This past spring David and I traveled to the south of France to meet Michel, the head of ‘S.A. Plantes Aromatiques du Diois’ (SAPAD), which translates to ‘Aromatic plants of the Diois region’. It is SAPAD who, over many years, has developed and nurtured relationships with its forty-plus certified organic farm-cooperative members. From them, we source a variety of aromatic plants including lavender, thyme and clary sage and use these lovely, single grower oils in our serums, moisturizers, cleansers, butters and balms.
Though we have been working with this group for some time, it was a treat to meet the people and see the farms first hand. We were delighted to meet Pierre-Maurice, the nose (‘le nez’) who treated us to a sampling of freshly distilled essential oils. As we waved the lightly saturated scent strips under our noses, Pierre-Maurice would describe the background and specific characteristics of each plant, where it is grown and when it was harvested.
We were invited to join their staff for lunch at midday, and afterward we toured the region’s lush surrounding valleys of the Rhône Provençal. Travelling along the narrow winding roads that hug the meandering Drôme River, we made our way from Loriol to the honey-scented fields of Vercheny nestled between the cascading Alpine mountains to see how three generations of farmers carry on a proud family tradition.
Our conversations with each – entrepreneur, artist, and farmer – were simple, but our understanding and respect for their vocations profound. As our stay drew to a close we were comforted by just how easy it all was. Each meeting, each relationship was simply ratified with that time-honored gesture of human contact– a handshake.
Around here that is how business is still done.