What you are about to read is based on over 29 years of looking at the reality of an ever evolving system of ethics, quality and price: essential oils from the fields of the world to your homes.
This is not meant to judge anyone, but to help understand the complexities that all companies with many products have to deal with.
One needs a base in what is in order to make choices.
Companies understand that most of the general public purchase on simple emotional associations; influenced but repeating commercials. The habit of watching and not looking any further. Entertainment and satisfaction is nice, but not to be fooled, but then again how could you know all that happens subconsciously.
In marketing we are told to keep things simple and give them what they want to hear.
At the risk of losing customers, due to habitual conditioning requiring slick marketing, we still believe education rules. A problem is that little knowledge can be dangerous or the polar, far enough over individual boundaries can overwhelm. How many layers of an onion is too much?
We buy organically grown products, but this is not always possible and sometimes not desirable. We will not buy organic just because it has a symbol associated with it and may be easier to sell to an influenced audience. We are not saying don't purchase a product with a symbol on it. The simple fact is, we must be selective no matter what someone calls something.
Luckily many essential crops do not require pesticides or much added compost or water.
In general, for the industry as a whole, the organic associations and compost producers are doing their very best to create soil that is as healthy as possible. We do not believe any compost company in the country can guarantee 100% that no herbicides, pesticides or GM are in all of the final products. (PAS 100 standard) Think of the logistics of GC-Ms testing 1000000's of tons of compost. They would go out of business, just as the water authority can only take spot checks of the rivers of water that are brought to your taps. Filtering your water to eliminate known unwanted substances is the best way to dilute or eliminate them to reduced effect.
Nothing is 100% when it comes to everyone's"natural" environment. We have become pedantic after many years of studying oils into the "finite". At parts per trillion humans have spread their creations to all parts of our planet and now through our solar system. How deep can we have time and money to go. An example is finding chemicals at parts per trillion from the other side of building, through doors, in a Gc-ms sample. With limited resources in a diverse environment we need to understand risk probability. The human system has been dealing with the environment for a long time and at low levels should stimulate a balance response.
One would think this subject has an easy choice. You are either for or not for, stamped or you don't get symbol. The truth is no matter what you are for, due to the geological, sociological and economic mix, there is a what is - reality, that we all have to deal with. A general conclusion is, if we wanted to feed the world organically there would not be enough organic compost to feed the soil to grow the plants. Organically grown has to help conventional be healthier and a hybrid system will be the best we can do on a global scale. Making and purchasing compost locally is the best carbon footprint. Local niche farming can be as close to 100% Organic as can be with lots of hard work.
Sometimes organic oils are better, not as good or similar to the ones not marked with a symbol. They can be marked up due to perceived value and extra administration cost and paying for a certificate. One would think it's very clear just because a symbol is or isn't put on a product there is a clear and absolute line, but when you investigate the total picture, there is a reality unto itself. This is a complicated subject and needs much thought to see and know the ever changing specific and general realities. We would be better off to just stick a symbol on the product "for those that don't want to look any further", but we would like to try to say exactly what we believe to be true. The problem is no one can be every where at all times in such large chains of events.
We always buy the best oils that we can find and have been doing a great job of it since 1985.
Sourcing and purchasing is an ongoing process, quality and ethics has to be the primary goal.
Example: Kobashi Chamomile's are some of the best on the market and they are grown conventionally. We actually paid MORE for our "Conventionally grown" Blue Chamomile one year. We could have bought "Certified Organic" for 200GBP per kg less (!), but the quality wasn't as good. Do you think Kobashi is being foolish, because it would have been easier to buy/sell the organically certified and made a much better profit?
Life is contradiction in balance. In the end we have to test and move to what's best, not based on money, but if it cost too much we go out of business.
Farming is a business just like any other. Farmers won't use pesticides or herbicides if they really don't have to: they are expensive.
Many Farmers believe in growing organically; however many would say it's not logical to let insects ruin their crops. Common sense says they are likely to turn to pesticides if it means their livelihood is in jeopardy. Many of the essential oils are sourced from developing countries. This aside most wouldn't even have the money to use chemicals or the money to join an association.
Organic has become big business and lobbying to put less and less organic in a finished product and call it "organic" has taken place and continues. I think everyone could agree that this has to stop somewhere, near the originators idea, but an evolving hybrid system is the way.
Unfortunately, there are examples of farmers having to use herbicides, because weeding isn't easy. If a field has uniformly wilted burnt like, brown and black plants, it most likely has been sprayed with herbicides. We have heard on more than one occasion of farmers using extra herbicides before going into conversion, just so they don't have to weed for years to come. If you actually farmed you would know why. Tilling soil for a years, using many gallons of Diesel and still growing weeds is not very environmental.
