Anita Buehner, Bonnieheath Estate
By Pat Grotenhuis
The end of the ability to be a successful farmer growing tobacco in Ontario left Anita Buehner and her husband Steve looking for an alternate crop to grow on their Waterford-area farm. They began experimenting with lavender and have also re-purposed some of their land for environmental projects.
The Buehners have transformed the farm since they first had lavender recommended to them in about 2003. In addition to the aromatic crop, they also grow grapes and are working towards establishing a winery. Some of the fields on the farm have been used for alternative land use projects where native grasses and flowers are grown, and a wetland is established. Because of Anita’s commitment to the environment and educating the public, she was featured in the 2013 Faces of Farming Calendar in the month of July – a page sponsored by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. The calendar is produced annually by Farm & Food Care Ontario.
“We want to get people out to the farm so we can talk about what we’ve been doing. We’re passionate about education and enjoy being demonstration and education-based,” says Buehner.
To showcase what is happening on her farm, the Buehners holds an annual lavender festival, and also give tours to interested groups. During the annual festival, Buehner has wagon rides going out to visit the wetland and grassland on her farm. According to Buehner, the tour is what people enjoy the most at the festival.
The couple show visitors the different prairie grasses and explains how their deep roots help with carbon sequestration. The flowers help provide a habitat for native bees. In both the grassland and the wetland, the native plants are attracting wildlife and giving them a new habitat.
To continue the education theme at Lavender Fest, Buehner offers demonstrations to show how the lavender debudding and distilling process works. Chefs are on hand to demonstrate how to cook with lavender, and live music adds to the festive atmosphere.
The farm now features many varieties of lavender, with a range of colours planted in a sun ray pattern with a gazebo in the centre. Some varieties are used for cooking, while others are used to produce creams, sachets, candles, bath products and more. Culinary products available at the farm include jellies made with apple and lavender or grape and lavender, tea blends and seasonings.
Although growing and producing products from lavender and grapes, along with maintaining environmental projects, is plenty to keep Buehner busy, it is not all she does. This energetic mother of four grown children is also involved in several agricultural groups.
Buehner became the chair of the Ontario Lavender Association in the spring of 2011. The association granted official status in the spring of 2010, now has more than 30 members, and is growing as more discover the opportunities available with lavender. She and Steve are also on the Norfolk Land Stewardship Council because of their devotion to caring for the environment.
As Buehner’s children continue their studies, she is not sure whether or not they will return to the farm. Buehner herself studied science for one year before deciding to study agriculture. She stresses what is most important is finding something they love so the work does not seem as hard or demanding, adding life is meant to be lived. She wants her children to have the opportunity to find the happiness Buehner feels working on the farm.
“I’m a farm girl. That’s what I enjoy – I loved growing up on the farm and working on the farm, and I love what I do today,” she says.
To view a video interview with this farmer, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU2eMtMJJrk&list=PLxl8ycqu125d-iqsZFnv_CxGVT7NAgDDc