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

2 comments:

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.