The day before we sent the August issue of Greenhouse Grower off to the printer, my daughter and I ventured out to nursery country in Madison, OH, for an afternoon to enjoy the lavender festival at Luvin’ Lavender Farm. I’d found out about the event on social media and thought it would offer a peaceful way to start the hectic work week leading up to Cultivate’17, while offering some inspiration and fun.
On the way there — a quick, 24-mile drive — I was envisioning vast, open fields of lavender, similar to the picturesque lavender fields in France, where we’d encounter maybe a few handfuls of people. I daydreamed about taking a leisurely yoga class, sipping lavender lemonade, taking photos of ourselves among the rows and rows of flowers, and coming home with bunches of lavender, relaxed and inspired.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when we arrived. There were fields of lavender — but only about two — and masses of people, lined up, clamoring to pay $7 each to pick their own bunches. There were tents of vendors offering artsy goods, and courses on watercolor painting, wine glass painting, lavender wreath making, and other crafts. A basket of simple frames allowed visitors to take an artistic photo in the lavender field, among what was left of the plants. A group of musicians, suitably called “The Nurseryman Band,” played enchanting Celtic music on hammer dulcimers and mandolins. And in the barn, for those who didn’t want to pick their own, lines of customers bought lavender bunches, essential oils, and various goods. The $5 per carload admission the operation charged was donated to the local Humane Society — another attractive boon to the local economy.
The thing that struck me most was, this place looked just like my parents’ small hobby farm. It wasn’t some big, elaborate, French-looking field. It was a modest place that was unexpectedly inundated with people from all over the Cleveland area who were looking, just like I was, for a peaceful way to spend the day. This small growing operation wasn’t expecting more than 2,000 people to show up, and on the Saturday of the two-day event, they got more like 20,000.
Beyond that, I was also enthralled with how interested everyone was. Enthusiasm just poured out of the visitors, and I kept overhearing snippets of conversation, about how much they wanted to buy, how they couldn’t wait to go home and plant more lavender, how they were curious if lavender would live indoors (I heard this from several Millennial-aged visitors). I was inspired just listening to them.
The moral? Don’t think that consumers aren’t interested — they are. And you don’t have to be a large, mighty operation to host a successful event. Consumers are looking for experiences they can brag about to their friends, but you do have to figure out the best way to market it, and social media is that way. You can bet Luvin’ Lavender Farm will be planting more lavender for next year, and now that the operation has figured out how to attract consumers, the masses will keep showing up to buy it.
You don’t have to be a large operation to run a successful event. What you need is good organization, a product that consumers want to buy and learn more about, local artisans to help add to the experience, and good social media marketing. Supporting a local cause your customers care about will help, too. Most of all, make it easy and fun!