My husband Zach and I recently made a tough decision. As you may have read in some of my other posts, we are opening a U-Pick Lavender farm. It was our hope that U-Pick would start this summer with a soft opening as the plants are still small. It takes 4 years for lavender to become full grown and we’re in year 2.
When the plants started blooming, we both realized that there weren’t enough lavender stems to offer the public in a U-Pick setting. Even with the promise of a “soft opening”. We “practice picked” two rows and realized that there wasn’t much there.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say we were blinded by hope. We were so determined to make this work, that we didn’t let the possibility of it not working enter our plan.
As the opening day got closer and closer, we’d silently go out and look at the lavender field. I knew what he was thinking and I’m sure he knew what I was thinking but we didn’t want to say it out loud.
Finally, one night Zach ran his hands through his hair and said. “There isn’t enough, is there?”
I agreed…there wasn’t.
We almost let customers come out and pick all we had, and when it was gone, it was gone, so-be-it! But I was also afraid that they might visit our farm, look around and think…”This is it?” And think it wouldn’t be worth coming back. They might not understand that the plants are going to quadruple in size and that the smell will fill the air and be intoxicating! I know…I’ve been to other lavender farms and it’s amazing. And our will be amazing too, but we’re not there yet.
We are selling an atmosphere as much as a product.
We both dreaded typing out the Facebook message that picking would be postponed yet another year. I had to e-mail a lady wanting lavender for her daughter’s wedding and tell her to go to one of our competitors. I had to meet enthusiastic comments from our customers with the disappointing news that we weren’t offering lavender this year. I felt like I was breaking promises like I was letting down our customers.
I had built it up in our minds and to our customers with well-edited photos on our website and social media, promising serene afternoons in our abundant lavender field. I felt like an idiot. I felt like people would be asking “Couldn’t they tell the lavender would be too small?…that there wouldn’t be many blossoms?”
It was humiliating…and depressing…and a blow to our pride…and for a while, I hated the lavender.
We had just planted 600 new lavender plants.
All that work coupled with the fact that we wouldn’t be making a profit yet again was a lot to take in.
Usually, we make it a point to go out every night and weed at least one row. No weeding was done for about a week. We both felt defeated.
But it’s getting better. We’re making our way back out to the lavender field.
We took our time to feel sorry for ourselves and we’re trying to focus on what we can learn from the situation.
Things we’ve learned:
Along with the 600 lavender plants, we also planted 300 heirloom tomatoes and a ¼ acre of sunflowers for U-Pick. While lavender is the heart of this endeavor, the sunflowers and tomatoes can be our saving grace this year.
After some much-needed rain, the sunflowers and tomatoes seemed to double in size overnight, which brightened our spirits and got us excited again.
Don’t let excitement blind reality
Sometimes excitement is the only thing that gets us homesteaders through the day. “The Vision” of something different, something grand… of a different lifestyle, so don’t squelch that enthusiasm too much. But at least entertain the possibility that everything might not be all flowers and sunshine. Have a plan B and balance confidence in your endeavors with reality.
People don’t care about your failures as much as you do
This might sound blunt, but it’s true. As hard as it was for us to announce, I’m fairly certain that all of our customers will survive the Great Lavender Flop of 2018. People have lives…anyone planning to come out has surely forgotten that our opening day was canceled and they’ve made other plans and moved on.
With that being said…you shouldn’t make light of promises you make to your customers. But if a genuine situation occurs that is out of your control, for the most part, people are understanding.
Take time to feel all the feels but don’t drown in them. Pick yourself up, brush off and move on. Most of all take time to think about how you could have done something different and tuck it in your back pocket for next time. Learning from our failures is how we grow.