Lady J (Kehaulani Jones) of Rowley Creek Lavender joins hosts George Koepp and Alana Lynn Voss to discuss growing and marketing lavender in Wisconsin.
Recorded January 28, 2021
George Koepp, Kehaulani Jones, JASON FISCHBACH, Alana Voss
JASON FISCHBACH 00:00
This is a podcast about new crops. You’re gonna love it. Join us on the cutting edge, a podcast in search of new crops for Wisconsin.
Alana Voss 00:27
So welcome to the cutting edge, a podcast in search of new crops in Wisconsin. I am your co host, Alana Voss with the University of Wisconsin Madison division of extension, serving as an agricultural educator in Juneau and Sauk counties. And joining me today as my co host is George Koepp with the University of Wisconsin Madison division of Extension serving as an agriculture educator in Columbia County. Today, we have the joy of speaking with Lady J from Raleigh Creek Lavender Farm, in Baraboo, and I’m going to let her introduce herself.
Kehaulani Jones 01:03
Alright, hey guys, Aloha. My name is My name is actually Kehaulani Jones, but a lot of people have a really hard time saying that. So I just go by Lady J here on the farm, or Miss Jones, Whatever’s easiest for people to say. I my husband and I and our five kiddos moved here, what about 10 years ago now, we’ve been here on the farm for that long and have been growing lavender for about 8-7 of those 10 years, I think we’re going into our eighth season, it’s just blows my mind how fast time has gone. But I’m originally from Hawaii, and my husband is originally from New Zealand. And like I said, we moved here from St. Louis and brought our family here. And it’s been a great adventure for all of us.
Alana Voss 01:53
It’s so wonderful. And I mean I’ve been to the location it is just gorgeous and a great opportunity to go visit and knew we had to share your great insight into lavender. So can you give a little bit more background into what lavender is and where it’s grown or where it normally is grown? It’s not usually Wisconsin.
Kehaulani Jones 02:18
Usually not Wisconsin, that’s for sure. You know, lavender is we call it a triple threat plant because it’s it’s good for like a lot of different things. Primarily medicinal. When we think about lavender, we think about how it helps to calm and soothe people. Calming to people’s emotions. But there’s a lot more medicinal properties behind it as well like it’s actually an antibacterial, which means that it’s good for helping to fight colds and flus and things like that. And that’s something that a lot of people aren’t aware of, as far as lavender goes. So it’s great for a medicinal plant. Of course, it’s also beautiful in the garden, which is the second aspect of it in the garden. You know, it’s it’s deer resistant, the deer don’t like to eat it, though I have seen deer eat lavender when when there’s nothing else to eat out there. But generally speaking, they don’t like it, they turn up their noses at it. So and also in the garden, like the rabbits Don’t eat it. And it also has the ability to attract pollinators and things like that. So it attracts beneficial insects by and also repels, you know, insects that we don’t like like mosquitoes. So it’s that’s the second aspect of it first green medicine or the second being great in the garden. And the third one is culinary use. So it comes from the mint family, which a lot of people have not really experienced lavender though. It’s becoming more and more popular. I don’t know. Have either of you had lavender coffee, or anything like that?
Alana Voss 03:59
Go ahead, George.
George Koepp 04:00
I’ve had some lavender iced tea but not lavender coffee. I went to a program that was over by Devil’s Lake a couple years ago at the lavender farm that was operated over there. So
Kehaulani Jones 04:10
It’s great in ice cream. It’s great in chocolate in general, like some of our local chocolateers around here, including Roots chocolate, she’s down in. She’s in Columbia County. I think in the Dells. I’m not
George Koepp 04:24
Kehaulani Jones 04:25
Oh, Columbia County, she makes amazing lavender, amazing lavender chocolate here in our region. But it’s also, you know, the third thing being that it’s great in culinary application as well. And so we call it a triple threat plant. It’s not native to Wisconsin. It’s actually typically grown in the Mediterranean. So when you think about the Mediterranean, you know you’re a bit of a drier climate, a more mild, moderate climate. Definitely don’t get quite the weather fluctuations that we do here in Wisconsin. But if you have the right microclimate in your area, and I mean, specifically, if you’re planning to grow it, it can be grown in this in this region as well.
