"Purple Acres"- Why We Left Business in NYC to Start a Lavender Farm
Our pursuit to develop Lavender Life Company in Caledonia, Michigan, has been compared to the 1960’s sitcom “Green Acres” with Lisa and Oliver Douglas fleeing complicated Manhattan living to retreat to the farm life of Hooterville (very early on, we even considered calling our farm “Purple Acres”, but the name was already taken). There are, indeed, similarities and differences to this comical sketch.
Park Avenue, Dahling!
For the past 30 years, Vickie and I have been early innovators in the spa business, landing in posh hotels on 5th Avenue, at Grand Central Station, Wall Street, and on Park Avenue (Dahling). But unlike the Douglases, our roots began on farms in upstate New York—germinated in love, faith, and family. Our parents instilled in us an awe for plants, encouraging us to persist, discover, and invent and modeled a pursuit to rescue people in need. Drawing from our upbringings we, as a couple, developed values for our family and businesses: - Learning - Imagination - Friendship & - Excellence (L.I.F.E.).
Driven by L.I.F.E., serving as a preferred vendor for Hyatt, we provided world-class spa experiences and products to VIPs, heads-of-state, and business and world travelers in some of Manhattan’s finest hotels. Our lavender-based products, especially, provided guests a calming balance to the city’s hustle and bustle. Our business ideas and products have been featured in USA Today, American Spa Magazine, Hotel Exec Magazine, Skin Inc Magazine, REAL Simple Magazine, and others. Regular, 751-mile trips into Manhattan were exciting and filled with new sights, new people, and new opportunities. Managing business long distance presented its challenges as well.
A Budding Idea
When we anticipated our four grown and married kids starting families, we began to yearn for a slower-paced lifestyle. “What if we could return to the dirt, so to speak?,” we pondered, “We could grow our own lavender, create and introduce new lavender products for home use and quality textiles for babies. We could treat people as VIPs, reminding them that they, too, are loved. Perhaps others would be encouraged to help kids in need.” Lavender Life Company & Little Buds Co. were conceived.
Up, Up and Away!
In 2015 we sold our spa business, bought a 30-acre cornfield, built a house, and began to work the land. We made some hard turns on the lavender farm learning curve. One of those times could have been featured on an episode of Green Acres, if only a camera had been rolling. 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts threatened to undo 15” x 200’ sheets of landscape fabric perfectly laid in anticipation of our first lavender plants. Vickie and I frantically dropped to the ground with a 45 pound box of staples to hammer the 12-inch staples on any loose-looking fabric. All of a sudden, Vickie was gone, though a fading scream could be heard. The fabric let loose at one end and took flight, carrying Vickie and the box of staples with it. She landed 30 feet away, shocked but relatively unharmed.
Keeping Our Feet on the Ground
In addition to field prep, every lavender plant is lovingly planted by hand, weeded by hand, and trimmed by hand. Hours on our hands and knees, in constant contact with the very happy lavender keep us humble and grateful. Our lavender products are handcrafted in small batches with our customers and friends in mind. We are blessed to be a blessing, and our success provides a platform to be an engine to rescue at-risk kids. The Lavender Life Company may not be quite as entertaining as Green Acres, but we are truly living a simpler and softer lifestyle and, with our products, encouraging others to do the same.