A group of women, some land, an idea of working together growing aromatic herbs, and Naturellement Chouette is born. In 2013 we created this non profit organisation which brings together six women, all wanting to work in a way that makes sense on every level (for us, as well as for economy and ecology of our area).
Lesley, Florence, Kate, Swan, Julie, Sophie, we are from various backgrounds and have a range of skills. Julie grew up on a farm and feels at home working the land, Swan and Sophie have in-depth plant knowledge, Kate is a trained accountant, Florence's job involves helping group projects get started, Lesley has worked in publishing and is the communicator. Since the creation of Naturellement Chouette we have all been taking training courses to improve our knowledge. We are all also bringing up our children.
We are working on land which has been abandoned for years, often old vineyards, around where we live. Rather than a large scale, highly mechanised mono-culture, producing plants to sell by weight, our land is made up of small fields adapted to the scale on which we want to operate. We use small machinery or work manually (the best way to care for aromatic plants). Our aim is to make our own products with our own plants. Our project has inspired the landowners in the area, including the local council, who were quick to rent us some fields to get started.
We have chosen plants that are well adapted to the soils of the region, and the Mediterranean climate - thyme, lavender, savory, oregano, mint, verbena and sage. We bought the plants from an organic grower based a few kilometres from here. We are not seeking an organic certification as this is a lengthy and expensive process, but we work without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides and our fields have been empty for many years.
The Haute Vallée de l'Aude is a forgotten corner of France. The unemployment rate is high, if you want to work, you often have to create your own job. The aim of Naturellement Chouette is to re-use abandoned fields to grow aromatic plants. We work as a cooperative, where everyone contributes to the decision making process. We prioritise proximity in our choice of partners, but in our search for ideas and information and research on techniques our sources are global.
We create products for which the production processes are simple. Our first product, VAM - Vinaigre Aromatique Ménager (Aromatic Cleaning Vinegar) is based on a very old recipe. Our dream is to market this product (which Lesley has been making for years with plants from her garden) as an alternative to the chemical cleaning products found in most homes. Our long term aim is that VAM users will be able to bring their bottles back to be refilled. Our latest product, a herb salt with 50 per cent herbs, is already on sale along side VAM in certain local shops.
The desire to work together
We meet up as a group to work in our fields, harvest and dry our plants, make and sell our products, create and plan our brand. Working as a collective gives our project its impetus and strength and will, we believe, make Naturellement Chouette economically viable in the long term.
We have created a non profit organisation in order to start our activity, create our products and market test them. Next we plan to create a cooperative and jobs. This is a 'transition' project aimed at developing the local economy. We have invested from our own pockets (to buy plants, a water pump, packaging for our products...). To continue supplying our clients and increase our production we plan to plant more fields.
That's why we are inviting you to support our project...