George Koepp 05:14
Brings us to that second question there. Why did you choose to purchase that land near Baraboo, Wisconsin, and I do notice I drive by your place from time to time that most of your lavender plants are kind of on a on a slope facing east. So you’re protected from ugly West winter winds, and that sort of thing. But why did you choose that land? And here in Baraboo?
Kehaulani Jones 05:37
Yeah, well, we didn’t actually choose this land, the land kind of chose us, I think is what happened. We were actually in the Dells. And we were, you know, we’d moved here just before the downturn of the market of the housing market. So we were so grateful that we sold our house in St. Louis, which is where we moved here from, and we found a great rental out in the Dells, we were just happy, happy as a clam to be not not owning owners at the time, and then learned that our landlord was not paying his mortgage. Regardless, we decided to be proactive and started looking for a home to actually buy. And at the time, there was like nothing on the market. And then we found this farm had dropped significantly in price. And, and it kind of just opened a new door for us. So and and as well, the previous owner, Sal Butik and his his family who used to own the baraboo town pharmacy, you know, they, they had many applicants that they could have chosen from and I feel like, you know that we were so fortunate, it was providence that we ended up here to be honest, George. Anyway. So that’s how we ended up here in Baraboo. But when we first moved here, we had no intention of growing lavender, it was kind of a something as well. Like fell into our, our thoughts in our you know, in all of our processes. One thing for sure is we wanted to do something different in this area. We didn’t want to do cattle or corn, which is typically grown in Wisconsin, and because of our tropical backgrounds, we wanted to to do something beautiful. As we did more researching and learning and discovering about lavender, we thought this might be a really great idea. My husband wanted to start out with a plot of 200 plants. We ended up starting out with 2000 plants. And yeah, I you know, looking back, that might have been a mistake. So we can talk about those things later.
George Koepp 07:55
Sure. So So what sparked your interest in lavender? I know you said you wanted to do something different, but But how did lavender all of a sudden become the thing that you decided to grow?
Kehaulani Jones 08:05
Well, we looked at the viability of the plant, of course, to see whether or not it could be grown in this region. And actually, this the one the our main slope is facing south. So that’s so we do have a Western facing slope, which, like you said, protects from the east East winds and we just planted that hillside about two three years ago now. And so and that hillside seems to be doing pretty well. But like I said, it depends on that microclimate. So our initial plants were all planted on a southern facing hillside and that was kind of our big, you know, we were hedging our bets but also to hedge our bets because you know, we were we’re looking at something that would be bringing life to the land and be beautiful, but also something that we could actually use and create things with and and maybe make a profit, well, the hope was always to, to turn a profit right so with lavender because you can make you can sell it just as a cut flower, but you can also sell products with it. And that’s something that we specialize in here on the farm is making culinary products and we make a lot of cosmetic type of products, beauty care products with our lavender as well. And funny thing our very first year that we opened, that is what people wanted, like we had this gorgeous field of lavender. And people came and they didn’t buy bundles of lavender, believe it or not, they bought lotion, and they bought lip balm and they bought sugar scrub and that kind of thing. So that was kind of something that we learned early on and another a big reason why we chose lavender is because of the value added products that can come from the product. So you can also you know you can sell it just the crop. itself. And, and not process a single thing, you can also process it and create a lot of value added products with it as well. So in kind of a bad year, you may still be able to break even or make a profit.
Alana Voss 10:15
So what was your background? Or did you have any training that helped you, you know, get be successful or become successful with this endeavor?
Kehaulani Jones 10:25
I don’t know if you’re, you can ever be trained in these kind of things. It’s like the training of life. But I love your question, Alana. You know, I, I actually studied linguistics when I was I went to college, got a Bachelor’s in the glowsticks for the minors in Computer so I had, you know, I have a very wide, a broad background. And then I went on to go get a master’s degree in Public Administration. So and now now I’m a full time farmer pretty much but so. So as far as background goes, you know, you learn a lot as you go, especially, I think in the farming world, or in the agricultural world. I do have a lot I grew up in a rural town in in Orem, Utah, which was, which was a primarily farming country. Since I’ve left, it’s not that way anymore. And then I and then I went to high school in Hawaii. So, you know, had a lot of roots instilled within me about how to take care of the land. Hawaiians have very, very strong, a very strong connection to the land. I know it might be kind of stereotypical to say that, but it’s true. It there’s a lot of engrained teaching and knowledge that comes through our culture about this connection with the land and the stewardship that we have to care for the land.
