Nestled among 10 acres of more than 1,000 fragrant lavender plants, White Diamond Lavender Farms has become a popular wedding destination in central Indiana since it opened in 2016.

Located just outside of Hope at 9415 E. 800 N., White Diamond Lavender Farms is one of the nearly one dozen farms of its kind in the state of Indiana.

Owned by Steve and Melinda Webb, the farm’s 7,800-square-foot barn was framed by the Amish with the intention of it housing an indoor shrimp farm. However, when the couple found the business unsustainable, they needed a new use not only for the barn, but the property.

“As our story says, we were faced with a situation on how we would turn this around for the better and we had to do something,” says Melinda Webb.
The couple discussed various avenues and it was when their oldest daughter was getting married and had her mind made up that she would have a barn wedding that the pair decided it was the perfect opportunity to not only refurbish and repurpose the barn, but it would lead to a new business venture.

“I got the idea [for the farm] from her being engaged and wanting a barn venue,” Webb recalls. “I said, ‘Well, if we clean this place up, maybe that is what it could be.’ We just took a chance. I posed the question to her because I knew it needed a lot of work, because it wasn’t in any shape to be that.”

Once it was decided, the family rallied together to help make the dream a reality.

“We up-cycled and recycled as many items as we could,” Webb says. “We had her event and then the word started to travel and we started getting bookings and thought we had something that could help redeem the mistake we made originally with the shrimp farm.”

Since officially launching White Diamond Lavender Farms, the Webbs have gotten a crash course in not only what it is to be business owners, but also lavender farmers. And that is not necessarily a popularly pursued profession for central Indiana.

During a recent phone interview, Webb discussed the business, what it means to be a part of the local agritourism scene, the process of farming lavender, the farm’s annual lavender festival, as well as what lavender has taught her and advice she has for others.

Was agritourism on your radar when you started this venture?
It wasn’t. We just knew we had to figure out another use for this property. We knew it was zoned agricultural. We had a new use for the barn, but what can we do outside? And what goes well with weddings? I didn’t know. Steve is the one who thought of the lavender.

What was it like diving into the realm and lore of lavender? What did you learn?
I started researching and learned quite a bit and became very intrigued with all the uses you can glean from that plant. We didn’t even know if it would grow there and we’ve made mistakes there, too. But, through time, we’ve figured things out and talking with other lavender farmers we’re realizing, Wow people come to their farms, pick lavender and make crafts with them. And, you can get oil from that and so forth. So I started thinking a whole other process. Yeah, the weddings would be great, but look what else we can do. It would be great to have people come there and enjoy the peace and tranquility that lavender lends itself to.

What are some of the lavender varieties you’ve tried? What varieties do you prefer and why?
We don’t have a windbreak and there are some varieties that are a bit pickier, so if they are in a more protected region – like against a house – they would probably do OK. But because of where we have ours, it’s a bit vulnerable so we choose varieties that will be hearty through the winter.

We have tried some different ones and some didn’t work. We’ve tried a couple of times to grow Grosso and it should grow just fine in some regions of our area. But for us it doesn’t do so well, so we quit trying to grow that one. I think I have a few plants that survived, but I learned from my mistake on that one.

The Munstead is great. The Hidcote is really good. The Phenomenal I love because it has the long spikes. There are some that are a little better for oil, and some that are better for tasting [used in food items].

When it comes to growing the lavender, what does that process look like?
We hope the lavender comes back every year, but things happen, like the weather. We learned the hard way that wind and freezing rain is not good and can kill the plants. That is why we cover it in the wintertime. We’ve had a lot of loss and we’ve had to tear plants out and replant, but our hope is we don’t have to replace a lot of plants from weather. We learned that covering it is a benefit for us to keep it alive for the following year. But when people are growing it around their home or in their landscaping, if it is up against other plants or the house, it should be safer from weather and they shouldn’t necessarily have to cover it.

What has been one of your latest adventures in exploring lavender?
I’ve since bought a copper still and started doing some lavender oil and hydrosol. I really need a lot of lavender to get a little bit of oil. That is why it is so expensive [for lavender oil].

What is hydrosol?
It is a byproduct. It is more of a scented water. So, you can put it in a bottle for a room spray. Anything you would add water to, you can add hydrosol as an added scent.

You have so many wonderful handmade lavender products available. If you would, please talk about some of the items you carry.
The eye pillows and neck wraps we make ourselves from the lavender buds. So, once you harvest the lavender you can hang it upside down and let it dry and just get the buds from that. The buds contain the oil and when you crush the bud it really will come alive. So, basically, you are expressing the oil from the bud and that scent is really strong after that. The nice thing about putting those buds into the material for the eye masks or neck wraps is once they are heated, or the oil is kind of expressed again, you get a really nice aromatherapy – it is very therapeutic if you have a headache or want help with rest.

There is a local place here in Bartholomew County, that specializes in tea and they have formulated some teas especially for us. They formulate and package it and we then sell it.

What flavors do you have available?
On our web site there’s a store. We have Lavender Bliss, Lavender Citrus Chiffon, Lavender Apple Spice and a Lavender Earl Gray.

When it came to making the tea blends, were you a part of the process? If so, what were those taste tests like?
The person who formulated the teas for us had a variety. He blended some that he thought would work well together and we went to sample them. When I tasted the Lavender Citrus Chiffon, I would taste it and I could definitely taste the citrus part and as it kind of sat there a moment I could taste a cream taste and he said that was the chiffon part of it.

What is a lesson the process of tea selection taught you?
Lavender is not necessarily the first taste you will have when you first sip tea. When you are eating a culinary product, lavender should not be the first taste you taste. It is always sort of an afterthought and you have to almost look for it and you will get it in the item you are sampling. If you taste lavender first, there is too much lavender in it.

How and when did the idea of the annual Lavender Festival come about? And what has that looked like?
We are in our fifth year and 2018 was our first one.

I always wanted to do it once we started growing the lavender and I started talking to other lavender farmers. I realized all the things they do on their farms, I was really excited and thought, “Wouldn’t that be great to have enough lavender out here so people could come out, pick their own lavender and make their own concoctions at home?” It really intrigued me. I knew we would have to be successful in growing it first.
So we thought, “Let’s try.”

We started in 2018 and I thought, “If we don’t have enough lavender maybe we should bring some other people to sell their products as well.” We put together what we thought was a little festival and we were pleasantly surprised at the turnout of people who came. So we thought, we need more lavender and vendors. People like this and they need food to eat while they are here, so let’s get some food trucks. It would be nice to have some music and so people can come and shop from other vendors so others benefit and can show off their arts, crafts and items they make. They can pick the lavender and enjoy the music. They can enjoy the food while their significant other is shopping, for example.

So the festival has really grown organically over the years?
Yes, and it keeps morphing.

How would you describe the importance of being a part of the business community of Hope?
I am glad to be a part of the growth. I think of the opportunities for other businesses, because when people come for a garden tour it is usually a group of 15 or 20 women and they want to know where they can go for lunch after that. And so, I can direct them to Hope for WILLow LeaVes or they may go to Simmons Winery. There are opportunities here for people to expand on this experience when they come to Hope, there are other things, activities and farms they can visit as well.

If there was anything you would like people to know about the farm, what would it be?
That it is a place for people to come and make fond memories, whether that be a wedding, graduation, prom or just to have a peaceful place to come and have a memory they make from a tour they take or picking lavender and taking their time to be outside and enjoy what God has created.