Friday, May 20, 2016

Aromatics Expert Trains Essential Oil Makers in Jamaica

Workshop participants gather to learn about essential oils.
Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Clare Licher is nothing if not passionate about her family-run business, PhiBee Aromatics, based in Sedona, Arizona. Building on almost thirty years of experience in aromatherapy and essential oils, Clare recently took her expertise to the Jamaican coast to work with Yerba Buena Farm in St. Mary. During her two week stay, Clare consulted with YBF on the logistics of establishing a commercial distillery and the growth potential of local and export markets. 

Why are essential oils so important to this community? 

Essential oils have a high price tag on the commercial market, both due to the time and labor intensive processes of producing them and the plethora of health benefits they provide consumers. While Jamaica is home to a variety of aromatic plants, there are currently no major distilleries located on the island to produce these unique products. Although they would like to break into this promising industry, YBF has faced technical difficulties in the past obtaining proper equipment and technical training to reap the benefits of the native plants that surround them.

Clare leads a distilling demonstration.

This is where F2F comes in.

Upon her arrival, Clare hit the ground running by repairing tools and gathering materials needed to successfully distill the oils. After performing a successful trial distillation, it was time to run four one-day workshops! From across the island, beekeepers, farmers, owners of cosmetic cottage industries, and professors gathered to participate in hands-on demonstrations of the distillation process. Some participants traveled from as far as four hours away and a total of 118 participants learned the basics of essential oil distillation. 

Clare reported overwhelming enthusiasm and stressed the exciting possibility of creating a high quality artisan oil industry in Jamaica. Community members appeared to be energized at the prospect of forming a co-op to produce the oils both for personal use and for supplementing their incomes.

Highly specialized volunteers like Clare are what make technical projects so successful in communities like St. Mary, Jamaica. Clare is the first F2F volunteer to work with essential oils, but is optimistic about the expanded potential of Yerba Buena Farm to create an artisan oil market with exotic and unique native plants.

To read about other F2F work in Jamaica, click here.

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