Who is Peppermint Jim?
James A. Crosby, better known as Peppermint Jim, is the fourth generation of Crosby mint farmers and artisan distillers who grew up on the Crosby Mint Farm in St. Johns, Michigan. The farm was established in 1912 by his great-grandfather and is the oldest, continuously family operated mint farm in the United States.
Mint farming in the US quickly made its way from the East Coast to the fertile soils of the Midwest in the early 1900’s. Wrigley stood at the cradle of the once booming mint industry in America; the oil was in high demand for the candy industry and our country was, at one point, the world’s top producer of mint oils. The Crosby Mint Farm was established during this high tide. Located in the heart of Michigan, in the small town of Saint Johns, dubbed “Mint City USA”, J.E. Crosby Sr. bought land in 1912 after losing his dairy farm in Dayton, Ohio to a flood. Michigan’s rich muck soil became home to many mint farmers after the turn of the last century. During the 30’s and 40’s there were 60 mint distilleries in a 20 mile radius, and it was said that during harvest season in late July and August, one could see smoke circling from the mint steam distilleries, fueled by wood and coal, in all four directions and smell the sweet aromas for miles away.
Then, the mint industry strayed away from its roots.
Gone are the days of simple farming & distilling. Most of those farms had to make way for highways, factories, shopping malls, (GMO) cash crops and housing. Mint has become monopolized, and very few independent farms exist anymore. Corporate brokers have a hold on the world’s mint oil production. Essential oils are picked apart, and the various chemical components – such as menthol and camphor – are sold to the cosmetic, confection and pharmaceutical industries. Often, they will synthetically reproduce the components they take out of the essential oil, and add it back in, to create a “pure oil.” There’s virtually no labeling restrictions, as mint is considered a flavor product, and only 51% of the oil has to be pure to be labelled so. These altered oils have a very limited shelf life and have the potential to cause allergies, adverse reactions and have lost most of their therapeutic benefits.
At Peppermint Jim’s and Crosby Mint Farms, we have been distilling oils since 1912 and we are proud to say that not a whole lot has changed in a century. We still grow, harvest, distill and bottle. When you buy our products, you know you are not only buying quality, but you are also supporting an American grown and made farming operation. We work hard to bring you the best mint essential oils, mint products and fresh mint. Because we work closely with Mother Nature, small difference in batches may occur, resulting in slight variations in scent, color and feel. This is due to rain, sunshine, temperatures and overall weather conditions, but does not affect the effectiveness of the oils.
So, we’re adapting to the changes… In the best way possible.
In 2011, Peppermint Jim established the 7 acre Tucson Mountains Growing Station as an extension of the Crosby Mint Farm. We wanted to begin experimenting with growing mint in southern Arizona, despite the many perils of its climate. We successfully developed multiple methods of incredibly sustainable mint production, and because education is part of the Peppermint Jim mission, we carefully recorded data on our projects. From daily and monthly weather patterns, growth rates, height measurement, harvest counts, use of growing mediums and input controls, nutrient needs and natural pest management – we’ve got it all.
The intent is ‘doing more with less’ and it’s proven to have wild potential. Our sights are set on not just distilling mint in Tucson, but more! Our fresh mint production is already gaining momentum, with the Tucson location producing restaurant quality fresh mint. We are also focused on bringing small to medium producers the means to diversify their current agriculture operation and crops with our newly discovered methods.
We sell our locally grown fresh mint at farmers markets in both Tucson and Phoenix (sometimes beyond) as well as our other mint products. In challenging economic times, it is important for us to be operational for 12 months out of the year and thanks to our expansion, we can keep our family tradition going strong.