The Loss of French Lavender Farms

lavender farm in Provence, France

Drought and a plant virus strike lavender farms in Provence, France.

As we drove over the plateau on the mountain top, field after field was in the same condition. Ten years ago I wanted to buy a farm on the plateau that I fell in love with and had taken many distributors to see. It was a beautiful 300-plus-acre, organic, Lavandula angustifolia farm that was nestled high above the main plateau in a valley at 5,000 feet. Over the years I had visited this farm, and three times I tried to purchase it, but the farm was never for sale.

However, the owner was able to grow and supply the oil for us to make up the difference when our own production was short because of our growing demand. This year the farm is sadly for sale. The dead and dying plants, caused by the drought as well as by a virus that has attacked and killed the lavender plants, caused a rapid drop in production and, of course, income, which put so much stress on the family that it resulted in a divorce.

This year the production on his farm was down 60 percent from previous years. There is no way this man can recover, and if he doesn’t sell the farm, he will simply lose it to the bank. Unfortunately, he is only one of many farmers in similar situations. In addition, many distilleries on the plateau were out of operation this year.

Jean Noel and I had a lot of discussion about our farm and distillery. We wondered what to do about the distillery simply because there was no crop. Many farmers who are hoping the lavender will come back are talking about keeping just one central distillery in operation and selling the others, if they can find buyers.