Made in America

by | Aug 2, 2011

Last week, I had a wonderful treat…one of my favorite performers, James McMurtry, was appearing in Albuquerque. We decided to celebrate my birthday early, go down and have dinner, and bask in his acerbic wit and incredible musical talents. About mid-way through the show, he introduced one of his most crowd-rousing songs (he is known for his political commentary via his musical lyrics), “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” with the following statement: “I wish I didn’t have to sing this song anymore, but it is just as relevant today as it was when I wrote it (2004). So…I am going to keep singing it until I don’t have to sing it anymore.”

Here are a few excerpts from this song about the loss of production and manufacturing capability in this country…and the devastating practice of “outsourcing”…sending jobs overseas to avoid the higher cost of labor in this country.

That big ol’ building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can’t make it here anymore.
Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
‘Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can’t make it here anymore.

It was literally gut-wrenching to hear him sing the song…and the crowd was cheering wildly, and pumping their arms in the air…it really touched a chord. But, cheering at the music and being willing to pay the price to purchase things made in America are often two different things. We have been seduced by the low prices achieved at the cost of gutting the middle class and the productive capacity of America. It is also increasingly difficult for people here to really know the value of something anymore, as price doesn’t always equate to the effort nessary to create a product…especially a quality product. And, this is not restricted to the manufacture of clothing and consumer goods. There are similarities in the aromatherapy business!

James’ lyrics reminded me about Wisdom of the Earth’s foray into locally produced essential oils. We have several advanced students who have begun to distill small amounts of exquisite essential oils and hydrosols. Most are conifers, such as Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, Arizona Cypress & Pinion Pine; others are wonderful plants indigenous to the Southwest, such as Rabbit Brush and Grindelia (Gum Weed).

We call this collection our Local Wildcrafters’ Boutique. Just for comparison, I will tell you that the Douglas Fir from Argentina is $39 for a 15 ml bottle, and the American Douglas Fir from AZ is $59 for a 5 ml and $153 for a 15 ml…more than three times the price of the one from South America. Our pricing structure is constant across our oils…so it is not that we are “charging more” for the local essences…though by their rarity and uniqueness (for example, Ponderosa Pine CONE essence), we could make a case to do that.

We choose to honor the hard and compassionate work of farmers, and seek to pay them fairly for the high quality essences they produce…as opposed to the prevailing mindset, which devalues farmers and makes it difficult for so many to make a living. By the same token, it is a fact that the cost of labor in this country adds significantly to the wholesale and retail cost of essences.

In some cases, we can’t even find small-scale American farmers who will sell wholesale to us, as they are able to sell all that they produce at retail. So…limited supply is part of the cost equation, as well.

I don’t often talk about the “business” side of medicinal aromatherapy, but James’ concert got me thinking, yet again, about the dearth of productive capacity in this country…and the VERY high cost, ultimately, of less expensive, imported goods. Now, in aromatherapy, it is essential (no pun intended) to obtain the oils from locations across the globe where the production knowledge and availability reside…so, it’s not like we had the knowledge and availability here, and then outsourced it overseas. Therefore, it is different, in that regard. But the lower demand for higher priced, American-produced products, is one factor in the high barrier for entry into this field for those interested in becoming distillers in the US.

Remember, with every dollar we spend as consumers…we are “voting” for certain policies and practices. Vote wisely. Vote for the future.

Audre Gutierrez
Master Medicinal Aromatherapist
Shining Sun Aromatherapy

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