Harvesting lavender is a smelly job! In the early years when the farm was smaller I used to go to three farmers markets a week. One of the vendors greeted me every Saturday morning with “Hey! Are you back again with those stinky weeds?” I loved that guy, he made me laugh and brought that kind of joy to the rest of the market. In those days I’d pick with clippers, or maybe one sickle, to get enough lavender to have fresh bunches at the market. Then I’d go home and work on taking the small amount of dried lavender that I’d dried off the stem. Bunch by bunch, banging it on the sides of a clean trash can. Over the years I trained other people to do the same, taking the bud off the stem by hand.
Early on, I saw a “stripper” that was made in Australia that used brushes to take off the lavender and it fell into a bag that they suspended below the unit with brushes. It was a wonderful machine, with a hefty price tag. But, by the time I was ready to buy one, the company that had made them had gone out of business. Back to square one, I asked other lavender growers and many of them said “Oh yes, I’ve got one and I’ll be making more for sale.” After several years of waiting for this to materialize, I got lucky. No, one of them didn’t ever get one for sale (with the exception of one, that I just heard about, but it’s too late for that). One of my friends here on the island turns out to be a machinist geek and likes figuring out how to make a machine solve a farming problem. This is the same guy who I turned to when I first bought the property to figure out what I could do with it.
So, after about 4 months of thinking and figuring and sourcing parts, yesterday Don Meehan delivered a stripper to the farm. He got it to us earlier than he’d like – but he’ll take it back after we’re done this season to add a few cool features and paint it.
Today, Norma stripped two bins of Folgate bud in about 4 hours. A feat that would have taken her at least two days before this.
To my lavender colleagues who have bigger farms and are rolling your eyes at how slow we still are. I ask you to remember how it was when you were starting and didn’t have the funding for large equipment and huge buildings. We’re feeling pretty good right now.