Valplantes Bio Alp Tea
is a farming co-operative for organic herb teas and medicinal plants which was established in 1987 in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Canton of Valais. Some 150 families living in Sembrancher and the surrounding mountain communities grow, gather, dry and process organic medicinal herbs in keeping with the rules and quality standards of BioSuisse, the Swiss organisation for ecological farming. In doing so, the families of farmers not only earn an important additional income; they also help to keep alive mountain communities threatened by exodus.
The diversity of herbs ranges from edelweiss, sage and mint to pimpinella, ribwort and thyme. With their Bio Alp Tea the growers, who are advised by the RAC research centre in Conthey Châteauneuf and the Ecole d'Ingénieurs (engineering university) of the Canton of Valais, have successfully brought to market the world’s first organic iced tea.
Sage and Thyme Help to Secure Jobs
The farmers not only earn an important additional income, but keep alive mountain communities threatened by exodus (Source: VALPLANTES).
The project has had a positive effect on the environment and the economy by preserving traditional jobs in agriculture through organic cultivation, protecting the Alps’s unique meadow flora, and attracting green tourism as a secondary effect. Five jobs have been created at the co-operative itself. At the annual meetings, large and small-scale producers have equal voting rights. The energy balance is also noteworthy. As no machinery can be used on the steep slopes, all the harvesting is done by hand. And the fact that the herbs are dried naturally means substantial savings of energy and transport costs.
The Valplantes Bio Tea co-operative is also an asset item for the regional value added. Each year, more than 100 tonnes of organic herbs are produced, harvested and marketed to large Swiss food chains. The co-operative boasts an annual turnover of up to €1.3million. It means that older family members and also women farmers unable to work off their farms because they have small children have an opportunity to earn a living – and preserve traditional know-how.