With degrees in biochemistry and microbiology, Dr. Jan Slama is a gifted research scientist for Natural Factors where he plays a key role in new product development and Natural Factors’ organic farming operations. He also conducts phytomedical, nutraceutical, botanical, and nutritional research in collaboration with universities and research centres around the world. We spoke with Dr. Salma to find out what makes Natural Factors unique.
Most people reference ‘terroir’ when talking about wine, about grapes grown in a soil that imparts unique flavours and characteristics. But when you think about it, the term applies to everything grown in our soil. Natural Factors founder Roland Gahler knew this when he began his nutritional product company over 40 years ago. He also passionately believed that his company had a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth-and, in turn, of people’s health. The care taken begins with the soil, and ends on the shelf.
In a fertile valley just south of Armstrong, BC lies an exceptional tract of land-one of two Natural Factors Farms in the Okanagan Valley where non-GMO, certified organic medicinal herbs and vegetables-such as Echinacea purpurea, alfalfa, and lavender-are grown for their product line. Originally an alluvial floodplain, its deep, mineral-rich soil infuses the plants grown here with special qualities scarce today, says Dr. Slama, because much of the earth’s soil is compromised.
It Starts with the Soil
“Our food is deficient in many nutrients,” he begins. “Decades of mismanagement and chemical pesticides have depleted the soil of the minerals and bacteria which produce the nutrients we need for good health. A deficient soil means deficient food.”
Natural Factors crops, however, are raised using methods practiced for thousands of years-like crop rotation, open pollination, soil erosion prevention, and planting the soil with legumes and other nitrogen-rich plants which allow the soil to rest and regenerate. As a result, the soil continues to grow all the bacterial cultures and minerals it needs to support the active, beneficial properties in the 27 different crops grown.
Seeds Sown and Reaped
Those crops are grown from their own non-hybridized, heirloom seeds, which Dr. Slama collects from around the world for the company’s seed bank.
“We decided over 15 years ago to produce our own true-species seeds,” he explains, “because over 90% of seeds sold in seed houses are actually hybridized. They may look the same but the phytoactive ingredients are missing. Every crop, every plant contains many active properties that work synergistically to support and activate one another. If one component is damaged or missing, nothing works properly.”‘
Plants are tested and retested at every stage: as they grow, before hand harvesting, and during processing to ensure those active compounds are present in the quantity and ratios ideal for human physiology.
Extra care is then taken to prevent damage from oxidation, the sun’s UV radiation, and the enzymatic activity that happens in plants when they are cut. Within minutes or hours of the harvest, processing begins.
Beyond the Farm
The same care, says Dr. Slama, goes into research and development.
“We are driven by a genuine concern for people, and a desire to prevent needless suffering, so our international academic research group is focused on inflammation. It’s the beginning of all disease, including diabetes, autoimmune and heart diseases, and Alzheimer’s. We consider it the most pressing issue today. We are excited that we have found specific bio-chemical compounds that prevent inflammation, and look forward to providing great combinations of active stress management, and food choices, in the future.”
And we at Nature’s Fare Markets look forward to continuing our partnership with Natural Factors-one that began the day we first opened our doors 22 years ago-and to choosing the very best products for our customers.