From farm to face: a passion for plants
Frederic Morard, farmer for DSM’S ALPAFLOR® Range
DSM Personal Care & Aroma Ingredient:
How did you become involved in cultivating aromatic plants?
Frederic Morard : My parents have been working the land here for over 30 years. They grew strawberries to begin with and then diversified into aromatic plants. I trained as a landscape gardener originally but have always helped my parents out and took over running their farm in my own right about three years ago.
DSM: Have you changed anything since taking over from your parents? Do you have a vision for how you would like the farm to be?
FM: In this line of work, you can always make improvements because there’s always something new to learn about different plants and what they need to thrive. First and foremost though I want to continue all my parents’ good work - I’ve learned so much from their horticultural approach over the years. Of course, I want to add my own personal touches too, and one way I’m doing this is by increasing the range of plant varieties. Some crops always fare better than others depending on the year so this helps spread the financial risk. It’s also better for nature and biodiversity too, so win-win all-round!
DSM: You are known for taking very good care of your plants. What, in your view, are the most important factors in growing healthy, high-yield plants?
FM: I’d say it’s about having an affinity with the plants and with nature, and about understanding as much as you can about their needs in terms of things like soil type, sun exposure or watering. Some things can change from day to day, season to season and year to year - and the small details really matter so it’s important to pay close attention. You also need to be responsive and willing to adapt your approach to the plants in front of you, but with my passion for what I do that’s easy.
DSM: What do you like about this work? And of the plants you cultivate for DSM do you have a favourite?
FM:I was born and grew up among plants and have always found them fascinating - there are so many different scents, colours and forms. I get so much satisfaction from being immersed in nature, surrounded by mountains; tending my plants and watching them bloom. I grow five different plants for ALPAFLOR® at the moment and I like something different about each one – the intense blue of the flax, the fragrance of the lemon balm, the beauty of the Edelweiss which has a special place with being our national flower... The fields of skullcap are also something to behold when they’re in bloom - the carpet of pink, lilac and white is incredibly colourful.
Field of skullcap – ALPAFLOR® SCUTELLARIA AO
DSM: You enjoy showing visitors your fields of flowers. Why is this important to you?
FM: I think customers from the cosmetics companies find it really helpful both to see where the ingredients they use come from and to learn something about the plants, I guess it creates a sense of connection with nature. When people have an appreciation of the work involved it also enhances the status of what we do here. It’s very satisfying for me to see how surprised and impressed visitors are when they see all the fields in bloom, the colours extend for miles.
DSM: And how do you feel when you see the final cosmetics products created from your plants?
FM:I feel very proud indeed. Supplying a major cosmetic ingredient company such as DSM is a real opportunity and to know that my plants are going into beauty products that are sold all over the world is an amazing feeling. I draw a real sense of value from this.
DSM: A key aspect of Fair Trade is, of course, fair payment, but how is this approach helping you more generally?
FM: Well we all need to earn our living so this collaboration means I can stand my ground in sometimes challenging conditions. But when you know you are collaborating on Fair Trade terms with a supportive partner you are also motivated to do the best work you can and to produce the best possible quality plants you can at all times. There’s a real chance to learn and improve what you do and ultimately, the buyer and end consumer also benefit from this. The stability has enabled me to extend my plantations too, so I can also give employment to other people locally.
DSM: There is much more awareness now of the need to protect natural areas and our planet, what do you see as the main challenges for your valley?
FM: We are lucky in many ways because being so high in the mountains and surrounded by forests the land is well protected and the air unpolluted. It’s an ideal environment for nature. However, I want to help keep it this way and it’s important not to be complacent. Our organic approach to farming is part of this but I’m also keen to encourage biodiversity, so I’ve already planted more trees, installed nesting boxes for birds and introduced beehives.
DSM: And what are your hopes for the future?
FM: I want to keep working with DSM and I’d like to grow an even wider range of aromatic plants. I also want to stay on the land here, surrounded by the mountains, clean air and beautiful flowers - it’s where I’ve always been and you could say it’s in my blood!