48 LAVENDER fields

nights,” Andrea explains. It’s paid off, however. Today, they sell about 50 products including nine teas, culinary dried herbs, syrup and natural beauty products. To create the products, some plants like lavender are harvested once a year while others, like lemon balm, are cut three times. It makes for busy days and weather adds its own twist. A quarter of the property was replanted last spring after a cold winter that caused significant crop damage.

Art and science “When oils are first distilled,

they are sharp and harsh. The notes soften over time,” McFadden explains, sharing the smell of some of the potent Douglas fir oil distilled in one of the farm’s three hoppers.

Distillation produces one

tiny part concentrated essential oil and a lot of hydrosol, which contains a little oil and quite a bit of water. Lavender oil is created from the whole plant. Rose oil uses only rose petals. One 40- metre row of lavender produces about one litre of oil which is sold in two and five- millilitre bottles. Hydrosols, on the other hand, are less pricey and are the water component of many cosmetics.

from page 47 “You can grow lavender in

many parts of the world but it doesn’t mean it’s going to produce a good oil. It’s affected by soil and water. Climate has a big impact on the compounds in the oils. Just like you have exceptional wine years, you can have the same with essential oil content in the plants,” says McFadden. When it comes to creating

products and growing plants, McFadden says it’s all about experimentation. “When you come here

today, it looks like this was what we intended,” says McFadden, the self-professed plant-lover. In reality, it’s been a journey for the five McFadden family members that work year-round on the farm. The farm also employs two part-time staff and during peak season –May to Thanksgiving – the payroll expands to 17 to 20 staff. Many have worked here a long time. “We are a group of lifelong learners at the farm. We all seek courses to do, conferences to attend and places to visit where we can learn a lot more. If we weren’t like that – if you had lots of money – you would hire a consultant to tell you but that was a luxury that we wouldn’t have been able to afford, so it’s been a long slow process.”

Lavender is a member of the mint family with a 2,500-year history. It’s name comes from the Latin word lavare, meaning “to wash.” It was deemed a holy herb and used to scent baths, beds, clothes and even hair. These

properties, as well as its

medicinal uses have once again become prominent thanks to the natural health and beauty business. Both are key to Okanagan Lavender’s success. In 2017, the farm’s botanical rose,

lavender and chamomile skin toners made with hydrosols placed third in face care in the Clean Beauty Awards presented by CertCare, a Toronto-based certifying organization. It faced entries from Australia, Europe, the US and Canada. “It was really big for us. People don’t necessarily understand what we do, so it helps to help explain that what we do is legitimate and has merit,” says McFadden. “When they see that your essential oils are placing in international competitions, it gives you more credibility.” Hydrosols have similar essential oil qualities but with minute amounts of oil, they’re safe to apply directly on skin.

“All the plants

have different qualities. That’s not me inventing it; that’s the

science behind it,” says McFadden. “Aestheticians love lavender hydrosol because it’s anti- inflammatory.” Customers buy off-the-shelf or can

customize and are of two types.

Some want to see the garden in full-bloom and others believe in the plant’s benefits. The farm’s customer base among 25 to 35- year-old female customer is growing, attracted by the company’s social media marketing led by McFadden’s daughter-in- law, her daughter and son. “We suspect this shift has a lot to do with

how the cosmetic industry has been exposed for the use of chemicals and being unregulated,” says McFadden. Sales in the store are good. Online business is better. From time to time, products are sold out and McFadden doesn’t apologize. “It’s good for customers to know that it is supply and demand. The products are valuable to our customers and the people that work here feel really good about producing them as well.”

—Myrna Stark Leader

COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • JANUARY 2018 Award-winning shift in business

AVANT’s compact articulated design minimizes surface impact. 

339 Sumas Way, Abbotsford BC

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