You can find The Herbal Market Part 1 here.
Adding freshly-picked sage, rosemary, lavender and basil to the cooking is a must for every good meal. Fresh peppermint ice tea augments any summer afternoon, just like warm peppermint tea made from leaves dried in the summer with honey eases a cold winter’s evening. These plants are also cultivated on a large scale to satisfy the demands of a modern market. In the Aisch River Valley, at the base of the low mountain range Steigerwald in Franconia, growing herbs for mass distribution is the work of farmers like the Martin Ochs in Mailach.
“The soil is fertile in the hollow where we farm called the Edelgraben,” says Martin Ochs. He points to a blooming field of purple flowers as we drive by. “This is echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or Rudbeckia purpurea). They will be ready to harvest now. And there: there’s the field of tropaeolum that we harvested two days ago.” During the harvest there is no time for an interview, he says, but I am welcome to accompany him on his tractor.
“We’ve been farming herbs since 1984. We plant peppermint, mallow, lemon balm, for teas and Echinacea, artichoke, tropaeolum for dietary supplements. Just to name a few.”
In the early 1980's, ten farms formed a cooperative and built one drying facility. The facility was already at the limit of its capacity in the early 1990's. Seven of the farms then formed the Erzeugergemeinschaft (EZG) and each party built their own drying facility. Together the farms of the EZG have become an economic association with the aim of the joint marketing of their product: medicinal, herbal, fragrance, aroma and herbal plants. Together they strengthen the market position of the member companies.
Acting as President since 2009, Martin Ochs is also responsible for the EZG management. The EZG acts as the contact for buyers, leads contract negotiations and closes cultivation contracts. It handles the ordering of seeds and seedlings as well as packaging material. It is committed to improvements in cultivation (market trends, mechanization) and processing (energy requirement for drying) and cooperates with institutions of research and development. The EZG Group for Medicinal, Spice, Perfume and Aromatic plants w.V. Aischgrund attaches great importance to the fact that research and development projects need not be only the concern of the producers and the buyers, but government advisers and research institutions are also included in furthering the quality of production.
A total of 402 hectares are cultivated between the seven member companies. In 2004, 145 hectares were planted with cultivated herbs. For the most part, cultivated herbs are marketed as a dried product. The member companies now have seven drying facilities at their disposal. The dried herbs are then bundled and shipped for further testing and production.
What started in 1930 as the Herb Processing Plant Martin Bauer in Vestenbergsgreuth in Franconia, Germany is today the world’s largest supplier of herbal and fruit infusions. Three companies make up the Martin Bauer Group : Martin Bauer, also making medicinal teas, refined green and black teas, herbal powders and botanicals; Plantextract, making fruit and herb extracts, black and green teas, and Finzelberg, making herbal extracts for phytopharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements. These companies are globally active in a group known as the nature network®.
Consumer awareness of healthy and natural ingredients has increased enormously in recent years: the consumer of today is much more attentive to the lists of ingredients on the product’s packaging – one reason is because of the increasing number of food allergies and intolerances. Healthy and natural products are higher in demand than ever before and a naturally grown product like tea fits into this trend.
Martin Bauer supports this trend by compiling tea blends that meet the high demands of consumers for taste and naturalness, for example committed U.S. customers who demand high quality and ethical standards of the ingredients / herbs and their origin. They also offer a wide range of products with seals of quality such as "organic" or "Fair Trade".
Their mission, what they call the Holistic Corporate Responsibility, is firmly anchored in their corporate culture. Specifically, this means they maintain a fair partnership with their staff and with their global business partners. Production methods of herbal raw materials are conducted in a manner to conserve nature - so that the diversity of today's resources will be available for future generations. This is done by using environmentally-friendly technologies. And the Holistic Corporate Responsibility in the nature network ® is a commitment to social, sporting and cultural projects in the areas in which they live and work.
(This article by Laura Libricz appears in its entirety in the Feb / March 2012 issue of German Life magazine. Just click on the link for more information.)