The lavender farm, called Hill Country Lavender, actually has its roots in Southern France. The idea to grow lavender came first to Robb while he was in Provence shooting a story for National Geographic magazine about perfume-making around the world. Robb was taken with the beauty of the Valensole Plateau region, where rows of bushy purple flowers cover the rolling hills like huge pastel caterpillars. This is lavender country, and as Robb talked with the local farmers, he learned that the soil and climate are comparable to the Hill Country.
Soon after Robb returned from that project, he began experimenting with different types of lavender. He determined that the variety that grows best in the Hill Country is indeed the same variety he saw in Provence: lavandula intermedia. With advice from his farmer friends in France, we planted two acres of lavender in 1999. The crop grew beautifully, and the next year we added another 4,000 plants.
In spring of 2001, we harvested our first batch of lavender from the 2,000 original plants. We sold our fresh-cut lavender to Central Market and florists in Austin and San Antonio. On the weekends, we opened up the farm so that the public could pick their-own lavender.
In the spring of 2002, another 4,000 plants bloomed, bringing the total number in their field to 6,000. We have continued to sell fresh-cut lavender to retail stores until 2005 and have expanded the product line sold during our cut-your-own events and on the Internet.
The number of visitors to the farm has also increased as word has gotten out. In the spring of 2003, an estimated 6,000 people visited the farm during the seven-week blooming season, from mid-May through late June. During Spring of 2004 almost 8,000 people visited. We also have received many requests from people who want to grow lavender and in 2002 we held our first lavender growing seminar. To date, more than 180 people have come through the 10 seminars we’ve offered. They’ve come not just from the Hill Country, but from across the state and from 10 different states. We’ve even had a seminar attendee from, of all places, France—which in a sense completes the circle.
About one-fourth of the people who’ve attended our seminars have already planted their lavender, mainly in the Hill Country, which means there is a whole new industry growing up in the region. The San Antonio Express News called us one of the main instigators of this new business, and we’re proud to have had a part in bringing lavender to this part of the world.
We also take pride that we helped a very important event in our region get off the ground–the Blanco Lavender Festival, which debuted in Spring 2005. The festival, which has grown every year, has helped establish Blanco as an important lavender center in the state and the town is now actually known as the Lavender Capital of Texas.
In the Fall of 2004 Hill Country Lavender planted 2500 plants its new location behind the McCall Creek Farm Store. In the spring of 2006 we built our new lavender store and moved Hill Country Lavender from the original field in front of our house to the new field, right on a main highway through the area.
Another huge change occurred in 2006–we sold the business to Tasha Brieger, who had worked with us from the beginning. Tasha has taken the business to new levels–redesigning packaging, adding products, bringing her own personal touches to the farm. Tasha and her family are very involved with the Blanco Lavender Festival and have played a large part in its continued success. But we–Jeannie and Robb–are not out of the picture. Jeannie has not missed a lavender festival yet and regularly returns to teach lavender growing seminars.