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Growing Organic: Aromatics, Inc.

It’s interesting to hear about someone’s lifestyle choices ‘before’ and ‘after’ they decided to “go organic.” The change is often sparked by some kind of revelation, inspiration or health-related event. The ‘after’ tends to involve better food, better body care products and a lifestyle guided by healthy intentions and more awareness of variables affecting the environment and everyone along the supply chain.

Most domestic farmers who grow organic crops also have a conversion story to tell. I thought about this recently as I visited with our partners from Aromatics, Inc. at some of their farmers’ fields in Oregon. Aromatics is a long-time supplier of Frontier’s natural and organic peppermint. They’re now supplying us with spearmint, catnip, echinacea, scullcap and alfalfa. As a supplier, Aromatics works with a number of independent farmers to coordinate crops and harvests for our botanical needs as we service our co-op members’ customer needs. Aromatics plays a vital role in helping us maintaining our quality standards at the source.

Conventional farming is easier when you don’t really think about and internalize the impact of the production process. Your customers care a lot about that impact, however, so we’re excited to help more farmers go organic. Just like when consumers go organic, farmers tend to make the switch after some kind of catalyst sparks the process. For many farmers in Oregon and Washington, Frontier Co-op is that spark, and Aromatics helps us ignite it.

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“It’s quality, reliability, consistency…” Kurt continued. “It’s honesty, trustworthiness. Protect the environment. Respect for one another. Listen to the grower. Listen to the customer and be a partner. Challenge is great. Your best moments in life come from these challenges and overcoming them and arriving at success.”

Talk about common ground

All farmers are dialed in to the notion of maximizing yield in order to make more money, but organic farmers are especially attuned to other variables that matter to all of us. Take soil health, for example. Depending on what a field needs, an organic farmer might take an occasional year off to plant a cover crop just to put key nutrients back in the ground. Weed control is tougher without chemicals but avoiding the toxicity levels to the plants, the soil and our bodies is worth the extra effort.

It’s amazing how being better stewards of the earth can match up with the goals of organic consumers. For example, Kurt showed me how his farmers are using buried drip lines to irrigate new echinacea crops destined for Frontier bulk displays. The lines are underground so they provide water straight to the plant roots – this conserves water while keeping it away from weeds. To apply water via spraying it in the air, an irrigation method common in the region, results in much of it evaporating while a lot of it ends up unintentionally watering weeds. Any farmer can utilize buried drip irrigation lines, sure, but it’s worth the extra labor and trouble when chemical-free weed control is a primary concern, like it is with organic growers.

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So, buried drip line irrigation involves using less water, getting water to plant roots more efficiently and avoiding the incidental watering of weeds… all while avoiding chemicals and maintaining better soil health. It might sound like a no-brainer from the consumer end of things, but remember, conventional farmers just aren’t used to doing things this way. It’s just one example of the extra effort organic farmers can go through to produce a better healthier product.

“I do it because I’m passionate about it,” Kurt shared, acknowledging all the additional work that comes with organic growing methods. “For us, success comes at the end of the year. September and October. The harvest has just come in the door, the quality is just impeccable and then we just sit around and look at each other and say 'man, that was a job well done.’”