About Casa Lavanda
In 1993 Greg, my husband, and I (Mary) purchased a sheep and beef farm at Mangatahi west of Hastings. When we arrived in March It was beautifully lush and green and we were delighted. Day after day the weather was perfect… beautiful clear sunny days and blue skies. Winter brought lots of frost and more clear sunny days. Summer followed and it was a typical hot dry Hawke’s Bay summer.
While the weather suited the teenage children and family life in general it did not suit farming. Livestock struggled in the conditions and so did the farmer! Drought set in and at one point 6 months passed without a drop of rain. For two years it stayed dry.
Meanwhile Tourism Hawke’s Bay began promoting the area as the Tuscany of the south due to our ‘Mediterranean’ climate. It made us think about other options that might work for us on our land. We decided to trial lavender plants and olive trees. In the process, we discovered our land produced top quality lavender oil. Our initial trial plot of 2,000 plants was quickly extended to over 26,000. Our teenage kids helped propagate and plant. Greg and a local engineering company worked together and developed a harvester to harvest the lavender flowers for steam distillation. For two summers Greg took the harvest to friends who had a still, on Kapiti coast, until we contracted another local engineering firm, to manufacture our own still. Greg spent hours in the lavender fields keeping them free of weeds and the grass mown between the rows. Each January he worked tirelessly to extract the oil and bottle it into large stainless steel containers.
Friends would visit and comment ‘you really should share this and start a tourist operation’ … so we did! And Casa Lavanda was born. For 10 years we opened every summer. We upgraded and added a commercial kitchen to a historic quaint 100 year old barn. We were so fortunate to have lovely Fe take control of the café. She had just returned from her OE and catering in Italy. Her coffee, paninis and platters resulted in Casa Lavanda becoming quite the happening place. Visitors enjoyed wandering the fields and then relaxing in the landscaped garden after ordering coffee, food and wine from the café. Local artists were able to display their artwork in the gallery and musicians entertained.
We recognised the opportunity to make products using the oil and soon handcream, soaps, lotions and balms were sold in the gallery too. Busloads of tourists visited and it was a privilege to meet people from all parts of the world. Our little dog Gabby became a star attraction and was adept at photo bombing whenever she spotted someone taking photos. She thought all the visitors had come to see her and didn’t hesitate to dance (beg) near the tables when visitors were enjoying their food. They were happy days!
The Casa Lavanda product range was extended, and retailers were keen to stock. We were asked to be part of the Black Barn market – New Zealand’s very first farmer’s market, 25 years on we still supply their luxury lodges with our products under the Black Barn label. After 10 years of tourism, we decided to end that part of the business and concentrate on the products. Since the introduction of online shopping, we send products all over New Zealand. It has been interesting, rewarding and a privilege to get to know our customers.
Sadly, in late November 2021, Greg died suddenly. We (the family) would like to honour his contribution to the business. Like many small kiwi businesses, the people behind the scenes that ‘do the hard yards’ get little or no recognition. Thanks to his efforts and commitment, Casa Lavanda has a stock of large containers of beautiful vintage pure essential lavender oil to continue producing our fabulous products.
The biggest challenge now is the ongoing issues of the pandemic. This has resulted in huge production cost increases at the laboratory that manufactures our product range. It is now uneconomical to manufacture in small runs, naturally, large orders are most cost efficient. There are also changes coming to our product range, we are concentrating on our biggest sellers to keep manufacturing down. We have a few new products in the trailing stage and would welcome any product suggestions or feedback on current products from our valued customers.
The lavender oil contained in our products was grown and distilled at Casa Lavanda situated in the heart of Hawke’s Bay New Zealand - just 25 km west of Hastings in the district of Mangatahi. The fertile flats, once famous for its production of New Zealand lamb and beef, are now renowned for their production of top quality New Zealand wines. We arrived here in 1993 knowing this was a dry district, but nothing prepared us for the ensuing drought of the first few years so the idea to grow lavender was literally born of drought. We soon learnt that Mangatahi enjoys a Mediterranean climate with low rainfall, hot dry summers and is a hot spot in sunny Hawke’s Bay.
WE ARE NO LONGER OPEN TO THE PUBLIC - We enjoyed ten years sharing the lavender fields of Casa Lavanda with friends and tourists and what an exciting, wonderful time it was. We were privileged to meet people from all over the world who we would otherwise never have met had it not been for tourism. It was an honour to share our small part of beautiful Hawke's Bay with you. Our decision to opt out of tourism and devote our energies to research, development and distribution of the Casa Lavanda product was not an easy one and eight years on we still receive phone calls asking what time do we open. We value your ongoing loyalty to Casa Lavanda and our products and we thank you for that.
HISTORICAL PHOTOS - taken in 2005. Please click on the photo below to view a larger image.