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Sept. 2010:  My distillery is still
operating!  Check out my hydrosols - from organically grown herbs and plants here at La Paix.  And about l/2 the price of others on the web!

Wouldn't it be wonderful if West Virginia farmers could grow for a market in West Virginia which could transform their fresh produce into a finished product?  Many herbalists, therapists, aromatherapists and cosmeticians in West Virginia use essential oils in their products.  They must buy these oils from out of state companies.  I have a dream that West Virginia farmers could grow the herbs needed for an essential oil distillery in West Virginia.  This would
1)  increase the farmer's market, 2)  stimulate value added products,
3)  encourage research and
4)  provide a finished, pure, environmentally friendly essential oil and hydrosol to buyers everywhere.

The photos here illustrate:
Top:  Field of Grosso Lavender in Provence, France, July 2001.
Bottom:  Shop window in Provence, France.

Distilled to date 2010:  Lavender, Lemon Balm, Rose Scented Geranium, Thyme, Peppermint, Egyptian Mint, and more.  For more information click here. 

 

 A large commercial essential oil distillery could be built in West Virginia, and if it were owned by an herb grower's cooperative, a business could be developed serving both West Virginia herb growers and the surrounding population with jobs, related businesses (marketing, packaging, labeling) and a true West Virginia product.  This model distillery project was funded by SARE (N.E. Sustainable Education and Research - USDA) and WVU Extension Service in conjunction with La Paix Herb Farm in 2001.  This was the first step in discovering how such a commercial essential oil operation could be accomplished.  La Paix's Herb Farm's  Essential Oil Project is a pilot program showing a model essential oil distillery in operation and illustrating its potential for creating jobs, new products and markets for herbs in West Virginia.
Next Grower's Meeting:  April 26th, 2003.

In 2001, a grower's group of ten was formed, lavender and lemon balm plugs distributed, and research conducted on growing lavender and other essential oil plants.  Research was documented on both growing and the distillation results.  In 2002, a continuing group of six growers documented the growth of their plants.  In 2003, these growers and other potential growers will meet at La Paix on April 26th for a workshop on lavender propagation, essential oil distillation and planning for continued research.  Plans for the July 12th Lavender Fair at La Paix will be discussed.  In conjunction with a mental institution, research is beginning on the Efficacy of Lavender in a Hospital Setting.  Research continues on growing, harvesting, distillation, essential oils, hydrosols and marketing.  Results will be updated on this website.  The steward of La Paix plans to publish a pamphlet on Growing Lavender in West Virginia at the end of 2003 - based on the research results to date.

The Essential Oil Distillery was purchased from Robert Siedel of the Essential Oil Company.  This photo shows Judith, (Apprentice 2000) visiting in 2001 and examining the retort. (tall cylinder on left)  Her friend, Jesse, looks at the condenser (smaller cylinder on the right). 

The retort has been filled with water up to the bottom of a steel basket prior to putting the material in the retort.  Flowers/leaves/or bark are placed in a container  (I use a clean pillowcase used only for that purpose).  The pillow case of material is held above the water by a steel basket placing the material six inches above  the bottom of the retort.  The steam builds up to about 200 degrees (temperature gauge is on the right side of the retort).  Steam circulates through the bird beak to the condenser (next to Jesse).  The bird beak circulates steam to the condenser.  The condenser has coils within it which circulates the steam.  The condenser is filled with cool water which turns the steam to essential oil and hydrosol (floral water or hydrolate, as it is known in France). The hydrosols and essential oils are separated by a separator which can barely be seen here (in Jesse's left hand).  The water in the condenser is kept cool by re-circulating through  a series of three graduated steel containers of water.  This was the innovation of the steward of La Paix who was tired of buying and carting ice to keep the condenser cool.  The concept  was brought to fruition by another apprentice from WV Wesleyan College, David Nichols.  It works very well.

This shows the distillery, which is now located on a patio which was built by the side door of the Shop.  The distillery had to be moved to a roofed patio as steam from the distillery threatened the books I have for sale in the Shop.  Anne Romance of Green Heron Gardens, is shown on the left.  She brought lemon grass and lemon verbena to be distillled.  Cass Nelson-Dooley, an apprentice in August and September of 2001, is on the right.  She was instrumental, as a chemistry major, in teaching me how to sanitize the bottles used in collecting the hydrosol.  I have become very interested in the hydrosols (see Herb Product Page) and am experimenting with their uses in a variety of ways, including hand wipes, fertilizer for plants, and stopping raging stallions in their tracks.  Two books which I have found invaluable are:  Hydrosols, The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty (see Herb Product Page) and Jeanne Rose's book on Hydrosols.  For more pictures of the distillation and an explanation, go to The Essential Oil Company site. 

To date, I have distilled the following flowers, twigs and leaves:  lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon grass, peppermint, spearmint, Egyptian mint, goldenrod, witch hazel, autumn olive blossoms, thyme, anise hyssop, catnip, spicebush leaves and berries, purple perilla, yarrow, and fleabane.  Research into their uses is fascinating.

Epilogue:  The dream of a large commercial distillery in WV did not materialize for various reasons:  crop failures, not enough interest etc.  However, I continue to use my distillery and distill many of the herbs and plants at La Paix Herb Farm - all grown organically.  And.....for eight years we had a Lavender Fair  here - sometimes drawing over 500 people. 

La Paix Herb Farm
3052 Crooked Run Rd.
Alum Bridge, West Virginia U.S.A.
(304) 269-7681
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