Man grapping a blooming almond stem

Jean Pierre Jaubert

Almond Producer, Valensole Plateau, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

The Man Who Brought Back the Valensole Plateau Almonds

Born and raised among the almond trees of the Valensole plateau in Provence, Jean-Pierre Jaubert has seen his local landscape change dramatically. During his lifetime, many of the decades-old almond trees that once fragranced the hills with their heady white blossom were replaced by fields of blue lavandin.

Inspired by his childhood memories of picking spring blooms, and with a dash of entrepreneurial spirit, Jean-Pierre decided to bring almond trees back to the plateau. In doing so, he revived a local tradition and provided L'Occitane with an exceptional organic ingredient: lush Provence almond oil for our rich products.

This is Jean-Pierre's story.

Almonds – a family tradition

Man hands pulling a nut from his shell
For three centuries, Jean-Pierre Jaubert's family has lived on the Valensole plateau in the shade of the snow-covered Alps. Although his grandparents were originally sheep farmers, Jaubert explains that "growing almonds and herding sheep were complementary." The animals would often rest beneath the blossom-heavy boughs of the trees to seek shade from the southern sun. 

Harvest was Jean-Pierre's favourite time of year. "It was a special time," he explains. "A time for sharing and enjoying each other's company." Everyone gathered together to work while snacking on oreillettes (sweet Provençal doughnuts). The women would remove the green hulls, which would later be fed to the sheep, and the men would pull the nuts from their shells.

Bringing almonds back to the Valensole plateau

View of a lake, mountain and almond trees land, in the Valensole plateau, France
It was only until 1979 when Jean-Pierre took over the farm, that the almond trees were brought back. Reminiscing of the cloudy white almond blooms that once stood, Jean-Pierre decided to grow a small plot of almond trees to bring back a tradition. His parents already knew a lot about growing almonds and were there to help out during his first harvest. 

But reviving the old ways didn't come easy. "It was hard at the beginning and we had to test different frost-resistant species in order to find the same balance the plateau had all those years ago," Jean-Pierre explains. 

Expanding the farm with L'Occitane

Rows of almond trees in bloom with a man standing in the middle
Jean-Pierre met Olivier Baussan, the founder of L'Occitane, in 2000, and the two discussed Baussan's plan to use almond oil from Provence in his cosmetics. After agreeing to partner with the company, Jean-Pierre and his brother André planted another 5,000 almond trees. L'Occitane helped the siblings to research and build their business and, five years later, another 5,000 trees took root in the dry clay soil. 

Another 5,000 were planted in 2010 and now the nuts are an integral part of the farm.Thanks to his commitment to cultivating these trees, we’ve been able to harness the oil’s softening and nourishing qualities into a line of almond-infused products, from soaps to hand creams.

Caring for the land, caring for the environment

Butterfly on a flowering almond stems
Looking after the local biodiversity is very important to Jean-Pierre. He keeps his lands scattered with weeds, explaining that it encourages insects to live on the ground. “We are happy to see all these insects, which are part of the life cycle,” he explains. He supports sustainable agricultural practices by only using organic and biological fertilisers. This ensures that no chemical, or potentially harmful, compounds are left behind, thus protecting the soil quality and beneficial insects.

By caring for this unique land, Jean-Pierre and his family are able to cultivate 80 hectares of almond trees with various types of almonds. “I see so many areas where almond trees cannot grow. Our trees are blooming, in both senses of the word, thanks to the dry soil of our 700-metre high plateau,” he says. 

Growing with the rhythm of nature

Bees hives in the middle of rows of almonds trees
In spring, the plateau is blanketed by the pillowy white flowers. "The almond tree begins to bloom at the end of winter," says Jean-Pierre. "It heralds the arrival of spring with its beautiful, very fragrant blossoms." To encourage pollination, Jean-Pierre’s son-in-law installed 300 beehives in the trees, explaining that, “bees take care of the lavandin pollination in the summer and almond trees in the spring.”

Perched 700 metres above sea level, the plateau is an ideal environment for producing almond oil. Even the powerful mistral wind is beneficial. It creates natural ventilation that helps the almonds to dry while they're still on the tree.

The next generation of Provence almonds

Almond growing on a blossom almond stem
Almonds have always played a role in Jean-Pierre's life. He reminisces that as a child he loved to ride his bike and pick the first flowers to give them to his mother as a present. Happily, the next generation is already getting involved too – his daughter, Pauline, owns a small shop nearby and sells her father's produce. 

Jean-Pierre is rightfully proud of his role in producing almond oil. Not only does he create fine organic ingredients, he has also brought an old form of plant life back to the Valensole plateau. "It is a real pleasure every day to see these trees thrive and to enjoy this unique land with its outstanding location," he says.

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