George Koepp 11:57
Yeah, what again, you know, kind of an agronomy background you were your husband’s so that you knew and understand about growing plants and needing water and fertilizer and that sort of stuff. Did you have kind of some gardening background or something that you kind of practice with that stuff first? Or do you just plain jump right in and said we’re gonna we’re gonna do this.
Kehaulani Jones 12:17
For me, mostly just jumped in. Like I said, I grew up kind of always gardening. And it’s crazy, because you think of, you know, every, every garden season is different. So, so and experience is key when it comes to gardening. And if you say you’re, you have a lifetime, so you have only so many chances to garden every season, right? So every, you know, all of those little experiences have accumulated over time, my husband actually grew up on a hobby farm in New Zealand. And they did a lot of farming things they had animals they had, they did flowers as well on their farm. And so he and by farm, I say farm in a literal sense, like they had a they had a hobby farm where they would actually, you know, as a family grow and produce things and sell them to people, other things so that I, over the years have gained like, I am a certified aromatherapist, which really helps in learning how to process lavender. We actually steam distilled lavender here on the farm and create essential oil and what we call hydrosol or hydrolate, which many, many people who are not familiar with the natural remedies that are out there are not familiar with hydrosol, which is an amazing, amazing product to help heal your skin and people actually drink hydrosols as well. So I’m a certified aroma therapist, and I’m also a certified skincare designer and soon to be certified permaculturist. So this is kind of, you know, as we’ve gone along, I’ve personally have collected quite a bit of knowledge. As far as lavender goes. Once we made the decision to to start growing lavender, I attended a ton of conferences all over the country. So when we started growing lavender, it was still relatively a new thing. I mean, like it hadn’t really caught on here in the Midwest. I think Wisconsin is still you know, hasn’t really got its feet wet as far as lavender growing goes, which is understandable. Michigan has there are a lot of farms in Michigan. We’ve participated in fact, we we participated in a huge study and MSU did provided like an online learn how to grow lavender for commercial growers. And we were able to participate in that. So I mean, it’s kind of was a burgeoning field at the time. So the information that we learned about growing lavender specifically came directly from other lavender growers, other people,conferences, networking, people who were doing the same thing.
Alana Voss 15:14
So with that learning curve, but you’ve kind of gone through, can you take us through, your growing year, what those cycles like?
Kehaulani Jones 15:23
Yeah, so lavender is a perennial, though here in Wisconsin it’s debatable. It depends on exactly where your location is. What was it three years ago, we lost almost 90% of our crop, which was kind of devastating. I mean, the first several years it was, it was everything was awesome, it was just amazing. And then we got hit by just frigid temps, early, like lingering frosts. And just as those plants were about, were waking up in the ground. And then that same year, we were hounded with rain after rain after rain. So the, you know, the plants would have done would have recovered if it wasn’t for the rain, but they came out of winter very weak that year. And then we got a ton of rain so that, you know, the they were not able to resist all the pathogens that were introduced to them that year. But um, yeah, so it’s, it’s typically a perennial, we, we plant them in the ground, we’ve tried various things, planting them as really young plants and and planting them as like gallon sized plants, you know, the thinking behind that was like, the younger plants did much better than the bigger plants, which was kind of an interesting thing that we found. Because, and I think it was because they were, you know, more acclimated to the, to the climate where as the bigger plants were growing up in a nursery where it was very sheltered. As far as fertilizing goes, you don’t really have to do a lot for lavender. Of course, it does, like it does, like the normal micronutrients that you want to give most all plants. And, and one thing unique about lavender is that one, it’s not like unique, unique, but one thing about lavender is that it does like higher alkalinity in the soil. So you want to sweeten that soil with lime, of course, getting your soil tested before you before you plant anything to find out where those pH levels are. So and then watering as well. So the interesting thing about fertilizing is that the best plants, the best lavender plants actually grow really high up in the Mediterranean mountains. And they’re very much deprived a nutrition. And that is actually what creates a better essential oil. So if you want something with a really high quality medicinal value, you’re going to want those higher