Serendipity Lavender Farm : History [Melbourne Victoria Australia]

“Serendipity” was purchased and named in 1988 because it was truly “serendipitious” that we found this property, by good fortune, some luck and chance and a lot of searching. The Real Estate Agent told us that the old weatherboard house was uninhabitable.

By 1992 cattle prices were low and with poor returns we had to look at diversifying our primary production. After much thought, and consideration of many wild and wonderful suggestions, we decided to plant a trial plot of lavender. Where to find information about lavender? There was virtually none to be found. Approximately 3000 plants are in the ground by Easter. The first paddock had five varieties, and with the cut flower market in mind. Sally would take lavender plants, cut flowers and her hand sewn sachets to the local craft market, while Jane delivered cut flowers to the inner city suburbs. The flower market proved to be very nebulous, but the craft market continued to expand. “Can you make a hand cream?” We investigated, yes we could. Each product, as suggested by a customer or created by ourselves, was added to our retail list.

Sally has been diligently selling at the craft market every Sunday, and our range of products is now quite extensive. Jane applies to trade at the Queen Victoria Market. Sally is now able to give up her position with the Bank to concentrate on the lavender business.

Our wholesale distribution is growing rapidly and Sally’s work load is constant, with stock control, packing orders, labelling and packaging. The old farmhouse was so decrepit that tourism was not an option. We decided to focus on wholesaling our 50+ range of lavender products. This involves major capital tied up in stock, lower margins and higher turnover. We have the good fortune to find a small family company that will help with bottling of the products, a chore which has been very labour intensive for Sally.

We now have a stripping machine, which saves a huge amount of labour time. Our planting has increased over the ensuing years to approximately 15, 000 plants. The varieties are predominantly Intermedia Grosso & Super and Angustafolia Vera, but we need to buy suitable bulk stripped lavender from other lavender growers to maintain our production level. By trial and error we have discovered which is the most productive method of planting.
The public assume, that because you are a lavender farm you are automatically open. Every week there are calls enquiring about our opening times. We decide to build a purpose built Bed and Breakfast and a café and shop.

After twelve months of building the Bed and Breakfast is completed in June, and is five star rated much to our delight. The local C.F.A. burn down our old derelict house, in which we had lived for twelve years. Jane had continued to run The Dyslexia Assessment and Education Centre, which is sold late September 2001 The Bed and Breakfast has the first guests pre-Christmas.

There are now a number of permanent part time workers, who assist with maintaining the lavender, labeling and packing. Serendipity continues to retail at the Queen Victoria Market, but wholesaling remains the farms’key activity with supply to shops, distributors and other lavender farms throughout Australia. The shop and café open in October 2002.

The Pet Cemetery has been approved, with earthworks completed in April, and the first burial in December.

We have been to VCAT (yet again!) and have won for the third time. VCAT have given us much more than we had requested and finally we are able to concentrate on developing all facets of our businesses. We now have an annual musical event, with“Light Opera in the Lavender”on New Years Day.
There is a regular clientele, and many overseas visitors to the farm.

Intense marketing begins - targeting bus groups for the café and shop,
- increasing our clientelle in the Bed and Breakfast, with longer stays,
- mail out and vet contact for the Pet Cemetery
Thankyou to ALL my staff and the wonderful people who have been there along the way.

Cafe/Shop closed.

Jane retires. B&B closed.