We have a non-traditional lavender farm or urban lavender farm. We started as a backyard lavender farm in 2013. When most people of think of lavender farms, they think the vast acres of lavender fields in France or here in the United States of the large farms in the Pacific Northwest. Michigan and the Great Lakes region are also home to quite a few larger and some smaller lavender farms, but far as I can tell there aren’t too many “urban” or “suburban” lavender farms that I have found.
Overall, we tend to associate lavender farming as needing a lot of acreage. This is definitely true if you plan to distill your own oil. It takes many lavender plants to make lavender essential oils. However, to create lavender products you really don’t need a ton of acreage. Also you really can get a great number of plant in the average sized backyard. Our lot is decidedly on the larger side. I do have a traditional lavender bed planted in rows in one section of my yard, which started as a trial plot for different varieties of lavender. However, I originally planted my lavender as part of my landscaping and in my flower beds. I was able to pack quite a large number of plants on my property this way and it made for some beautiful flower beds.
I have stumbled across a few urban or residential type lavender fields in my search to see if anyone else was growing in a residential setting. The first residential type farm I discovered was Labyrinth Lavender Farm in Washington. When I was doing r research for starting a lavender farm this was one of the first farms I came across. I was intrigued, of course, being it was not your typical destination farm. This Washington State couple began planting on their larger residential property by creating a labyrinth to be more ascetically pleasing to neighbors than planting in traditional rows would be. Overtime, they also planted in nearby fields and participated in farmer’s market. Most of their lavender was sold as fresh cut in person and via mail rather than in bath/body products. Today, the owners seem to focus more on lavender education and training by providing online and in person classes.
Another farm I recently stumbled across on the internet is The North Bank Lavender Farm also in Washington, which was started in 2013. They are truly an urban operation. They are the only urban lavender farm in Washington as stated by their website/blog. They grow on their urban property and focus on handmade sachets and comfort pillows. They started with just 10 or so lavender plants planted in a backyard and have expanded their planting from there. This goes to show you don't really need acres of lavender to form some type of lavender-based business.
Our farm started very similar to The North Bank. I also stumbled across lavender growing around that same time - 2013. I happened to be researching lavender the spring before my wedding as I loved the look. Ultimately, I ended up compromising for my wedding centerpieces on lilacs grown from my own yard, as lavender was not quite in season in Michigann in mid-May that year. Not a huge compromise as I love lilacs almost as much as lavender.
In fall 2013, I started looking into lavender farms and thought why couldn’t I do that smaller scale. I already had a few lavender plants and was an avid gardener. Each spring I would add more lavender plants and was on the hunt for different varieties to try. Then, I started experimenting with products that I could make from the lavender. Eventually, I began selling these products online through an Etsy store after getting positive feedback from family and friends on the products. More recently, I have expanded to doing floral design with lavender and other dried flowers and also creating wreaths.
Eventually my husband and I would like to purchase some acreage and be able to grow on a larger scale. While we are waiting for our son to finish high school we are continuing to grow our lavender “urban style.” We do not use any pesticides or chemicals on our lavender. I purchase our plants from well-known and established growers – some in Michigan and some in Washington state. I have yet to try my hand at propagating my own lavender from our plants, but I do hope to do so relatively soon.
While urban lavender farms might not be the norm, there are certainly many small growers near and far who are growing from right where they are. That's the beauty of growing lavender and other herbs and perennials. You don't need acres and acres to grow and you most certainly can start a sustainable business on a small amount of land. I am completely self-taught. I have networked with other lavender growers over the years and simply done a ton of research on lavender growing and product development.
I personally started gardening because it was relaxing and a stress relieving pastime, which has grown into a passion for lavender farming and a small business. I would highly encourage people not to allow lack of acreage or even lack of education in horticulture stop them from growing lavender and other herbs and plants. It’s definitely a labor of love for me.