Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to Start a Lavender Farm

I often find people interested in starting their own lavender farm.  I am often asked questions like 'What goes into planning and getting a farm up and running?' The answers?  How much time do you have?  Do you have the money to invest?  Do you have land readily available?  Will lavender grow reliably in your area?    I may not be able to provide all the answers here, but I can share our experience.

If you read my profile, you know that I had a dream - a dream that many thought was crazy and bizarre.  A lavender farm in New York state?  When I thought of the idea there weren't any farms in NY  that I could reference on the internet.  Now we have a handful spread across the state.  Initially, I had no land, little knowledge on the plant and how to grow it.  So I did research.  A lot of research.  I bought, read and sifted through many books and articles.  The first article I came across is what I have based most of my direction on: 

Lavender Production, Products, Markets, and Entertainment Farms  This article gave me the basics and future trends and what to look for in a farm.  From this article I knew I needed a piece of land from 3-10 acres (at the time I couldn't even conceive of how big an acre was).  I knew that I could not compete with the huge farms of lavender in the world.  I discovered that what I should be looking for is a small destination farm.  A place with visual appeal that people would want to visit.

Could Lavender Grow Here? 

Certain varieties grew here but I needed to have something that the nurseries and big box stores didn't,  Pink, white and all shades of purple lavenders.  Different varieties. But what about the soil?  We are lucky here. Due to glacial deposits left from the ice age, our region of New York has a rich humus laden with calcium carbonate, or lime. Exactly what lavender loves.  When searching for a piece of land of 3-10 acres  I wanted an idea of soil composition.  The USDA has a convenient site that helps with this. It will give you the soil composition of any piece of land in the continental US.  This helped me to rule out different properties, which ones were too swampy, which ones had the right soil.  USDA soil survey

 Next post:  First Plantings


Lynn Light said...

Am dreaming of having my own lavendar farm. Am living in the tri-city region, of NY State and wondering if the Adirondacks might be a good place to grow lavendar, or perhaps Canajohaire, NY. This article was helpful because at least now I know how much land is needed to start a lavendar farm, and that rich humus, calcium carbonate, and lime, are elements needed in soil for growing lavendar, and that having a soil survey done on land you might purchase to grow lavendar is sensible. So - Thanks for what seems like a complete ball of wax! Are there other important factors one should know, as well?

Doug Schmidt said...

Lynn, Thanks for commenting. What is great with the soil survey a simple "go to the website" and check what the the soil is like gives you the fundamental basis of what your soil is then you can ammend it or change it as needed but it helps to know what soil you are getting into. What we have found is what is the reason for starting the venture? Our thoughts and concepts have changed over the past few years. We are not getting younger and the farm is a part time summer venture for us. We both work jobs that take us away from working on the farm. What it gives us though working the lavender is a true sense of calm and peace. We are working the lavender for us not for the community, but we share what we have with the community. You will never get rich from lavender. but you will find enjoyment in the planting, harvesting and nurturing of the plant. You will have to look for some hearty varieties of lavender that can with stand the winters. Wind breaks will help. You may have to look for other ideas of winter protection possibly. Grosso is a variety that has weathered NY winters for us.

Nanaki Kaur said...


I have fallen in love with lavender after waking up to the sound of bees and the fragrance of wild lavender on a vacation in Greece. I am from the northern part of India, Punjab where it is hot in the summer upto 110 farenheit and for a few short months cold in the winter. We have a monsoon season for the months of July and August. I was wondering if it would be possible to grow the hardy variety of lavender in this climate.



Doug Schmidt said...

Harmeet sorry it took so long to get back to you. Lavender is a warmth loving plant. depending on the variety of lavender your winters shouldn't be a problem. I think the worst problem for the lavender would be the monsoon seasons as lavender don't like to have their roots wet for extended periods. As long as they don't sit in puddles you will probably be okay. We live in the Northeast of America and there are varieties that are hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unknown said...

What would the start up cost of a 10 acre lavender farm? How much for equipment?

Doug Schmidt said...

We had 8 acres but that was not all lavender. That being said I have seen estimates of anywhere from 1000-2000 plants per acre. Equipment and help would be needed to process it all. Equipment can be expensive. Automatic harvesters that cut it but I don't think they bundle is in the $35-50,000 range. Tractor, equipment to prepare beds like a pull behind tiller. We used a an old ford 8N tractor we bought for $2500. The lavender was the more costly for us on our shoestring budget. You do have to think about where to dry the lavender as well. A building to dry 10 acres of lavender would be a large building averaging 3-5 bundles from each plant.

Anonymous said...

what other books did you find helpful when researching?

Anonymous said...

Hey how many seeds do i need per acre?

Doug Schmidt said...

Lavender doesn't grow true from seed. You must use cutting from a plant or buy seedlings.