Well Earth Partnership: Bay Leaf from Turkey
Our organic bay leaf (also known as laurel leaf) is wild harvested in northwest Turkey through our Well Earth partner Kutas. the world's largest laurel producer. Our bay leaves — from the laurel tree, Laurus nobilis — are gathered by collectors in what is traditionally a side-source of income for families. But as young people move to cities for attractive job opportunities, the pool of collectors is aging, calling into question who will collect laurel in the years to come.
Frontier Co-op and Kutas hope to address this changing dynamic in laurel collector communities. We found a 250-member collector cooperative in the village of Kurşunlu that's adding value for its members by doing the drying and processing of the laurel leaves it collects — jobs typically done farther down the supply chain. By keeping these processes in their collector community, the co-op is increasing job opportunities and income for their bay operation.
In support of this co-op — and their savvy idea for collectors in general — we're working with Kutas to provide them with clean, energy efficient dryers. These indirect heat driers greatly improve product quality. The previous driers were direct heat and allowed smoke to contaminate the laurel leaves, making them unusable by our standards. There is also less color degradation with indirect heat.
Sustainability is improved as well, since the new driers are powered by the laurel branches — typically waste after the leaves have been removed — that are chipped and then used to heat the boiler.
The new dryers will create new jobs by increasing the co-op’s capacity while also improving product quality and reducing respiratory risk for workers.
Well Earth is also funding training for the collectors in harvest technique to make the process more sustainable and ensure proper forestry management.
And the third part of our project is that we have provided scholarships to several local young women to attend university to become forestry engineers. The idea is that they will return to Kurşunlu to be employed by the laurel project and oversee the co-op's collection and forestry management practices.
Frontier Co-op's $57,000 donation to help the collector cooperative purchase dryers and improve their forest stewardship is an example of the respectful, mutually beneficial Well Earth partnerships that we're developing with suppliers throughout the world.