After a fantastic honeymoon it was time to get back to reality. Somehow, we had to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives when our jobs came to an end in 8 months. We agreed that we absolutely did not enjoy what we were doing, and that we wanted to come up with a way to be our own bosses. We knew that we didn't want to start over with another company and have the possibility of this happening again in a few years. The fact that we basically had these extra acres fall into our laps really had us thinking that we were supposed to use this land for something other than renting out to a local farmer.
The first thing that seemed like an obvious choice to us was to start a small restaurant. Jerry had graduated from culinary school and had a business degree, we both loved to cook and had always kind of thought it was something we'd like to try someday. We talked about this option a lot...actually, we had decided to do it . As we started talking it through, discussing locations, menus, etc., it became clear to us that this may not be something we wanted to start at this point in our lives. Starting a restaurant is risky, but more than the risk, the time involved just wasn't going to work. We had just gotten this wonderful property so that we could spend more time with family and friends, and if we started a restaurant we would have no time to be there. No more free weekends or holidays because those are prime times for restaurants. After hours of discussion and weighing the pros and cons, we decided against the restaurant idea. The time commitment away from home was just not going to allow us to enjoy our place and our people. Back to the drawing board.
Our discussions kept coming back to the fact that we had ended up with 21 acres somehow. It wasn't planned, and it seemed to both of us that it had happened for a reason. The search for our next step moved on to things we could do with our land. Obviously, farming traditional crops like corn or soybeans wasn't going to generate enough income for us to live on. We started looking at other types of plants that might be more profitable on a small scale.
Research, research, research! We spent hours and hours online researching all kinds of ideas.
Some of the options we looked at included growing garlic, mushrooms, hops, or microgreens. The garlic was a decent option. It could grow in our area, but it does not love hot summers, and it does tend to stay in the 90's a lot in the summer in Nebraska. The mushrooms and microgreens would have to be grown indoors. We do have a very large basement, but the cost of equipment and getting set up would have been more than we wanted to spend starting out. That would also defeat the idea of using our land.
Growing hops seemed like a great idea at the beginning. There are tons of craft breweries in Nebraska, and many of them look for Nebraska grown hops. It seemed that there would definitely be a market for the hops. We had the space for it. Hops grow on gigantic trellises, so we would have had to put in telephone poles to build them. Hops also like a lot of water, and the summers here can be very dry.
At some point we were discussing our wedding, and how beautiful the flowers were. We had used dried lavender and other dried flowers in all the boquets and other flower arrangements. We had also given lavender soap as our thank-you gifts to our guests. Suddenly, a light bulb went off! Maybe we should look at lavender and see if it would grow here! I knew there was a demand for it, having found it sold out in many places the year before. We started concentrating our research on lavender and lavender products.
We found that while lavender doesn't love harsh winters, there were a couple of small lavender farms nearby in Nebraska and Iowa. Through more research we found a strain of lavender that had been developed that was hearty and could survive in our climate. Lavender is also drought resistant, deer and rabbits don't like it, and you can make a comfortable living growing under 10 acres of it. All signs were pointing to lavender.
The decision was made! We would start a lavender farm, starting on the 2 acres closest to our house. We would start with 1600 plants in May and add another 1600 plants in August. The dream would be to add plants each May and August until our acres were full, sell lavender and value added lavender products online and at local Farmer's Markets, add a building for extracting oils and having a shop in, and have a successful family business in 5 years. We gave ourselves 2 years to get the plants up and going.
So that's it in a nutshell. How we decided with no experience or prior knowledge of lavender or bees that we would start a lavender and honey farm. We are positive we will make mistakes along the way, but also positive we will make it a success in the end. We can't wait to get started!
Thanks for reading about our journey to make our dream come true!
Next time: Let's Do This!