altitudes to play, you know, the lavender that has the higher quality, medicinal values are going to be those ones that are actually deprived of nutrition. And lavender doesn’t like water. So as far as watering goes, you know, just here in Wisconsin with the amount of rainfall that we get on an average, you know, average summer, you know, it’s enough to keep them well watered. Of course, as babies as young plants, you’re going to want to water them just as you would any other young plant as, as young plants they need, you know, at least weekly watering. And so we do have, we did have an irrigation setup for our plants initially, but we’ve found that Wisconsin, you know, it’s it because of the rainfall that we get, it’s usually enough water to keep them happy. And there again, you don’t want to overwater them because lavender is highly susceptible to root rot. So like I was saying you know that you’re that we lost everything. Those plants were weak coming out and then just got hounded with rain after rain after rain that they were not able to recover from that and then you end up with a diseased plant that just can’t survive. So not too much water insect management, I think. There again you do have what are those green little little green bugs called? I can’t think I just
George Koepp 19:38
Kehaulani Jones 19:40
No, not Japanese beetles. They’re spittle bugs. Sure, bugs are our pest here. For the lavender. They will eat the lavender leaves, but it’s actually just more of a cosmetic thing like they won’t really damage the plant. What does damage the plant as far as predators go are moles and voles. So that’s something that we, you know, have to be careful of, of course, because we’re, we’re doing it on a bigger scale. So, moles and voles will actually get under the plants and they’ll eat the roots. And then and then there, the plant is susceptible to root rot. And of course, it’s it’s damaged, you know, at the root weed management, that’s kind of a thing that we’re, we’re constantly fighting when we first started, my kiddos and I would be out there weeding all the time, and we have the greatest stories, we would, of course, they hated it. But I look back at that time, and I with with really fond memories, because some of our greatest ideas and conversations came from weeding out there. And if any of you have have kids or have experienced weeding in the garden with with somebody, you may have, you know, have that have had that same similar experience, it’s just a great thing to be working together and you know, doing something together that we, we we’ve put down weed mat we’re going to be changing all of that. I think I mentioned briefly that I am I’ve been studying a lot of permaculture over the past couple years and will be certified. I’m so excited to be a certified permaculturist by the end of next month. I’m super excited about that. But one of the things that that I’d like to do here on the farm is improve the diversity of the farm kind of have, over the years have gained a better perspective of what those weeds really are and are learning that they have so much value. And yet we’re just pulling them out and throwing them away. And you know, things like burdock that, I mean, who likes burdock, and yet it’s so good for us. And dandelions, especially, you know, those things that we are always trying to pluck out and get rid of. So we’re going to be experimenting with better ways to, to, I wouldn’t say control weeds but more manage the wild plants that we that might overtake or yeah, overtake the lavender. So.
George Koepp 22:27
I would imagine burdock you know, around the perimeter or somewhere else might be okay, but really burdock. So they get pretty big and they would overshadow your lavender plants pretty quickly. So
Kehaulani Jones 22:39
Oh yeah, yeah, it’s
George Koepp 22:40
kind of a real challenge. You mentioned the spittle bugs, alfalfa. They like alfalfa too. And I know on your farm, you too had some alfalfa remnants leftover out there where you were planting, so that probably helped to draw them in towards you, as well.
Kehaulani Jones 22:57
Yep. And really, if you have alfalfa growing anywhere near your farm, if you’re planning to grow lavender, you’re gonna have that issue, those sorts of bugs will come.
George Koepp 23:08
Kehaulani Jones 23:10
And we have to hand we hand to pick those off the plants. They’re pretty easy to see, because of the those spit that they’re leaving on the plants. Disgusting at first, but they’re, it’s like a relatively easy thing just to pull them off the plants.
George Koepp 23:27
Kehaulani Jones 23:29
Moles on the other hand, those are a lot harder to control.
George Koepp 23:33
Right. And moles and voles are a challenge out there. Yeah, we can find those in some of our fields causing us troubles. So how about harvesting when you when do you start kind of your harvest and take us through a little bit of that process then depending upon what you’re going to use the plant for if you’re going to harvest for oils or just as cut flowers kind of things. Imagine that’s two different things or two different times of harvest. Tell us a bit about your harvesting process.
