Photo by Stéphane Mingot
Edelweiss grows at altitudes ranging from 1,800 meters to 3,000 meters high in the European Alps. It has a small white flower known as the “Queen of Flowers” and only blooms for two months – August and September.
Edelweiss is also an excellent skincare ingredient with loads of anti-oxidants UV fighting compounds it produces to survive in such an extreme environment.
At Extra Virgin Skin, we think Edelweiss is a mega ingredient and feature it in our Linea Bianca Collection. For something so crucial to our brand, sourcing the very best Edelweiss became an obsession.
Catherine Tornay lives in the heart of the Swiss Alps in the tiny mountain village of Reppaz, 10 km from Mont Blanc. She moved to the village 35 years ago and has raised her four children here. As well as helping her husband with their dairy herd and working as the local postwoman, Catherine cultivates Edelweiss plants for DSM.
Catherine cultivates Edelweiss plants for DSM
“I began growing medicinal and herbal plants back in 1990 and the more I learned about them the more fascinated I became. When the local co-operative approached me about cultivating Edelweiss for DSM I was delighted” Catherine explains. “It can be hard, as I have to weed everything by hand, but the flowers are so beautiful and I love watching them bloom. Harvesting them is a real pleasure too. The work is very intensive, but it’s wonderful to be outdoors in July when the mountains are at their greenest. My husband, sons, and grandchildren all help out too, so it has become a real family venture.”
Sustainable cultivation methods help protect and preserve the area’s unique biodiversity, and DSM’s collaboration with the Swiss cooperative Catherine works for also helps secure an income for local mountain farmers. DSM recently received North-North Fair for Life certification for this initiative. We assume all risks, so even in the event of crop failure due to natural disasters, bad weather conditions or pest infestation, the farmers receive their wage.
“Many people are moving away from mountain areas, because it can be so hard to earn a living. I love village life and want to stay here so I really appreciate having a guaranteed income from growing these plants” says Catherine. “I’ve had to learn a lot about organic farming over the years, and am still learning all the time, but the DSM team is very knowledgeable and supportive. I’m very proud of what I do and because DSM trusts us farmers to do our best to grow the highest quality plants, I genuinely feel that I’m part of the team.”
As well drawing satisfaction from knowing that the plants she grows are going into beauty products all over the world, Catherine is pleased to see her children and grandchildren beginning to share her passion for both the plants and organic farming.
“Often today, younger generations have no idea where their ingredients come from. My hope is that if they can begin to understand this, and the work that’s involved, then they will share these insights with others, who in turn will tell their friends and families. My young grand-daughter, for instance, is fascinated by life on the farm and my work on the plants for DSM’s ALPAFLOR® range. If everybody had the opportunity to see this aspect of supply chains, like she does, it would certainly make a difference”.