Business Is Blossoming at Sunshine Lavender Farm

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Sunshine Lavender Farm

Sylvie, Abigail, Dale and Annie Baggett run Sunshine Lavender Farm in Hurdle Mills. Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

Annie and Dale Baggett were looking for a change when they first moved to their land in Hurdle Mills with their daughters, Abigail and Sylvie, in 2000. Annie, who had been on a corporate career track working all over America, felt it was time to reevaluate and bring her family closer to the land, and to one another, through a project they could all work on together.

They started with the idea to grow a community vegetable garden and quickly learned that it would be no easy task when their nearest neighbors were the dozens of resident deer in their fields. The Baggetts went back to the drawing board, this time with a plan to grow flowers.

“While adding lavender to the list of deer-resistant flowers, a friend from the West Coast made the suggestion of exploring lavender further,” Annie says. “We explored ways for the family to fully engage our collective gifts and learned all about the soothing and calming benefits of lavender.”

Sunshine Lavender Farm

Photo Credit: Jeffrey S. Otto

After extensively researching the crop, the Baggetts felt it could be a good fit for their farm and an opportunity for their family to learn and grow together.  Abigail and Sylvie, who grew up on the farm, helped out every step of the way.

“We basically started the farm from scratch,” Annie says. “It really wasn’t the pursuit of a business plan. It was a family enterprise that grew into a business.”

Over the next few years, that family enterprise evolved into Sunshine Lavender Farm, the first farm of its kind in the state.

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Challenges and Success

The Baggetts began by learning how to mimic successfully lavender’s native environment in the Mediterranean – a difficult task given North Carolina’s humidity and clay soil. They discovered techniques like planting on slopes and banks to aid in soil drainage, harnessing the natural wind to create more air circulation, and using reflective light to keep the plants as dry as possible.

Fast forward to 2020 and the family now grows about a dozen varieties of lavender that do well in North Carolina. They also host planting clinics at the Hillsborough Farmers Market, sharing their lavender-growing secrets with other hopeful Southern gardeners.

“There’s a lot of knowledge that comes from growing a nonnative plant that prefers hot and dry conditions. We are probably the most resilient – or tenacious – lavender farm in North Carolina,” Annie says, laughing. “We’re very committed to our loyal community and customer base because they really value and appreciate what we’re doing.”

Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

A Crop for Community

Although the Baggetts didn’t set out to start their own business, the entrepreneurial side developed naturally as they began participating in local farmers markets. They were even invited to sell at the country’s first medical center-based farmers market at Duke University Hospital, a community that was very close to their hearts.

“After a discussion about the soothing power of lavender with an oncologist, he asked me to make a dozen lavender pillows for his patients to use during chemotherapy treatments, so I did. A nurse asked if I knew how to make soap, so I learned,” Annie says.

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This process of listening to what the community wanted and learning how to provide it led to the expansion of the business. Their product line now includes everything from fresh and preserved lavender bouquets to candles, air mist, hand creams, laundry booster, culinary lavender and more. They craft each product in small batches using natural ingredients grown on the farm or sourced as locally as possible.

“Our practices are very streamlined now, yet everything still happens on the farm, one handmade item at a time and one customer at a time. We prefer it that way,” says Annie, who also works full time for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. In fact, her day job connects back to her hobby farm. As agribusiness developer and agritourism marketing specialist for the department, she works closely with other agritourism operations across the state and helps them market their farms and products to the public.

Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

While the Baggetts are dedicated to keeping their enterprise small, they love sharing their knowledge of lavender with others. They even organize a June Bloom Weekend event during the second weekend in June each year as a way to thank their loyal customers. Over the weekend, the Baggetts open their farm up to the public to see and smell the lavender in bloom, take farm tours, enjoy engaging activities, and learn more about the unique crop. They also create a variety of one-of-a-kind items made especially for the open-farm event.

“We are honestly humbled and often humored that many look to our farm as industry experts,” Annie says. “After all of these years, I still giggle when people call me the Lavender Lady.”

But at the end of the day, Annie doesn’t measure the farm’s success in sales or lavender harvested, but rather in the value they can create for their community.

“What we’re doing is not so much about us. This is about really trying to listen to what others want, deserve and need,” Annie says. “Yes, we’re growing lavender and crafting a line of value-added products, yet when it really comes down to it, we’re in the people business.”

June Bloom Weekend

Sunshine Lavender Farm normally opens for a June Bloom Weekend event each year. However, due to COVID-19, plans have changed. Please check the website for more information on how the farm will share lavender this year.

Location: 4104 Millstone Rd. in Hurdle Mills

Website: sunshinelavenderfarm.co

Facebook: facebook.com/sunshinelavenderfarmnc

Shop: etsy.com/shop/sunshinelavenderfarm

Agritourism Adventures

Whether you’re looking for lavender, ice cream, seasonal produce or good old-fashioned fun, plan a visit to a North Carolina farm this summer using the Visit NC Farms app. Developed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and managed by community-based app administrators, the app is now in the process of statewide expansion. Just download it for free from the App Store or Google Play and start exploring agribusiness destinations in your own community and across the state. You can browse categories ranging from farmers markets and local restaurants to U-pick operations, farm stays, tours, special events and more.

To learn more about the app, go to visitncfarmstoday.com.

– Rachel Graf

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