Kehaulani Jones 24:02
Oh yeah, that’s a great question. I mean that most people don’t really think about is like so we do harvest in stages depending on what we’re going to use the lavender for. So culinary use lavender gets harvested early in the season because we want those buds to be pretty nice and tight. And what we’re looking for when we’re harvesting our lavender and this is this this is kind of universal for you know if you want to get the prime stage of of harvesting for culinary use or for flowers like dried or or fresh flowers is for that bud to be like a swollen piece of rice. I don’t know if you’ve ever made rice before and you let it sit in the pot for a little bit and it starts to swell just as it’s starting to swell up that’s when you want to harvest the lavender and you can kind of see you can kind of see the bud swelling a little bit and then we have we hand harvest everything here on the farm. We just use like a hand sickle to do that and we take a basket out and and it’s it’s actually a process that is very enjoyable unless you’re allergic to lavender, which I do have some kiddos that have some problems with lavender now. So yeah, so now we have to be a lot more careful about that. But yeah, so we just take our hand sickle out, we take a bundle we just, you know, cut, cut it all off, wrap it around with a rubber band and we’d like to hang it upside down. hanging it upside down allows the stems to grow nice and slow to dry nice and straight. And then it’s easier to debud and process the lavender. So early stage is when that bud just starts to you can actually harvest lavender all throughout the season we like to leave some of our lavender for our bees so we don’t harvest at all. So we allow the bees to take the nectar from the lavender plants. Lavender doesn’t need bees to pollinate them. But the lavender honey is amazing. So because when the bees are foraging on lavender, they create an a really amazing honey that that has been you know, it’s been tested and proven that lavender honey has similar to manuka honey if you’ve ever had or seen manuka honey, which is which comes from like a tea tree plant. Tea Tree is highly medicinal, great for fighting off colds and it’s very antibacterial as well. So because the bees forage on tea tree, the honey has some of those amazing medicinal qualities as well. And it’s the same thing with lavender. As the bees forage on lavender, they, they’re actually taking some of those medicinal qualities and adding it to their honey as well. So we do leave some at the end stage, we do leave some that has, we don’t harvest at all in between, you know when those flowers start to blossom, that’s excellent for fresh flowers. And also for distillation. So distillation, you kind of want about 80 to 80% of those buds to actually be blooming, which is so you kind of wait to the later stages to do your distillation, early stages, culinary and cut flowers, later stages cut flowers and distillation.
George Koepp 27:31
Okay, just backing up a little bit, you know, as you talk about cutting the plant, it is a perennial. So, you know, Are there times where you cut only a couple of inches off of this plant? And how tall do most of your plants get? I’m sure there are different varieties of lavender and some are taller than others. But you know, so how long might be the stem that you would cut, and how much you want to leave above the ground? For regrowth?
Kehaulani Jones 27:59
Yeah, um, lavender is pretty resilient. Today, generally speaking, the rule of thumb is that you cut when you’re cutting the stem, you want to take the full stem, so the stem actually rises above the bushy part of the plant. And then so you cut, you want to take majority of the stem, some stems are six inches short and others are like eight to 12 inches long. And for us it for us we use this shorter the shorter ones for distillation and, and for for processing as culinary lavender and we use the longer ones for flowers and dried lavender. But you want to you want to actually leave not to cut back into the woody part of the plant. So if you think of it like an evergreen bush, which it is, you know you have and you’re going to trim it back, but you don’t want to cut it all the way down to that woody part. But it does need to be pruned every year. Yeah, I don’t know. Does that answer your question? I think
George Koepp 29:06
yes. Oh, perfect. Good. So kind of prepping them, you know, the next step would be getting your plant ready for winter?
Kehaulani Jones 29:16
George Koepp 29:17
Is there anything special that you do for that, you know, you’ve harvested what you want. You left some for the bees? As soon as those flowers get old and dry die off, you know, do you have to go through and kind of trim them up to encourage growth for the next year? Do you just leave them be all winter?
