Archive for June, 2008

Unlikely Lavender Farmers

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Lavender was always just a color in that crayola crayon box in my mind. No magical associations, no knowledge of it’s aromatherapeutic use or it’s believed ability to create an atmosphere of love and relaxation….no belief that there was anything particularly special about it all to be honest. I was aware that people tended to associate a sort of romantic notion to it. The gathered bunches I saw at the Strawberry festival on Vashon Island ( Vashon Lavender Festival) were beautiful, but beyond this I never really gave it much thought.

I have noticed that as I pursue an interest it often brings situations, opportunities and totally unrelated events that always add much more to the pursuit than the original interest. Maybe it is the result of some sort of attention deficit disorder…Sometimes the original thought gets taken off the front burner for one that happens along the way. This is how I would describe my venture into Lavender.

So it all started with the thought of owning a barn.

The thought of owning a barn to convert to a big art studio and workshop to build guitars has been on my mind since I first mentioned it to some work mates in 1980….I was 19, working as a cook at the Steak and Noodle in Corvallis Oregon….I thought that would be the ultimate.

Life took over and I wound my way along getting married having kids and getting burned out and I found myself thinking once again of building guitars and buying some land.

In 2005 at the age of 44 I started to contemplate where I might want to have this barn and took a few day trips to check out areas Washington. I took a day in 2005 and drove the loop from Seattle, over Snoqualmie Pass, up and over Bluett Pass and back over Stevens Pass. I liked the idea of four seasons and snow especially, but I did not really see anything that was inspiring.
I took another drive only this time I went up I5 to Deception Pass, down Whidbey Island and back to Edmonds on the ferry. I ended up finding 6 acres for sale and in checking it out found a realtor who led me to the 5 acres and a barn that I ended up buying. The actual transaction that took place in buying this piece of property was quite frankly a horrible experience.

The north end of Whidbey Island reminds of the way Washington used to be with it’s local seafood stands and earthy restaurants. The military base in Oak Harbor was the only negative. I prefer the alternative vibe of Vashon more than the military.

The 5 acre property had been a Thoroughbred horse farm and it was zoned “Agriculture” which meant as long I as I produced something and sold five hundred dollars worth of something in three years I could keep the status.

It came with a nice tax break, 3/4 of the taxes dissappear but only if I produced and sold a certain amount every three years.
At closing I was given the option to take it out of Ag status which would require the seller to pay back taxes for the time she owned it. I was initially leaning toward removing the agriculture status as I could not imagine growing or raising anything that I could then sell to meet the financial requirements. But instead of going ahead and removing the tax status I gave myself some time to think it over and in the end decided to keep the status.

A lot of people joked that growing marijuana would be the most profitable..but seriously. I thought about boarding someones horses but, boarding horses would apply IF I also raised and bred horses. That was not going to work for me as I am only on the property on the weekends at this point. Sheep, steer, cows and pigs followed the thought none of which would be practical.

Eventually a friend mentioned lavender. It did not require a lot of care, there were a lot of people passionate about lavender and so it would be fairly easy to sell and it would be something that would work well with having a salon. It sounded like it was worth a try.

The intitial rows came from the dirt that was dug up for the driveway. It was nothing special and actually it was pretty bad soil. If you think of Greece, where lavender originally comes from, It actual doesn’t need or want good soil. SO I guess I was in luck.

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