The Year in Review – 2017

2017 was most certainly a dynamic year. Some have called it a Year of [Natural] Disasterwhile others have focused more on culture and politics with suggestions like:

For Blue Ridge Aromatics, 2017 was a year of Solidification. We focused on: distilling more species, larger batches, creative and sustainable sourcing and engaging more directly with you, our community of artisan essential oil aficionados, fellow natural product businesses, plant lovers and growers!

Community Engagement

We jumped on an opportunity to sell our oils at the West Asheville Tailgate Market, which is a wonderful community of local growers and craftspeople!

This was a fantastic learning experience, allowing us to listen more closely to your preferences for a growing essential oil distillery.  As a result, we began offering 2ml sample-size bottles which brought our oils into the $5 range and also allowed us to break out some of our previous batches that were too small to sell in 5ml bottles. We also made valuable connections for sourcing fresh plants to turn into beautiful essential oils!

In late summer, we hosted our first public distillation workshop at Flat Creek Farm in Black Mountain, NC. Then in the fall, we held a distillation workshop in Montreat, NC at From Harvest to the Shelf: an Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition 2-Day Training Program. Expect more workshops in 2018!

More Species, Larger Batches

One thing we often talk about is the large amount of fresh plant material that is required for essential oil production. How do you source large amounts and a variety of plant material affordably while also being environmentally sustainable? This is the largest challenge we face from a business perspective. The solution requires creative sourcing and small-business/public partnerships!

Fraser Fir Christmas Trees

We nearly doubled our Fraser Fir Christmas Tree oil batch over the 2016 batch. This was due to a very fortunate opportunity offered by the NC Audubon Society and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. In a project to extend a wildlife corridor and establish a nesting habitat for the Golden-Winged Warbler, the organizations purchased and cleared a Roan Mountain, TN Christmas Tree farm. They offered us the trees and we donated 15% of our website sales for the batch. The quality of this batch was higher than 2016 due to the trees not being sprayed for at least three years prior to harvest.

Demand soared for this oil in 2017 and we sold out shortly before Christmas. You can bet we will make a larger batch in 2018! In fact, we are planning to offer two choices of Fraser Fir oil; one low-price batch from discarded Christmas Trees, and a second batch from trees from “abandoned” Fraser Fir farms that haven’t been sprayed/managed in 15+ years!

Organic Herb Batches

We also partnered with several organic farms for specialty herb batches. Given the high value of fresh and dried organic herbs, it is usually not economically feasible for us to purchase large amounts of them for our batches. However, 2017 was a year of exploratory partnerships:

We sold out of the Spearmint and Tagetes batches but will be offering dilutions of the Tulsi and Lemon Balm batches early in 2018 as well as an African Blue Basil batch we grew. Speaking of growing herbs, we installed a spring-fed drip irrigation system on the Forest Farm!

Layout Plan for 500′ of drip-fed rows
Tilled into rows with added soil
The Mule loaded with food-grade water storage and drip parts
Spring catchment in place
The field is a 50′ elevation drop so we get around 20 psi of pressure for the drip system
Propagating cuttings for cultivation
African Blue Basil from our first harvest, ready for the still

We got a late start planting so weren’t able to grow as much as we aimed to but are already propagating plants for 2018!

Sustainable Wild-Crafting

As usual, sustainability is a pre-requisite for our batches. 2017 presented many chances to practice sustainable wild-crafting.

Tamarack

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey gave us a rare (in The South) Tamarack/Larch tree to distill

Eastern Hemlock

Power line maintenance crews left us Eastern Hemlock branches to distill

A wet spring meant some very prolific nearby Mountain Mint populations that we sustainably harvested from; leaving at least one stalk of flowers on each plant to ensure pollination and genetic diversity.

2018

We’re excited and optimistic about the future! We’re going to improve across the board and promise:

  • Wider species and product selection, including
    • Pre-diluted dropper and roll-on blends
    • Expert-crafted aromatherapy blends
    • Oils that include diffusers
    • Multi-species sample/gift boxes
    • An “Oil of the Month” subscription
  • Larger and more frequent batches
  • Retail displays
  • More workshops/demonstrations
  • More batches with 3rd-party GC/MS analyses
  • Dedication to making beautiful, carefully-crafted, unique and rare artisan essential oils!

Thank you for your continued support and we hope you have a great start to the New Year!

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