Kehaulani Jones 29:35
No, you’re gonna want to trim your plants. No, we don’t do we don’t always get to it. You know, I think this is just life gets in the way. And sometimes things don’t get done on the farm but best practices. Yes, absolutely. Trim them back and the reason is because of that rain, you know, the more foliage that you have on the plant that is like, especially the stems, and things like that, so the, the more I guess bushy it is, the more susceptible it is to freezing and root rot and things like that. So what happens in the winter here, here, and and really anywhere, but especially here, what happens if you leave too much of that growth on there. And then you know, we get those fall rains come, and then we get a freeze so the rain came in seeped into the cracks of your plant. And then and then it froze. And once it freezes it, like pushes open those, you know all the woody parts of the plant. So that by pruning, you’re kind of helping to protect the plant in that way. When you prune, you need to make sure that you prune early. So like we’re talking like maybe August, September, you know, not too much later than September because the plant needs time to heal from all of that pruning. You know, once it has created a scab over where you cut it back, then it’s much easier for it to survive the freezing rains and the freezing, of course we covered we also cover a lavender to prepare it for the winter. So cutting it back and covering it, we use a frost blanket to help protect it from the frigid temps just because even though we’re kind of you know, a lot of lavender plants are zone four, zone five, and we’re kind of in between those four and five. You we found one year we tried not covering at all. So this was just experimenting, right? And, and any of the plants came back just fine. But what we’ve learned over the years is that if you want to kind of hedge your bets, you’re gonna want to cover that those plants. You because you, you just don’t know what the weather’s gonna be like from one season, you know, from one year to the next when it comes to winter.
George Koepp 32:05
Correct. However, when you cover things here, like that, and you mentioned you had moles and voles field mice are abundant around here. And so do you have to do anything to protect your plants from that? Because they would certainly love to be covered over winter too.
Kehaulani Jones 32:23
Oh, yeah. And they do. And so that’s kind of the toss up, you know, with everything, just like with the weed mat, if you put that weed mat down, you know, you’re taking one pro for another con. So it kind of depends on, you know, for us, it depends on what what you’re struggling with the most. If you’re struggling with moles and voles the most, then you might not want to cover those plants. If you’re struggling with winter and freezing more than you’re going to want to take your risk with the you know, so it’s kind of like weighing out those options. For us, though, we found ways to help with the with the mole population. We we have used in the past, I don’t know but my husband has found a really excellent trap. That’s the biggest thing. And and finding those, those finding and tracing the mole tracks is kind of double chip, it’s kind of a skill that you gain over that, you know, you either you they either the plants die, or you learn how to hunt moles. But yeah, just kind of balancing if you’re having a hard time with moles and things like that, you know, you might not want to cover. And we’ve found that over the years, we’ve actually experimented, you know, quite a few times, covering some and leaving some uncovered, of course, different cultivars to they’ll have, you know, there are over 30 species of lavender out there, only, only three of those 30 can actually grow in our zone. But of those three species, there are hundreds of different cultivars within each one of those species. And they all have very varying tolerances to weather and, you know, they’re just like people. Some of them don’t like to be out there. I’ll be honest. Some of them are saying I hate it here in Wisconsin.
George Koepp 34:26
Alana Voss 34:26
We covered a little bit on you know, when you’re prepping and promoting, you know, for the winter, but I would love to hear kind of just the rundown, like what months Do you plant? What months Do you harvest? Like, actually a little bit more of a timeframe because I think we kind of missed that. I just think that’s important to point out is that it’s not what most people expect.
Kehaulani Jones 34:46
Yeah. So we typically you can’t you don’t want to plant until the end of the last day of frost. But of course you can get around some of those things just by having a good microclimate. And having a good frost blanket as well. So we actually here on our farm we plant a little bit earlier because the plants, the sooner you get them started in the ground, the better off they are going going into winter. And that’s kind of the mindset that we’re taking is that, you know, preparing as much as we can preparing those plants, acclimating those plants really, to the soil and helping them to be as healthy and robust of a plant as they can be before winter hits. So we we plant as early as we can, you know, when that when the soil is tillable, or, you know, work workable, then we will start, you know, putting some of those plants in the ground, but usually, they don’t get into the ground until, I don’t know sometimes end of April.
Alana Voss 35:52
And then harvest harvesting.