Certified or not, there are no absolutes in Conventional or Organic growing when it comes to world markets. We would be amiss if we did not investigate, test and be vigilant to expose the realities and help us become better.
We have grown essential oil crops letting the weeds and insects take over resulting in a low yield, but with a healthier, diverse, permaculture like environment. This can only work with limited supply in mind and is not economically viable. Farming is not usually a hobby and most businesses have a bottom line based on maximizing profit to simply survive and serve.
Kobashi organic Lavender grown in Devon. (Notice the weeds in this picture and the picture with the Lavender and hills at the top.) Make sure to plant your rows straight and make them the size needed for you tractor wheels to more easily cultivate.
The majority of Kobashi oils are naturally farmed, sustainably wild crafted or organically certified at source.
We created some of the best organic Lavender that we have ever experienced. The problem was that we couldn't create enough for the demand. Farming essential oil crops must be done on a very large scale to be viable..
Kobashi's present Bulgarian Lavender oil after cultivating (pictured above) was grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides, but fertilizers were used.
Kobashi's supplier of Lavender High fine received organic certification, but has more than doubled the price to us. He actually always grew it Organically, but since he has certification he has jumped on the perceived value bandwagon. Two years we protested by not purchase, but did then purchase due to being a very fine oil. A problem arises when one farmer or supplier raises the price others follow and we get unrealistic inflation. Yes, real organically grown should bring a higher price due to lower yields and extra labour cost, but it should not be unrealistic. Then again his price may be justified when Shab (Phomopsis lavandulae) a parasitic fungus attacked French Lavender. We must flow when it comes to commodity price, but we must get the facts correct and not become greedy. "Remember the peak of tulip mania in February 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman."
Fluctuating market environments allow price and quality to modulate within the restraints of supply and demand; exasperated by perceived value.
In our opinion, the two Lavenders we have in stock are excellent. One you will pay more because the farmer/distiller has paid his money towards organic certification and now believes the public likes symbols and will pay for them. This doesn't mean that another grower for the many oils we purchase doesn't give a fair deal.
We guarantee all Kobashi products are the finest quality. It would be nice if everything could be grown organically. I know many companies will tell you all their products are organically grown. They will tell you that belonging to an association is the only way to verify that a product is organic. From our experience, our opinion is the reality has been and may be different.
To further complicate this topic: In a real world, where will we get all the real organic fertilizer to supply the world crops? We are always open to finding the answer. ( The fact is, a great deal of the "Organic" matter comes from household gardens and common sense says that's a hard one to control.)
A "rare" example of herbicide damage from "Organic" compost in New York State.
We have to include the reality that the organic system has it's flaws, no matter how good intended. We will have a hard time keeping up with demand. Everyone will have to do their part at home to make fertilizer really pesticide and herbicide reduced, by using them as little as possible. To us it is an ongoing and never ending goal to aspire within, no matter what club we are in.
At the end of the day it's better to try to grow organically. We cannot control everyone and everything. We are not going to just get certified and not let you know some of the possible realities. Certifying our products will not change our products at all.
Certify everything by what ever association could be easier, but the truth is our products wouldn't be any better, but they would cost you more. This does not mean that we wouldn't join an organic association. We do believe that the majority are doing their best.
I think before anyone makes a decision they must actually try to farm on a commercial level. I believe a hybrid way, a mix of traditional and organic methods is best.
What we can control is how we source, test and purchase the end product, not just a paper trail with trust. As much as we want to trust, humans can make mistakes.
If one never farmed home gardening could be confused with commercial farming.
All of us must work together to educate about the truth and stop being afraid to see farther than what we want to hear. Any fanatical fundamentalist philosophy can not be truth.
Yes, it's complicated and it takes hard work and stamina: reality and truth is what it is and ever evolving. Life is not a symbol or a picture, as much as we want to embrace them to feel the earth's stable under us.
Our favoured method of growing is permaculture, but this isn't always achievable . In the event of the never ending specific sourcing and purchasing we always make available to you the best.
This sums up Kobashi's stance:
We detest harmful herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. If used correctly and to a minimum when there is no other way, that is a logical hybrid system. If we find them in essential oils or carrier oils that batch is rejected and the supplier is notified.
Lynda and Scott Ballard
PS: Further down the rabbit hole; more on the same: personal opinion from experience on Naturally Farmed, Sustainable Wild or Organically certified at source.
Click here: Know your environment by greenpeace.to
Search on Organic Green waste and follow the trail to the Organic farms. Make them as Organic as possible.
Standards horticulture minutes