Lavender farm experiences trials and triumphs

 In Business

Products from the Fennario Meadows Lavender Farm near Glen Huron will soon be available for purchase. With the Terre Bleu Lavender Farm near Milton closing, Fennario has purchased the Terre Bleu brand, e-commerce site and product line up. Owner Jim Muzyka says this will accelerate his ability to make good use of the lavender grown at the local farm.

In addition to online sales, Fennario is adding a retail location in Elora which is slated to open by the end of this month. The Terre Bleu line includes 78 products including culinary and personal care items. Muzyka says it would have taken years to develop the product line to this stage had he been forced to start from scratch. Fennario Meadows will be featured as a premium brand while the Terre Bleu name will live on with more mainstream products.

Muzyka planted 25 acres of lavender more than a year ago with plans to host tours of the fields and sell products on site. A group of neighbours working under the banner Preserve the Escarpment (PTE) forced a hearing before the Niagara EscarpmentCommission (NEC) claiming that the use is incompatible with the land classification and fearing the impact of increased traffic on rural roads. The commission ruled last September to allow Muzyka to proceed with limits on the number of visitors.

The Fennario site is laid out so that no lavender fields or parking areas are visible from Concession 8, in an attempt to ease concerns about increased traffic or people stopping along the road to take pictures. When the leaves are out on the trees, the view of the lavender operation is also shielded from all the neighbouring farms. Muzyka says visitors would only be admitted during the bloom season from June to Mid-August and with online ticketing, traffic can be limited to only 12 cars per hour when fully sold out.

PTE has appealed the NEC decision and the matter will go before a Land Use Tribunal in January, 2023.

Muzyka says visitors are one component of the Fennario business model, but are not foundational. While opponents liken the operation to a large theme park attraction, Muzyka says a much better parallel is a winery where a crop is grown to produce a value- added product. He says there are not many 100 acre farms still in existence and this is one of the few viable options for a small farm.

Muzyka grew up in Saskatchewan, and is no stranger to the challenges of agriculture. On May 28, 2021 his 17,000 lavender plants arrived the day after four inches of snow. Several days of frost ensued, followed by three weeks of intense heat and drought. He is managing the challenges Mother Nature sends his way, but says the business elements are even tougher.

The dried lavender harvest begins this week with just a few staff on hand at the Concession 8 location. He is hopeful that by this time next year the regulatory hurdles will be behind him and visitors will be permitted to appreciate the magnificent views.

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