Meet the farmer cultivating a purple oasis of calm
Ingrid de Waal began growing her passion with a small lavender bush outside her home. What started as a way to bring beauty to her garden became a business when she extended her crop to three hectares. Since deciding to go commercial, she’s become an award-winning lavender farmer, and the only woman in the industry in the Western Cape. Her burgeoning business is a source of opportunity for previously unemployed locals. And for passersby accustomed to the usual view of wine farms, stopping for the photo opportunities provided by the hundreds of indigo blooms swaying in the breeze is a rare visual delight.
After the birth of her daughter, De Waal left her position as French lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch to pursue other ventures. She had worked in France for several years, where she was inspired by one of the most recognisable symbols of French Provençal style – lavender. But turning the product into a financial success wasn’t as easy or as romantic as De Waal expected. Getting the lavender oil extracted was too costly, leading the new farmer to tackle the process herself. Because lavender has a long shelf-life, she alternates between extracting oil and drying the flowers every other year. “Even though many thought this was a pipedream, I have always had the support of my family behind me,” she says.
The unconventional entrepreneur is the only person in South Africa to produce raw lavender honey, in addition to her offerings of essential oil, soap, cordials, preserves, macarons, and even lavender confetti. De Waal’s commitment to making the most of her harvest earned her the title of the Top Commercial Entrepreneur in the Agricultural Sector at the Provincial Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2015. While she’s proud of this recognition, her focus remains on the people involved. “I think my biggest achievement is when a customer comes back,” De Waal says.