Ylang Ylang is definitely the essential oil of romance and love! In the warm Ecuadorian climate you can smell its beautiful aroma wafting through the air. It’s like the universe has its very own diffuser going all day long. Ylang Ylang means ‘flower of the flowers’. It is one of the main plant species grown and distilled here on the Finca Botanica farm. The farm lies just outside the town of Chongon, Ecuador. There are 320 acres of Ylang Ylang, 120 of which are already flowering and producing essential oil. The rest contain seedlings planted in the past couple of years.
Gary Young, the Founder of Young Living bought this piece of land 14 years ago for just $200 an acre. It’s over 1000 acres and now worth over $2,000 an acre. We heard a story from a lady who has been with Young Living a long time. She said that Gary couldn’t find a water source on the land when he first went to look at it. Therefore, he wasn’t going to buy it. As he was leaving someone showed him a hole full of water which actually had a fish in it! He took this as a sign from God and bought the land.
Nowadays, you wouldn’t know that he was worried about there being no water on the property when you look at the huge dam that’s there now. He built this too. On our first day at the farm, Mary Young told us how Gary had bought equipment like a back hoe and grader. He used these to dig out the dam, so he could store water, particularly in the dry season.
Picking the Ylang Ylang flowers
The workers on the farm work between 6am and 4pm. This means that they maximise the time when the essential oil is at its best in the flower. They pick at least 8kgs of Ylang Ylang flowers a day. This goes up to 35 kgs in the peak season. That’s a total of 1200 kgs a day off the farm. The workers originally had to use poles with a hook on the end to reach up and pick the flowers at the top of the trees. However, they have started training the branches to grow in a downwards direction by going along when the trees are young and gently pulling the branches downwards. After a while the branches just grow in that direction. It sure saves the necks of the farm workers.
Ylang Ylang is distilled in smaller cookers than plants like lavender, balsam fir and ocotea. They empty the flowers into the cooker on wire mesh trays. They gently push down the flowers and then load another wire mesh tray on top for another layer of flowers. This allows the steam to flow more freely through the layers of flowers. If they don’t use these trays and pack the flowers in on top of each other then the steam tends to find chimneys through the flowers and not all of the flowers end up being steam distilled.
Gary must have been a romantic guy, for in addition to the Ylang Ylang he grew 11 acres of cacao trees, the ultimate aphrodisiac. Workers pick the cacao fruit from the trees, cut them open and extract the pods. Then they place them into bins to ferment for a few weeks, before drying them and grinding them up. We even received a pack of the cacao powder to try.
The wet season here on the farm runs from January to April and is when they grown Dorado Azul. Dorado Azul is in the mint family. A farm worker going about his job kept smelling this rather aromatic plant, so he looked around and found the smell was coming from this weed-like plant. He picked some and they decided to distill it to see what it did. Turns out, it’s great for adding to your “Great Outdoor Sprays”. It’s also fantastic for those people who need more emotional balance in their lives. They say it allows people to just “Go with the Flow”. Let me tell you, the farm workers here are pretty cruisey.
Lots more than just Ylang Ylang
Young Living grow two grasses here on the Finca Botanica farm, Vetiver and Lemongrass. Our guide, Nicholas the farm manager, told us that Lemongrass grows like a weed in people’s backyards here and it’s actually hard to get rid of. The essential oil that comes from it is amazing to add to stirfrys and to rub in to tired ligaments after a day of exercise. Vetiver on the other hand is great for calming over active children to help them stay more grounded and focused.
They also grow Mastrante and Eucalyptus Blue here. Mastrante is great to diffuse to promote feelings of relaxation or apply topically for more radiant-looking skin. If you check out my post on The difference between the 3 types of Eucalyptus that Young Living sell then you can learn more about what Eucalyptus Blue is and how to use it.
The Oregano grown here is very different to the oregano we grow back in Australia. The leaves are a lot bigger and thicker than ours. Like Dorado Azul, it grows in the wet season on the farm.
What we were just a bit excited about was a new plant Young Living is growing here. The workers on the farm have dubbed it ‘Peace Tea’ or Té Paz, but its botanical name is Citrix Lippia Alba. They’re growing it as a test crop as it has very similar constituents to the Melissa plant. There’s even a trial crop of Melissa here too. They’ve planted plantain trees to provide shade to the ‘sensitive’ Melissa plants.
The workers were distilling Ocotea while we were on the farm, but they actually grow it about 6 hours away on another farm. When they bought that steaming plant material out of the cooker and all I could see was the aroma of cinnamon, I was in chai heaven. When they take the plant material out of the cookers, they mixed it with goat manure and leave it out to breakdown until it reaches a pH of 6.5. The goats here on the farm provide milk for the Young family, as well as all the workers who work here. By law Young Living has to feed their workers, so Gary built a restaurant down beside the dam, which feeds about 160 workers every day.
Once the plant matter mixed with manure reaches the required pH, it’s then put into the worm houses. Now these are massive rows of beds with about 8-10,000 worms in each square metre. The worms break down the material even further and then this is used as organic compost throughout the farm. They waste nothing! Even the floral water, which comes when the steam from the cookers is cooled and the oil is syphoned off, is used to fill the spa baths at the Nova Vita Spa. It’s the ultimate sustainable farm.
This farm is amazing and I feel so blessed that Young Living flew us here on an all expenses paid trip as a reward for reaching the rank of Platinum. I’ve wanted to come here since I joined Young Living nine years ago. Dreams really do come true if you keep working at them!