Kehaulani Jones 35:55
Yep, harvesting, we harvest, we actually take our first harvest, like throughout July, it’s avery short season, all through July, we’re harvesting and then some of our plants have a second bloom. And we harvest those in in September, October and November, believe it or not, sometimes we still have blooms out there in November, a lot of this stuff. So our season that we’re open to the public generally is we finished at the end of July. Because we do homeschool. So I need some time to like shift gears and, and we regroup. So end of July, we end our season and we do some offseason events and things like that here on the farm. But typically all the blooms and things that come after that are are things that we harvest and use for distillation, or that we’re using word processing and using in products. But you’d be surprised sometimes in November, there’s still blooms out there.
Alana Voss 36:57
I just know when I chat with other people, they’re always surprised to hear that, you know, if they don’t get you know, get there in July, they’re missing the mark for it potentially. So
Kehaulani Jones 37:06
And that’s true because July I mean it’s like peak blooming time. So the plants that are blooming in July the July bloom is the spectacular bloom you know, the full bloom is is like eh it’s like we’re here, but not nearly as showy as you know that heat is really does help those blossoms to bloom.
George Koepp 37:33
Good. So So we’ve talked a little bit about some of the uses of of lavender, you talked about the culinary uses the fresh flowers, the dried flowers, the essential oils. It sounds like you do an awful lot of packaging and sales yourself. And so if you want to touch on that a little bit or do you work with somebody to help you sell some of these products? Or do you just manage and do it all yourself?
Kehaulani Jones 38:01
Unfortunately George we’re doing most of it ourselves. But it’s been it’s been good It helps to keep our product authentic, you know, like the stuff that we’re making is made here on the farm. And and a lot of it and it also helps with our lifestyle because this farming isn’t and and you know, growing lavender isn’t our main source of income. I think for many farmers it’s that way you know, I especially small farms, and we’re actually going to be branching out into a lot more medicinal herbs so last two, two or three years we’ve been growing more medicinal herbs here on the farm. We started with a crop of chamomile we’ve added elderberries we’ve added so a lot of local a lot of local things we’ve been harvesting nettle here on the farm wild harvesting nettle here on the farm and and using a lot of those things in our products as well. So yeah, we do most of that it keeps us small, which might be exactly where we need to be at the to at the moment, you know, with, you know, just balancing our lives but it’s been also been quite a big undertaking as well for our entire family. Yeah.
Alana Voss 39:27
How do you promote some of these products and your farm and you know, how do you draw the attention and bring people to want to utilize your products come see the lavender? That’s sort of thing.
Kehaulani Jones 39:38
Um, farmers market has been a really great help for us and networking has been huge. We’ve promoted our lavender through various speaking engagements like gardening clubs and things like that. I’ve done many presentations for different gardening clubs, just sharing with people, the owonders of lavender and how good it is for you and just allowing people to experiencing it, experience it in that way. And that kind of draws people to the farm. But I’ll be honest, our competitors have been probably the biggest, you know, for us as as a small farm, we were actually the original farm in the in baraboo area. And then not even, I think it was we had opened up our farm and not even a year later, somebody was already in the process of applying for their permits and getting everything ready. And then things just kind of exploded in this region. Since then, I my understanding is devil’s Lake lavender is no longer operating. But maybe trying to operate again in the future. And, and then new life lavender over there on the other side of W is, uh, from what I understand is doing phenomenal. And to be honest, Alana have done wonders for us in drawing people to this region. You know, it’s, it was difficult at first because you think competition Oh, no, especially when you’re just starting to get your foot out the door. And we’re family owned and operated. So literally, we’re family owned and operated, mainly because we just don’t have all the resources to hire people and to make a big scale operation. So that was difficult at first. And I mean, I’m not gonna lie, we were like, well, maybe we should think about doing something else, you know, re innovating ourselves again, and, but they have brought john so many people to the area. And for that we’re really grateful. And not only that, but like, just brought more of an awareness to people that not only about lavender, but just kind of this holistic mindset of what we can do as a community, what we can do with herbs and to help sustain ourselves health wise and so relevant right now especially.
George Koepp 42:14
Sure, no that that’s cool. And staying small and family owned is A Okay, that’s, that’s a cool way to be. That’s That’s all right, you know? Yeah, you know, I think back You said you wanted to start with 200 plants, you ended up with 2000. That’s just one zero.
