Organic pioneer

In 1972, Huilerie Emile Noël reached a fresh milestone, which would prove decisive for its future: it became the very first mill in France to crush organic seeds. The “organic farming” concept was brand new. But Emile Noël, who was natural mindful of respecting nature and attached to artisanal methods that respected the seeds, was already working “organically” without realising it. “The hippies opened our eyes in that respect, growing pesticide-free crops to obtain perfectly healthy virgin oils,” explains Emile. In the early ‘70s, following in the hippies’ footsteps, a handful of farmers embarked on an organic adventure. In the Gers region of southwest France, in particular, 1972 saw the first sunflower crops certified organic by Nature et Progrès. Emile Noël praises his good fortune: “I was lucky enough to meet some farmers from Auch in the Gers, who grew organic sunflower. That’s how we began making organic sunflower oil – and it sold well! That’s how everything started.”

Was this a happy quirk of fate, an instinctive direction, or a visionary choice? Definitely all three! “For us, making products that stayed close to nature was self-evident – growing methods that respected the balance of the natural world, and the pleasure of an honest taste. To be honest, I’d never have thought of doing anything else. In our family we’ve always loved nature, life in the fields – we had a farm – and walks in the forest, and so on…” explains Emile, adding, “Organic creates a bond between people who love the land, there’s a particular atmosphere. It also requires a great deal of rigour. And we were rigorous, which is why we’ve always identified with our work.”

Guided by his pioneering spirit, Emile Noël seized a tremendous opportunity. “Organic began with just a few people... It wasn’t conceivable for everyone to farm organically back then, because not many people ate organic products! At that time, no one could have guessed that it would turn into such a market!” he exclaims, still amazed by the movement’s expansion.