In­side a Bund­aberg laven­der op­er­a­tion

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - GEORDI OFFORD [email protected]­ral­weekly.com.au

FOR Helen and Kelvin Grif­fin, the smell of laven­der is a gen­tle re­minder of their di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion jour­ney, which be­gan 13 years ago.

The cou­ple added the crop to their 80-hectare cane op­er­a­tion af­ter a slump in the sugar in­dus­try had them look­ing for a sec­ond in­come.

“We started look­ing at what we could do with the skills and equip­ment we al­ready had and if it didn’t work out we wouldn’t have lost any­thing be­cause we didn’t need to buy ma­chin­ery,” Helen said.

“Kelvin is an ex­pert on the cane so I leave that to him, but if he needs a hand with any­thing I’m more than happy to do it.

“I tend to make the de­ci­sions for the laven­der farm so we both have our patch.”

The idea of laven­der came from a French ex­change stu­dent, Aman­dine, who told them about the fields in Provence in her home coun­try.

“She told us about how the fields and the shops at­tracted tourism, so we put it on our list and did our re­search,” Helen said.

The cou­ple have helped agri-tourism in the Bund­aberg re­gion bloom.

“My hus­band went on a lead­er­ship course in Western Australia and saw how other pro­duc­ers were di­ver­si­fy­ing into tourism,” Helen said.

“We did the re­search and vis­ited about 25 farms to see how they made their in­come and how it worked for them.

“Then we had a look at how many peo­ple came to this re­gion and at the mo­ment it’s at least 1.3 mil­lion.

“We fig­ured it was worth a go and that it would work and that’s how it all be­gan.”

The di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion has also helped to keep their son on the prop­erty.

“Our son has come back to the farm and has taken on quite a big role,” Helen said.

“Hav­ing this sec­ond in­come has helped us keep him here, be­ing able to pay wages whether it’s a good year or bad year, and give him some se­cu­rity as well.”

Laven­der blooms in the cooler months, which proves to be a peak time for vis­i­tors.

“We have about 800 plants and let peo­ple come and cut their own bunches free of charge,” Helen said.

“I also teach peo­ple how to prop­a­gate their laven­der so they can grow it at home and I do that year round.”

Helen said the demon­stra­tions were pop­u­lar.

“The older types come up by seed and have been crossed many times within their species and when that hap­pens they go ster­ile,” she said.

“The only way for them to re­pro­duce is to prop­a­gate.

“You just cut a piece off at the right time of year and dip it in some­thing to pro­mote root growth or some­thing nat­u­ral like honey.

“Then you just put it in your prop­a­gat­ing mix and wa­ter it ev­ery day for six weeks and give it some Sea­sol.”

Helen said peo­ple used laven­der for stress, anx­i­ety, sleep and headaches.

The plant be­longs to the herb fam­ily and Helen said it grew bet­ter when the plants were apart, in­stead of in a hedge.

“In this cli­mate it keeps the air flow­ing through them,” she said.

“We also grow them on a mound, so they’re not sit­ting in wa­ter.

“We give them slow-re­lease fer­tiliser and mi­crobes twice a year, be­fore and af­ter flow­ing, and that seems to work quite well.

“They re­ally flour­ish af­ter you do that and the cooler weather hits.”

The blooms are har­vested us­ing a man­ual ma­chine.

“It’s very small, it’s curved and it’s sort of like a whip­per-snip­per,” Helen said.

“There are small scis­sors that cut the buds off and then the air blows them into a para­chute at the back.

“It takes about a day to do, but it’s fairly sim­ple.”

PHO­TOS: GEORDI OFFORD

HERBAL BLISS: Helen Grif­fin runs Aman­dine Laven­der on the fam­ily-run cane farm near Bund­aberg. INSET: French laven­der is the va­ri­ety grown on the farm.

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