Kehaulani Jones 42:34
I like that. I like that I think that you and I will get along really well.
George Koepp 42:40
It’s just a zero, that’s nothing. the wrong side of the two.
Alana Voss 42:46
I love hearing about what you know, your future plans are for the farm and progress that you’ve made, making some of these, you know, dreams you already had coming true. And I have to say you must use your computer background for your website, too.
Kehaulani Jones 43:01
Oh, yes. So I I do the website. Like I said family owned and operated right. So thankfully, I do have some skills. So I, I do the website, I enlist my kiddos who are teenagers and amazing on social media to help me do some of that, of course, I I’ve kind of trained them on on how to use some of the Adobe software that’s out there, which is so helpful to have when you’re doing social media things were not as active as we should or could be. But we kind of like doing this sort of in an organic way, where people find out about about us through word of mouth and and find out about us through people who really espouse the ideas and values that we’re trying to grow here. I should mention, you know, thinking about progress. So next year, this is going to be amazing. Last year, we started the beginnings of a permaculture garden. And we’re going to be building more upon that. So we’re kind of shifting away from a monoculture where we have rows and rows and rows of lavender. And again, this is because we’ve learned over the years that maybe Wisconsin isn’t quite as conducive to lavender growing as we initially experienced. You know, like I said, the first three or four years of growing lavender, it was like Primo, like the crop was amazing. And, and so we’re kind of moving away from a monoculture idea. The other thing is, the other reason for that is people come here thinking that it’s going to be like France, and Wisconsin is not France. So we just have to want to, you know, make make that distinction that, you know, this is not we’re not in the Mediterranean and what we’re doing is kind of unique, a unique thing. And, and it’s not surprising that others are not, you know, jumping on board as quickly as you might think they would be because it is so unique and there’s not a whole lot of information and experience of people growing lavender here in Wisconsin. But next year, it we’re gonna be doing that also, I am certified to teach yoga. So we’ll be doing a lot more yoga classes here on the farm as well. So we’re going to be you know, just kind of all along that same mindset of holistic and you know, learning how to navigate with with weeds or wild plants however you want to call them and, and developing more diversity in what we’re doing.
Alana Voss 45:49
Well, as we get finished up here, are there any last tips that you would like to throw out for individuals that may be interested in growing lavender?
Kehaulani Jones 45:58
Start with 200 instead of 2000 if you take away anything? No, I don’t know I if you feel like 2000 is your number Go for it. I just I think you know, just just be adventurous you know, if you want to if you want to, to give it a try, give it a try. And and there’s you know, there are many many ways to grow lavender. You don’t have to do it the way we do it or the way someone else does it. And and kind of the key here is with growing lavender in Wisconsin is finding the right microclimate. That’s the thing. And microclimates can be created. You don’t have to you know, like, Oh, I, I have really a clay type of soil, you know, but you can actually create a microclimate just as you can, you know, with so many you can create the environment that is necessary. Just going to other people’s farms is a great way to to figure out if that’s something that resonates and you I’ll tell you one thing though, it is a commitment. Don’t think that you’re not going to get your hands dirty, or your back broken. It’s all it’s all done by hand. I mean, if you’re ingenious, and you can create, you know, another mechanism that doesn’t work or maybe you have lots of money, so I shouldn’t I shouldn’t you know, whatever the sky’s the limit if you have unlimited resources, but you know, don’t expect that it’s going to be easy. I think a lot of people who are retired are have this mindset of Oh, I want to have a lavender farm now. But you know, it’s a lot of work. I’m not kid you it’s a lot of work. I mean, you look at if you’re if you’re okay with doing hemp, or if you’re okay with doing ginseng because these are both very intensive crops then then you might be okay with doing lavender as well.
George Koepp 48:05
Awesome. Well, I look forward to stopping in sometime we get COVID out of the way a little bit. My wife and I might just ride down there on a motorcycle some evening stop in and say hi.
Kehaulani Jones 48:13
I’d love that. That’d be great.
George Koepp 48:15
We’ve gotta get rid of the snow and COVID those two things so
Kehaulani Jones 48:20
We might not see you George.That’s okay. Well, thanks for it’s been a great opportunity. I really appreciate it.
JASON FISCHBACH 48:39
Brought to you by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension.