Evergreen Lavender Farm – Appomattox, VA

By Solar United Neighbors on July 1, 2024

“For a lot of rural businesses, the margins are pretty slim. Having solar has helped expand those margins a little bit

Bonnie – Evergreen Lavender Farm 

This Solar Story was transcribed from a live interview

Could you share a bit about Evergreen Lavender Farm, and what goods & services you you provide?

I started out pedaling flowers at local markets. Around 2008 I went to visit a friend in Oregon and saw the lavender farms out there, and just fell in love with it and the color and scent. I thought “well, I’m gonna try this” and that’s how it started. I came back from that trip and planted about a hundred plants, and there was lavender everywhere. At one point I had about a thousand plants, but fungal diseases, Virginia humidity, and soil conditions have decreased the amount of lavender grown in the field. Now it’s more of a combination of flowers and lavender. 

We’re more on the agritourism side of the industry. We started with just cut-your-own lavender, and then realized people wanted to shop while they were here. I started making lotions and soaps, and cosigned with other businesses to have other items here that I couldn’t make, like candles, jewelry, food and things like that. Lavender ice cream was a huge hit and people would travel for miles to have it. Eventually we built a stage and started having live music. It was a great gathering place for the community. We added in weddings as another income source, and between May through July of 2022 we had weddings here every weekend. 

What does it mean to you to own a local business in your community?

It’s very important to me. We opened it up because of my obsession with planting things, and I wanted to share it. People see it as a place of solace. You never know what’s going on with peoples’ lives, and this is just a nice open place to walk around and just enjoy nature and the lavender. 

A few years ago we decided to try something different, so we bought a church to renovate and decided to sell the lavender farm. Now as we look for a buyer, its very important to me that the new owner will have a similar care for the farm. It’s almost like a community garden for people, in a way. 

When did solar and the REAP grant become an idea for Evergreen?

My husband wanted to do his part to combat climate change, but we were also attracted by the financial benefit of solar. Even though it’s a large amount of money to put down, the REAP grant helped to offset the initial cost, and and solar power gave us a major reduction in our electricity bill. Other farmers in the area are curious about it, and when I tell them the numbers, they say “oh wow, that’s good!” So they’re also impressed by the savings. 

Our system on its own was around $25,000, and the grant paid for $5,000. I thought that was great. We were able to pay it off faster than we thought we would too, because we treated it like a car payment. Within 5 years we were able to pay it off, and now that’s done. 

Have you seen any savings in your electric bill? If so, what have you used those savings on?

Yeah, in a major way. We pay a $9 connection fee to the utility company, and that’s all the bill is for April through November. 

I use the savings to buy more plants. It also just eases things up a little bit. You know, major payments are your mortgage or rent, your car payments, insurance, and then your utilities. So there’s one less thing to worry about now. For a lot of rural businesses, the margins are pretty slim. Having solar has helped expand those margins a little bit. 

What advice would you give to other rural business owners who are interested in going solar through REAP?

I think it’s a win-win situation. It’s beneficial not only if you’re concerned with the planet, but it’s also worth the investment. As we go through this process of selling this farm, people are always curious and have questions about that. I see it as an appreciation of value rather than a depreciation. 

We were in our 60s already when we put these panels in, and even I was thinking “Oh, you know, we’re never gonna see our return,” but we did, and more quickly than we thought. If people are farming in their 40s, I think it would definitely be worthwhile. It’s definitely a win-win situation.