Paint it purple: the symbiotic relationship between a lavender farm and 40,000 bees

by Flow Hive 3 min read

‘We’ve seen a significant positive change in bloom fullness, harvest timing, and overall health of the lavender plants since [the bees] made our farm their home, little purple roof and all.’

Photo Credit: Anthony Wahl, Janesville Gazette

Kirby Bivans and his family of 3 live in Wisconsin, USA and run Old School Farmstead, a lavender farm and emporium. We chat to Kirby about what led them to embark on this colourful endeavour and how bees have become a vital part of the family business.

How did you and your family find yourselves as lavender farmers? What drew you to lavender?

It really goes back to our first summer at our new home (the Old School house) in 2018, which was unusually wet and super thick with mosquitos. We started researching what we could plant that would help keep those pesky skeeters away. Lavender kept coming up, which we already loved, so we planted some. By some, I mean four plants. 

In 2020, we took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to snag up 10 acres of crop land directly behind our home and thought about what we could grow that didn’t require hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment to farm it. As fate has it, lavender kept popping up yet again.

We formed Old School Farmstead llc. in early 2021 and started with over 4,000 lavender plants (and counting!), including several different and wonderful varieties. We have future plans to expand our farm to fill the full ten acres with about 40,000 lavender plants as well as a processing barn with a farm shop, and would like to open the fields for agritourism.  

Not only do we absolutely love lavender's calming fragrance and antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, but we also have a passion for natural apothecary, bath and body products, and locally grown and produced foods. 

Photo Credit: Anthony Wahl, Janesville Gazette

What's been the most surprising experience you’ve had since getting started?

During our first growing season, we made an incorrect assumption that ‘if you build it, they will come’. ‘They’ being honeybees. We had many flying friends visiting our lavender, but virtually no honeybees, which was alarming. 

We knew we needed to do something about that but had zero experience... After spending the winter researching conventional hives, including the honey processing labor and equipment involved, we found the Flow Hive to be the perfect solution for us to begin our symbiotic relationship with thousands of new buzzing friends. 

Images supplied

What are the top benefits you've experienced from keeping bees? 

Many people are surprised to hear that we didn’t embark on this journey for the honey! Sure, the honey is fantastic, but we view it more as a bonus to the pollination. We’ve seen a significant positive change in bloom fullness, harvest timing, and overall health of the lavender plants since [the bees] made our farm their home, little purple roof and all. 

As a token of our appreciation, we have about 300 lavender plants that we let fully bloom past their harvest prime and only trim back to allow for new growth for [the bees] to enjoy. We also have some sizable areas planted with Dutch white clover as a cover crop, which they and other local fauna also love. 

 

Photo Credit: Anthony Wahl, Janesville Gazette

 

You’ve currently got a Flow Hive 2+. Tell us a bit about your experience with Flow Hive so far?

We're pretty rural and as a novice beek, it’s an amazing benefit to be able to take advantage of the Flow Hive's innovative design that will afford us efficiency, ease of use, and most of all, not having to invest time, effort, and money in extraction equipment.  

The Flow Hive 2+ is also incredibly aesthetically pleasing (especially with our two toned purple rooftop!), which is a must for our long term agritourism goals on the lavender farm. 

Lastly, and again I'm going to stress the ‘novice’ in me... Flow Hive has an incredible knowledge base and customer support team for me to utilize, for which I'd be lost without.

Photo Credit: Anthony Wahl, Janesville Gazette

 

To find out more from Kirby, check out OldSchoolFarmstead.com or @OldSchoolFarmstead

Ready to add a Flow Hive 2+ to your garden? Shop now 


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