This past July our Supplements Category Manager, Caron, visited our supplier for the Kimberton Whole Foods brand herbal extracts, formulas and essential oil lines found in our Apothecary. The two day workshop took place at the Vitality Works Albuquerque, New Mexico facilities, with educational training led by their CEO and clinical herbalist, Mitch Coven. Here’s what Caron had to share after her experience:
I came away from this tour 100% confident in the excellent, ethical sourcing and processing of ingredients for these products.
Mitch Coven, the CEO and a highly-respected clinical herbalist for many years, gave fascinating seminars about the herbal industry and explained the many uses for well known herbs, including the formulas he’s developed. New formulas are coming out soon for heart and brain health, as well as a line of Certified Organic essential oils. The company has a well developed system in place for all unused materials. The excess herb materials are given to a local landscaper who incorporates them in his compost mix. It is a significant amount of herbs, approximately 1,000 pounds a day, that’s avoiding the landfill! They also sell excess drums to the public, that are often used as rain barrels. The funds Vitality Works generates from the recycling program is put into an employee fund — the employees then decide how it will be used (i.e. parties, etc).
Vitality Works supplies several other brands with herbal formulas, including Herbs for Kids, Planetary Formulas e.g. Indian Wild Cherry Syrup. An interesting back story emerged as to why Osha, a vital bronchial supporting herbal ingredient in the syrup, ran out. The local New Mexican family of harvesters that Mitch worked with for his supplies, suffered a terrible family tragedy and were unable to pick supplies for several months. In addition to its unavailability is that a solitary harvester in Colorado gathered more than he was permitted, was imprisoned, and Colorado then banned any more Osha harvesting. Coven explained that whenever a forest fire occurs and opens up the land to light, Osha grows abundantly. He believes there is no shortage in Colorado. Herbal businesses are working hard to lift the ban whilst ensuring only licensed harvesters have access to the plants. The herb is beginning to return to circulation as Vitality Works’ local family of harvesters recovers and returns to work in the hills. Harvesters are a breed of their own, according to Coven. They tend to live off the grid and are respectful of the land, knowing how and where to gather plants without affecting future supplies.
We had the opportunity to visit one of the company’s suppliers, Albiquiu Valley Farm, a beautiful organic, biodynamic farm about 6500 feet above sea level and 2 hours from the Vitality Works facility. The farmers (originally from Malvern, PA!) talked us through a typical harvest where they would mostly hand pick the herbs and immediately rush them by truck down to VW to be processed (extracted) upon arrival, to maintain all of their potent healing properties.
Having had the pleasure of meeting Vitality Works’ dedicated staff, there was an air of familiarity – their joy of working in an ethical, caring environment that supports local organic agriculture, and their awareness of how interconnected we all are, rather brought me home as it reminded me very much of our own KWF that is now linked in such positive ways with them.