Visitors glimpse the historic stone cottage jutting out beneath leafy green trees as they walk over the entrance bridge at the Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm.
They can smell the lavender before they see waves of purple plants covering the fields.
Thousands of people visited the celebration of lavender harvest at Shepherds Flat on Sunday, with cars banked up for hundreds of metres on the main road before they could turn into the packed car park.
Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm owner Carol White said the festival and farm helped keep the region’s Swiss Italian history alive, an effort becoming ever more important following the cancellation of the Swiss Italia Festa in 2018.
See the gallery of photos below.
Visitors to the farm were able to learn about the process of harvesting lavender and distilling for oil, while enjoying traditional music, dance, food, historic buildings and an animal farm and pony rides for children.
Every one of the farm’s 4000 lavender plants is harvest by hand using a sickle.
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“We try to keep the old rural early farm practices alive. Now in France they just use a big machine, but for cut and dried flowers you have to cut by hand, so we use a tiny half moon sickle,” Ms White said.
“I think it is important to keep these things alive for our younger generation. If we start doing everything modern and changing things it all gets lost, so I have tried to preserve it.”
The festival has grown from its small beginnings 30 years ago, when Ms White first purchased the farm.
Since, it has become an increasingly popular destination for visitors, particularly those from Asia.
“On weekends I would say there are one or two people international. They love lavender and they love blue skies so they love coming here,” she said.
Meet Robbie Ferguson, the lavender distiller
For Robbie Ferguson, lavender distilling started as a ‘hobby’ and has now turned into a ‘mild obsession’.
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He worked distilling lavender during the festival under bunches of the flower hanging to dry.
“We have been separating floral waters and essential oils for thousands of years. Not much in the process has changed over time. It is a traditional process,” he said.
A boiler is filled with lavender flowers which pushes steam filled with essential oils into a condenser that creates lavender flower water and pure essential oils.
Meet Fay Thompson, descendant of the Tinettis
Fay Thompson’s great grandfather built the old stone cottage at Lavandula farm after moving to Shepherds Flat from the Swiss Italian border in the 1850s.
Ms Thompson welcomes visitors into the restored cottage every festival to share stories from her family’s past.
“I feel very lucky. Not many people can go back and see the house their great grandparents built back in the 1860s,” she said.
“I feel very close to them. My grandmother was born in this house.”
Ms Thompson reflects what he felt the harvest festival was about; passing on stories from the history of the region while celebrating the continuation of Swiss Italian traditions.
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