What we wished we'd known before starting a lavender farm.
I can't tell you the number of people who say, "Oh! A lavender farm! That must be so cool!" or "I've always wanted a lavender farm!"
While is is a pretty neat endeavor...and one that smells remarkable better than most typical "farm" smells - it is far from easy. Here are some things we wish we'd known before we began.
1. Plant on a hill.
Drainage is SO important for the life of lavender plants. The more hilly, rocky, slightly acidic soil you have, the better. Our soil drains fairly well, and most of our land is flat as a pancake, but we've had to amend our soil much more than anticipated.
2. Know about disease and test your plants.
While lavender is hardy and known to be resistent to many diseases, there's one that is taking many plants by storm. It's called Phytophthora and it can ruin your entire field and devastate a business. You can read more about it here. Unfortunately, we fear we may have it in our newest plants. We're sending them to UK for testing tomorrow. Be sure you're following our blog for results!
3. Have a plan.
See Jane. Jane has a business plan. Be like Jane.
See Mary and Allison. They have no business plan. Don't be like Mary and Allison.
Although I'm kidding (kind of), we didn't really know where we wanted to take this business when we started. We would have placed our plants in shorter, wider rows, anticipated for on-the-farm traffic, done better at preventative weeding, and done more research before throwing plants in the ground if we had to do it over. (A side note: KCARD is a free service in Kentucky that can help you think through some of these things! Find out more about them here).
4. Research which varieties do best in your climate. Know how you plan to use the plant.
There are a TON of different lavender varieties, but not all grow well in every environment. The two main groups are English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, and lavandins Lavandula x intermedia. We started out with two varieties, Munstead, which is a English lavender and a culinary lavender, and Grosso (fat spike), a lavandin.
5. It's a labor of love.
We love our little endeavour, but quickly realized that it's no easy task! Everything we've done has been labor-intensive. The planting, weeding, harvesting, drying, debudding, and more, has to be done by hand. It's been fun to get our families involved in every step of the process (although I'm not certain they would agree), and we hope to see the operation expand in the future, but it's certainly not a "plant it and they will grow" operation! Lavender doesn't really like Kentucky soil or weather, so we sometimes feel as if we are fighting a loosing battle, but don't worry...we'll keep on fighting it! We love sharing our passion with other lavender lovers out there!
What about you? Have you had success with your lavender plants? We're still learning too, so we'd love to hear about your successes or lessons learned.
Top 5 reasons to love lavender
It's Valentine's Day...the universal day of love, so we thought we'd share some of the top reasons we love lavender with you!
1. It's beautiful!
What is more breathtaking than looking out over lavender plants in bloom? We can't really think of anything! The fragrant purple blooms create a stark contrast to the green grass and blue skies of summer. We're already all googly-eyed just thinking about seeing our plants in bloom this year!
2. It smells heavenly!
While we've never actually smelled heaven, we can imagine it could smell a lot like a room filled with fresh cut lavender! (Okay, probably not, but you get the point). Lavender is probably most known for its smell and is widely believed to be known to increase romance (wink, wink!).
3. Lavender essential oil has some AMAZING properties!
While we can't legally claim healing properties, many essential oil experts report that not only does lavender help relax your body, but it also promotes sleep, reduces anxiety, and has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It's great for keeping unwanted insects away, purifying the skin and air, and can even help you breathe better! Check out this article from organicfacts.net.
4. You can cook with it!
If you attended our 2016 Tea on the Farm, you know just EXACTLY how wonderful lavender-infused dishes can be! We were blown away by how chef Mete (our head chef for the tea) used culinary lavender throughout the menu. He's going to do it again this year (read the 2017 menu here), and I guarantee you'll go away with an increased desire to use more lavender in your kitchen! We'll do a blog post soon with some great lavender recipes.
5. You can enjoy lavender all year long!
Not only can dried lavender bundles be enjoyed all year, but you can also use oils, buds, stems and more to make wonderful, all-natural products that you can enjoy every day. Check out all of our all-natural, hand-crafted products here and let us know if there's something you'd like us to work on creating! (A foaming hand soap is next on our list)!
We met with the fine folks at Expressions Tea and Gifts yesterday to finalize the menus for the 2017 Tea on the Farm (purchase tickets here) and we are thrilled to announce a mouth-watering, lavender-infused menu that you won't get anywhere else! Chef Mete has created some masterpieces that we know you're going to love. If you're looking for a unique, on-farm experience in South Central Kentucky, THIS IS IT!
Update: ***BRUNCH is SOLD OUT****
Brunch @ 10:30 am ($30/pp) - -
Dinner @ 6:00 pm ($45/pp)
You aren't going to want to miss this!!
You want to start a what?
Lots of people ask us how we got started and why we chose lavender. To explain, I'll have to go back a few years and start with one simple fact: We bought the farm.
That's pretty much it. My poor husband had no idea what he was getting into when we agreed that moving to my grandparent's home place was a good idea. It seemed like a great plan...buy a business (he's an Allstate agent), rent the home my grandparent's made their life in until things got settled and we knew we weren't going to go completely broke, and then see what happens. Go with the flow.
Sounds good? Right?
It did to us!
Until the point we moved to Somerset, I had been focused on climbing the career ladder. I loved my job in marketing and PR, but when our first child came along it was like I hit a "trump-size" wall (sorry...had to throw that in there). I no longer wanted to get my Ph.D., work 50-60 hours a week or live in the city. Instead, I longed for time at home with my little guy and a quieter life in a small town. Luckily, my sweet husband agreed. Although he really had no experience with traditional farming, he was raised on a few acres and also had an appreciation for country life. Things seemed to fall into place as we were given the opportunity to move into my grandparent's home, located just 13 country miles from my husband's office. At the time, my grandmother, who was 97, had to be cared for in a nursing facility and the house was sitting empty. We thought our move would be temporary, as we really didn't know what the future held for her or for us. In a shorter time than we expected, my grandmother (Mama as we called her) was called Home and we were given the opportunity to buy the house and about 8 acres around it.
Fast forward to this "calling" I had to do something with the land. I wanted to be a farmer, but I knew I didn't really want (or could) be a traditional farmer with row crops, cattle, etc. By this time, we had one small child and another on the way. I had a great part-time job in public relations and a photography business that kept my busy. But the desire was still there. Every few weeks, I'd call my dad (who farms 1,200 acres and is an agricultural genius) and tell him my latest ideas. I wanted to milk sheep, I said. (Silence from dad). I wanted to raise pigs, (More silence). I watched "Farm Kings" and wanted to raise chickens. (Can you guess his response?)
Then, my mom said, "Let's grow lavender!"
"Let's grow lavender," I told my unsuspecting husband. (tee, hee, hee...)
And, that's how we started. We knew nothing, read lots, and threw some plants in the ground. We watered them with hope and began to figure out how many things we were doing wrong, typically a little too late. But, our plants thrived.
We planted some more. We started making products. We got licensed to sell products. We planted more. We pulled weeds, watched some plants die, planted more, learned more, experimented, wished we'd done things differently, realized we did some thing right...and so on.
Today, we have about 250 plants. Some look amazing. Others, not so much. We're still learning and growing, but we're loving our little adventure in non-traditional farming. Our hope is to share some of our struggles and successes with all the other lavender lovers out there through this blog. We'd love to hear from you, too! Drop us a note to say hello and follow along on our adventure!
Woodstock Lavender Co.
Just a mother & daughter working with our families to bring a different, unique lavender experience to South Central Kentucky. We love the land, we love our farming heritage and we love lavender!