pull out some of the root, wash it off and chew it. After a few months, she noticed that some of the aches and pains she had been experiencing were gone.

By studying the biochemistry of turmeric, Diane found that it has a strong anti-inflammatory effect. She and Ed started growing even more turmeric, as in South Georgia the winters are mild enough grow the plant year-round.

Ed, an engineer by trade, started building a website. Their business, the American Turmeric Company, was officially founded in 2018. While they produce turmeric oils, powders and purees, the largest amount of turmeric that they sell by volume is to dog food companies.

Turmeric plants on the Taylor farm.

As they established the business, they focused on building strong personal and professional connections in Georgia. Andrea Collins, executive director of the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce, recommended them to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

“We knew that part of our success was going to come out of making the right connections,” Ed said.

Working with faculty members Alyssa Foskey and Walt Moore with the UGA SBDC at Valdosta State University, the Taylors learned about a USDA Value Added Product Grant, a two-year award that allows producers to be reimbursed 50 cents for every dollar spent.

With help from a grant-writing team recommended by the SBDC, the Taylor’s were selected for a $250,000 grant.

“The people that we worked with were so amazing,” Diane said. “They put us through the process step-by-step and allowed us to understand what we needed to do with the application. Without their help, we couldn’t have done it.”

The Taylors have also worked with Dimitris Kloussiadis at the SBDC International Trade Center to identify countries that produce high-quality turmeric. Kloussiadis helped them import turmeric powder from small, organic farms.

“For us, the SBDC has been a great resource,” Ed said. “It’s given us a place where we can reach out to make contacts that we otherwise would have no way to make. Food PIC is a good example of them opening a door for us.”

Diane hopes to work with the FoodPIC to process products to ship to premium grocery stores.

“Our goal is to get turmeric into the hands of more people,” she said.