From Seed To Skin

While paddock-to-plate is now commonplace, one brand is committed to the lesser known premise of seed-to-skin

From Seed To Skin

All images courtesy of Jurlique.

It all started with one couple, one dream and a humble herb farm in the Adelaide Hills. It’s been 30 years since Dr Jurgen Klein, a biochemist and naturopath, and his wife Ulrike, a horticulturist and botanist, arrived in Australia in pursuit of a fertile patch of dirt in which to grow their dream. This little patch of dirt would eventually become the birthplace of natural skincare brand, Jurlique – a phonetic combination of their names – which today grows 32 different herbs, from marshmallow (to provide hydrating and softening benefits to the skin) to spilanthes (to soothe the skin), for a skincare brand that’s now stocked in more than 1200 stores in 20 countries.

“Predominantly we grow European herbs, as they quite like the Adelaide Hills for its cooler growing climate,” says Jurlique’s horticultural specialist, Marc Intervera, adding that their farm is about as close to the European climate as you can find in Australia. And having been with the company for five years, he should know.

But even with that very first seed, Jurgen and Ulrike practiced a form of farming that has since made its way onto the menu descriptions of hip city cafes and restaurants alike: the biodynamic approach.

Conceptualised by Rudolf Steiner and first appearing in farming circles in 1924, biodynamic farming aims to not only grow high yielding crops but also nurture and increase the fertility of the soil. “It views the farm as a living individual within the living earth and universe,” says Marc, chatting from the Jurlique Herb Farm, a larger property just down the road from the original Jurlique HQ (as the brand grew, so did its need for land). According to Marc, the soil is treated with a mixture of fermented plants, minerals and animal substances and they also use a one-in-three rotation, where the same family of plants, excluding perennials like rose and birch, aren’t grown in the same ground for more than one in three years.

“It’s creating a highly fertile environment,” he says. “We make our own preparations and use them on the property – in the soil, in the atmosphere and in our compost, to help activate the vitality and life force of the farm.

“We really do control the supply chain from seed to skin,” he continues, “From the hand that puts the seed in the ground all the way through our manufacturing process and ultimately to the stores.

“We can trace a product on the shelf all the way back to where and when the petals were picked on the farm,” he says proudly. “From seed to store, we have full traceability.”

According to Marc, what happens at the store directly affects what happens on the farm. He says Jurlique aims to only grow the number of plants they’ll actually need, derived from projected sales forecasts, plus a buffer.

“Each year we have enough herbs stored in our sheds to last us for the next three years,” says Marc.

Picked from October to mid- December, in a seven to eight week harvest, herbs and flowers remain in a drying shed for up to a week before being vacuum-sealed and a sample from each batch sent for quality testing. In Marc’s five years, he says not one batch has failed the test. Since its establishment in 1985, Jurlique has grown much like the herbs it cultivates. The year 2011 was something of a rebirth for the brand, when it was sold to POLA Orbis Holdings, a Japanese cosmetics and skincare company, for a reported enterprise value of AU$335 million (3.5 times its 2011 sales).

“Being a skincare company, the current ownership has long-term ambitions in the skin care industry. They are here to grow the company,” says Marc. For a brand that has been around since the mideighties, Jurlique has aged better than most, perhaps a testament to its organic practices.

Ulrike still visits the farm and has been a vital part of the company’s 30th-anniversary celebrations around the world, which includes the release of the limitededition Precious Rose Hand Cream, a more intense version of their international best-selling Rose Hand Cream. Alongside the 14 other employees at the farm, Marc is seeking to contribute to the legacy left by their founders.

“We are really just gatekeepers here,” he says, “Helping to look after the farm so it’s in the best condition possible for the next generation.”

This article is a preview from The Collective Issue 24, on stands 3 August 2015.