Thank you to Farmer to Farmer volunteer Clare Licher
Jamaica is blessed with an abundance of essential oil-bearing trees and plants, but the once-thriving local distillation industry died off decades ago.
The distillation of essential oils offers local farmers the chance to make use of plant material that is currently unused or wasted, such as pimento leaves left over from the processing of berries or the fevergrass that sits idle in most yards, bringing in additional income. It is also nice to have access to locally-produced essential oil, as imported oil is hard to find and what is here is expensive.
Partners of the Americas found the perfect volunteer to help resurrect this industry with a nice dose of information and consultation. In Arizona, distiller Clare Licher from PhiBee Aromatics faces a similar situation to ours: there are no miles of cultivated plants for distillation; instead, Clare has to gather the small and scattered amounts of plant material in her environment.
Clare came here for 2 weeks and taught around 120 people how to distill essential oils from local high-yield plants including fever grass, pimento leaf, khus khus grass (vetiver) and also from low-yield medicinal aromatic herbs.
She also facilitated a discussion over three public no-cost workshop days about the feasibility of a distillation cooperative where the public could bring in plant material to be distilled, with different reasonable payment options that include just trading a portion of the oil for the labor of distillation. The fourth workshop day was dedicated to the staff and officers of RADA, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority. They support community groups who are developing agricultural value added products and farmers who would be interested in making essential oils from the plants on their farm.
Thank you so much, Clare, for your time, wonderful energy, excellent ideas and valuable information, all shared with love with Yerba Buena Farm and the people of Jamaica.