Turn­ing flow­ers into oil

How Kel­lie Ox­en­ford grew her busi­ness

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News - Cas­san­dra Glover Cas­san­dra.Glover@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

KEL­LIE Ox­en­ford turned a mo­ment of bore­dom into an award-win­ning laven­der farm.

In 2001, Mrs Ox­en­ford was lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio where they were dis­cussing the up­com­ing laven­der con­fer­ence in Stan­thorpe.

She de­cided she would go along to the meet­ing... and re­turned with 200 laven­der plants.

Over the past 17 years, Mrs Ox­en­ford and her hus­band Matthew have grown their oper­a­tion to con­sist of 2000 plants and their own distillery, where they started mak­ing their own oils.

“In 2003 Matthew de­signed the distillery and had it made,” Mrs Ox­en­ford said.

“The first year we made about 200ml of oil.

“We en­tered our oil in a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion and it won. We’ve won the award four times now – in 2005,

2007, 2008 and 2015. “So our oil is sort of na­tion­ally recog­nised now.”

Mrs Ox­en­ford said the amount of oil they pro­duce de­pends on the har­vest.

“This year we didn’t make a lot be­cause we lost a lot of plants,” she said.

“We lost a lot of them due to the drought com­bined with the age of the plants.

“Com­mer­cially, laven­der has a pro­duc­tion life of about seven years.”

Then dis­ease ‘dieback’ is also a prob­lem for the laven­der plants.

Mrs Ox­en­ford de­scribed a still load of laven­der as the size of a 44 gal­lon drum.

“If that was full of flow­ers it weighs about 35kg,” she said.

“Of the per­fume grade oil,

35kg of flow­ers might get you about 200ml. An­gus­ti­fo­lia is the per­fume-grade oil and is the culi­nary oil.

“The in­ter­me­dia oil is a sec­ond-grade oil. A 35kg cap­sule of that can yield up to two litres.

“It’s sec­ond grade be­cause it has a lot higher camphor con­tent. So the smell is a lot sharper, bor­der­ing on eu­ca­lyp­tus, than the per­fume-grade oil.”

The Ox­en­fords har­vest their laven­der crop once a year, usu­ally around Christ­mas time.

“We grow English va­ri­eties. They have a lim­ited flow­er­ing time, usu­ally from around Christ­mas through to Fe­bru­ary,” Mrs Ox­en­ford said.

“If we’re har­vest­ing for oil we use a tea picker. It’s like a hedge trimmer with a curved blade.

“We walk ei­ther side of the row and it has a scis­sor-like mo­tion. We just get the flower, no leaf. That gets caught in a bag a bit like a para­chute sail.

“Then we lay it out in the shed ready for dis­till­ing. We try and dis­til on the same day or the next day. We like to dis­til our flow­ers fresh. Some peo­ple like to dry their flow­ers first.”

Mrs Ox­en­ford said the qual­ity of the oil comes down to the va­ri­ety of plant you’re grow­ing, but it can be af­fected by a num­ber of other vari­ables.

“The time of day that you pick it can in­crease the oil

com­po­nent. The hottest part of the day has the best oil in the flower,” she said.

“Also the dis­till­ing process. The amount of time that it’s in the still can af­fect the qual­ity.

“We dis­till for 30 min­utes only. We think that’s the per­fect time for it.”

Grow­ing laven­der is a se­condary in­come for the Ox­en­fords.

“We make small bales of lucerne hay. That’s more our main in­come,” Mrs Ox­en­ford said.

“The laven­der was al­ways a sup­ple­men­tary in­come, but it has grown into some­thing a bit more than a sup­ple­men­tary in­come.

“The lucerne busi­ness is only small, mostly for the horse mar­ket.”

❝dis­til

We try and on the same day or the next day. We like to dis­til our flow­ers fresh.

— Kel­lie Ox­en­ford

PHOTOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

LOVELY LAVEN­DER: Kel­lie Ox­en­ford pro­vides chef Do­minique Rizzo with a tour of Leven K Laven­der Farm. Kel­lie Ox­en­ford with prod­ucts made from Leven K Laven­der. Laven­der grown at Leven K Laven­der Farm.

Kel­lie Ox­en­ford and chef Do­minique Rizzo.

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