January 20th, 2023Carol calls time on her Lavandula property
CAROL White is calling time on Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, putting the historic Shepherds Flat property up for sale.
Carol said it was time to move on from working seven days a week and return to travelling around the world.
“Covid has been a bit of a nightmare, reopening every time after lockdowns just took every bit of my energy. It was like a juggler getting their six plates back in the air and then realising the stick was bent. It really crushed our momentum.”
Carol, who bought the property 35 years ago and started out with just 1000 lavender bushes “from some guy in the Dandenongs”, said she hoped a new buyer would bring new energy and continue to conserve the history of the property.
“It would be lovely if they ran it in a similar way, with weddings and events, it is perfect for that, but I am not going to tell anyone what they can and can’t do. Whoever it is will probably do a better job than I am doing now and take it in a slightly different direction. I just hope they respect the history and the stone buildings.”
Carol said when she bought the 38-hectare property it was pretty much bare farming land with a couple of derelict buildings still standing.
“My marriage was on the rocks and I thought I would start a business with a little patch of lavender, a romantic notion from my trips to Provence. I thought ‘I can manage that’ and started from there.
“You couldn’t get lavender in those days, it was hard to find and not in fashion at all, not like it is now as people have become more herby and realised their true value. A guy from the Dandenongs brought up 1000 bushes and I did some research on growing them but it was pretty much trial and error. Lavender doesn’t mind snow but it doesn’t like the harsh frosts we get, but it worked.
“And there were no trees here. I got in touch with the forestry place at Creswick which had all European trees and dragged thousands of them here. I just started planting in swathes, a swathe here and a swathe there, and then people started coming and I started making product.
“It was really popular and then we started with our festivals, European-style festivals, and we had up to 10,000 people and the police told us we had to stop because we had cars banked up on all the roads.”
Not one to give up, Carol then held seasonal festivals, which also proved extremely popular although the one in winter was dropped because it was too cold.
“So many people came, they wanted to see the farm in each season, but they were a lot of work and if you asked me to do one next week I just couldn’t. I am done.”
Carol, a former nursing sister who said that job gave her the organisational and delegation skills needed to run her own business, said Lavandula would be open until the end of May and then close for a period of time.
“I want to sell but I am not forced to sell and I will certainly be around in the background if someone wants to buy and needs some help to start with. But it may take some time to find the right person.”
So by winter Carol will be thinking about travel: “Probably the south of France, and I have friends in Italy and Norway and family in England, so some sort of world trip of gardens which is how I travelled before and was probably the inspiration for the farm.”
And will she miss what is pretty much her life’s work?
“Yes, I will miss the stone buildings and we have had some fabulous people work here, some so dedicated they have worked with me for 35 years, and our repeat customers have been extraordinary. But I won’t miss having to say no to every single social engagement on the weekend, or that I can’t take Easter off or plan a holiday. They are the things I am looking forward to.
“It is the end of an era but if I dropped off the perch that would be the end of an era as well, so this is a decision. I am time poor and there are things I need to do and want to do. I might even sit at home and do my own garden for six months. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm is for sale through McQueen Real Estate in Daylesford.
Words: Donna Kelly | Image: Kyle Barnes