Drought Decimates French Lavender Fields

Gary inspects lavender field in France

Gary inspects lavender at the Simiane-La-Rotonde farm in Provence, France.

My most recent visit to Provence, France, in November of 2010 was shocking and very discouraging. I have worked with the growers in France, planting, harvesting, and distilling over the past 25 years, and have never seen anything so devastating.

As I drove into the Simiane Valley, my heart felt like it was stuck in my throat. All the lavender fields were dug up and gone; and the hybrid and cloned lavender was 40 percent dead.

As I arrived at my farm, a knot like a 100-pound lead ball filled my stomach as I walked through the lavender fields we had planted five and seven years earlier with our members. I had not been to our farm for two years, and I could hardly believe my eyes.

Jean-Noel Landel, who has been my partner in France for many years and is currently the manager of the Young Living farm in Simiane, had reported to me over the last couple of years that the lavender was dying, but until I saw the fields, it hadn’t become a reality. When I saw that 90 percent of all the lavender was dead, I knew I was faced with a major decision.

In addition to the lavender, we had also always maintained a two-hectare field of Lavandin super for our Purification blend. As I walked the field, I saw that 40 percent of those plants were dead as well. In 2009 our fields produced 68 kilos of Lavandin super and 60 kilos of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and in 2010 they produced 58 kilos of super and no lavender.

Jean Marie, a large lavender grower, who we have contracted for the last eight years to do the cultivating, planting, and harvesting of our farm, along with many other farmers, lost all of his lavender and 40 percent of his lavandin as well.

A farmer can experience no greater pain than to have crop failure. As I walked back to the car and sat down, the words of Mr. Henri Viaud over 20 years ago resounded loudly in my head. “Mr. Young, you will see the day come that if you do not grow it, you won’t have it!”  He predicted in 1993 that the lavender would die.

We’re fortunate at Young Living that we have our farms in Utah and Idaho, where our lavender is growing strong and healthy.

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