As the beginning of the pandemic left people with sleepless nights and unending anxiety, many turned to a natural remedy to help with their dread and gloom: lavender.
Lavender sales surged internationally in 2020.
The farms that grow these little purple flowers in the Philadelphia area felt the newfound demand. It’s been a busy year for Joanne Voelcker, the owner of Mt. Airy Lavender in Coatesville. She says that with all of its natural benefits, she’s not shocked people have turned to lavender to help de-stress in these turbulent times.
“Lavender has so many calming and soothing benefits. You know with everybody being anxious with COVID-19 and all those kinds of things, people are more apt to pick natural ingredients,” Voelcker says.
“Lavender has so many calming and soothing benefits.”
—Joanne Voelcker, owner of Mt. Airy Lavender
Patti Lyons, owner of Peace Valley Lavender Farm in Doylestown, says that customers reached out to her when the pandemic first began about how much they wished the store could be open.
“We were getting these emails from customers saying, ‘We consider you essential because we need our lavender’ and we laughed, but also it was so sweet that people were actually thinking that we’re essential,” Lyons says.
Voelcker says she saw an increase in online orders last year. She noticed that products like lavender hand sanitizer, hand lotion and essential oils were in higher demand.
Wendy Jochem, owner of Hope Hill Lavender Farm in Pottsville, also saw an increase in online sales. Admittedly not a numbers person, Jochem says she noticed an uptick because she’s the one packing all of the orders. She also noticed something heartwarming while fulfilling orders.
“There were a lot of generous and supportive people sending gifts to their friends who are nurses in New York, and it was so touching to read some of the notes people were leaving on these orders that were going as far as Virginia or California,” Jochem says.
Voelcker also saw gift-giving to healthcare workers as well as loved ones in nursing homes, she says.
Lyons also took notice of this trend, and it delighted her to know her product was being gifted to those who needed calming the most.
“We believe in the power of lavender to calm and soothe, and so when someone is taking our product and passing it along in that way we feel really happy to be part of that moment,” Lyons says.
Like most businesses during the pandemic, these farms had to pivot and adjust. Events, tours and workshops more or less came to a halt, but that didn’t stop any of these farms from having a successful year—and some of the adjustments are now permanent changes they have come to embrace.
Lyons credits the stay-at-home orders with some of the success.
“I felt like the reason we were so busy this year was in part because people were staying closer to home and doing local activities instead of, you know, going to the shore or going out of town,” Lyons says. “It also got a little stressful with the protocols because we’ve never had lines of people wrapped around the barn, but we had to limit the number of people indoors.”
At Mt. Airy Lavender farm, they usually host an open house and annual plant sale the first weekend of May, but with COVID-19, things had to be tweaked.
“We encouraged people to order their plants ahead of time, and we had people text us as they came down the driveway so we could bring their orders to their car, and that was hugely successful for us,” Voelcker says.
A year later, Voelcker says they are still encouraging people to place their orders ahead of time on their website. She says it is very efficient for them because they can pre-package orders.
“It really is just so convenient, and it helps because this way people are never disappointed if they come to the store and we’re out of something. If they order ahead, it’s guaranteed they’ll get what they want,” Voelcker says.
Unfortunately, Hope Hill did take a hit when it came to their Mother’s Day plant sale in 2020. Jochem says that doing tickets for the event hurt the overall turnout. However, ticketing farm tours turned out to be a welcome change.
“We found that 15 is actually a great number to take people out, because sometimes in larger groups, not everyone gets to learn, so we actually learned from the pandemic that this is better and we’re going to continue to do it,” Jochem says.
Peace Valley is also going to keep initiatives that came out of the pandemic, like curbside pickup. Over the last year they were able to perfect their pickup system and it gave them an opportunity to develop a new website where people could place orders as opposed to calling them in on the phone.
As more people become vaccinated and the 2021 bloom season approaches, these farms are hopeful for a return to some normalcy and more in-person shopping.
“I hope the season is good, but I also hope we can stay safe, and I know we can because we have a very scenic shopping experience. We can leave the front doors open to our farm store and constantly have air circulating,” Jochem says.
Lyons is confident they will have a great bloom season—they always do. If the pandemic didn’t keep customers away last year, it certainly won’t this year.