Our family farm – 330 hectares of preserved farmland
Our family farm is in the village of Lagarde d’Apt, on the high Albion plateau – or highlands – in Vaucluse. Lagarde d’Apt is a tiny village which lies at 1100 meters altitude between the majestic Luberon range and the impressive Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux. The village has some thirty inhabitants. Our farm, “Le Château du Bois”, was built in 1820. The origin of the name is not clear – we know of two plausible theories behind the name. The first one seems to say that the château was named after the wooded area it was built in, and the second says that the château was named after the wood used for its construction.
Over time, “Le Château de bois” became “Château du Bois”. On old land register documents we sometimes see both types of spelling. Many châteaux were built at the time to claim the immense land areas and forests on the highlands. It is cooler at 1100 meters altitude than it is in the plains, and is a very pleasant place to be in July and August. Our family settled on the Albion highlands in 1890.
At the time, wild lavender was harvested from the baïassières, a local word which describes where wild lavender grows, also known as “baïasses”. Local peasants cleared these areas where lavender grew wild and hoed and weeded them to help the wild lavender grow better. The money they made from gathering the wild lavender was an important source of income, for the land was poor and farming hard in these highlands. Lavender was also called “blue gold” for it paid well, and in cash.
At the time mainly women and children, and shepherds, gathered the wild lavender. They cut it by hand with a scythe. Later, cutting became more organised, and seasonal Italian and Spanish workers came along to join in.
At the time, distillation was nomadic. Stills were set up near a source of water. Later, farms did their own distillation. Techniques evolved, and lavender growing, distillation and sales became more professional. In the 1930’s: the lavender crop was born!