PEI

'Dream come true': Ontario couple moves to P.E.I. and sets up lavender farm

A couple from Ontario say they're living their dream, operating a lavender farm in Bonshaw, P.E.I. It's a project that has been more than four years in the making.

'People just don't take time and relax and a lavender field is a great way to do it'

The Tymstras opened up the farm to visitors in July and have already hosted people from around the world. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

A couple from Ontario say they're living their dream, operating a lavender farm in Bonshaw, P.E.I.

Paul and Trish Tymstra had a small lavender operation in Sarnia, Ont.

Five years ago, they decided to relocate to P.E.I. and grow lavender here on the Island.

"We said, let's do it, let's just start this again because P.E.I. is beautiful," Paul said.

"The plants that we can buy will be hardy enough for this climate, let's get her going."

Paul Tymstra cuts some lavender at the farm in Bonshaw, P.E.I. All of the lavender is harvested by hand. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

They call their farm Island Lavender Distillery and have added about 1,000 plants per year since they started four years ago.

"It's a plant that will grow steadily and it looks pretty, and of course the fragrance," he said.

"The blooms that you get off of it, it's just a really interesting plant."

A bee enjoys the flowers at Island Lavender Distillery. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

It has taken four years to get the plants to the point where they could open up the farm to visitors.

They now have about 4,000 plants, with plans to add another 1,000 next year.

'Not booze'

Weather, Paul said, is one of the biggest challenges. 

"A few years ago it was quite cold and the plants ... were looking almost like they weren't going to come back," he said.

"But later on the season with the heat, most of them came back, there was maybe 20 per cent that didn't make it, but, I'm surprised, they made it and this year is a good harvest."

The Tymstras grow two varieties of English lavender, hidcote and munstead, and a French variety called phenomenal. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

They take the plants and the cuttings and put them together in a copper distiller and take the essential oil out of it.

"We also distil it, hence Island Lavender Distillery," he said.

"The distillery is not booze as some people might think. Some people have showed up and actually said 'What do you make that's alcoholic?' Well it's not."

Trish Tymstra says she enjoys the medicinal benefits of the lavender as well as its fragrance and beauty. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Open to visitors

Trish makes all of the lavender-based products, including soaps, lotions and a bug spray. 

"I love all the medicinal properties of it, the benefits," she said. "It tastes delicious with chocolate." 

They grow two varieties of English lavender, hidcote and munstead, and a French variety called phenomenal.

Trish Tymstra makes all of the lavender-based products, including soaps, lotions and a bug spray. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Four years after they started planting, the Tymstras opened the farm to visitors in July.

"Oh it's exciting, it's just beautiful to walk around and show them all the lavender," Trish said. "It's my dream come true."

There are now about 4,000 plants on the farm and the Tymstras plan to add another 1,000 next year. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Trish said they have already had visitors from around the world.

"With the busy world nowadays it's just nice to come here and relax, take the time out, just get refreshed," she said.

"People are so busy, they just don't take time and relax and a lavender field is a great way to do it."

Focus on lavender

When they moved to P.E.I., Paul also set up a flight school.  

Now he is selling the operation, so he can concentrate full time on lavender.

Paul Tymstra is now selling his aviation business to focus full time on lavender. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"I don't want to see it stop, I want to see Islanders still have a chance to learn flight training and pursue that passion," Paul said.

"So the intention is to sell it and carry on with them for a few months as the transition goes along."

There are other lavender farms on P.E.I., and Paul would like to see them someday work together on a lavender festival, something he's seen in other places across North America. 

Nicole Rodgers operates Laughing Lavender U-Pick in Borden-Carleton, one of several other lavender farms on P.E.I. (Submitted by Nicole Rodgers)

"Personally I'd like to see more lavender farms," he said. 

"I'd like to see this Island have a lavender festival every year and welcome anybody who wants to start growing, that's good for all of us."

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About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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