Bringing Lavender to the Mountains

“It’s about giving back to the community.” For Tina Misko and her fiancé, David Duffey operating the Red Oak Lavender Farm is a way to interact with the community and to stay active post-retirement.

Originally from Atlanta, Misko, 60, has always preferred the outdoors and living in the country. Ten years ago, Misko moved to her current home in Dahlonega with her late husband and son.

Red Oak Lavender Farm began in 2014 when Misko first planted lavender. After seeing photos of French lavender plants in a magazine, Misko was inspired to expand her few lavender plants into rows and rows behind her home.

Misko’s late husband was ill due to exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. When Misko first started growing lavender, she hoped it would have a positive effect.

“He was ill at the time, and so growing the lavender was also, I think, therapeutic for him,” Misko said.

This therapeutic effect has extended to other visitors of the farm. According to Misko, a variety of people visit the farm to see the lavender, and she enjoys hearing their stories.

“That’s what makes us keep doing this, because it’s a lot of work,” Misko said.

Despite the fact that lavender is suited to a Mediterranean climate, Misko was determined to make adjustments to Georgia’s red clay including aerating and lining the soil.

“I had this dream of these purple flowers and these perfect rows of lavender growing,” Misko said, “so I didn’t give up, I kept going.”

Following the establishment of the farm, Misko met Duffey, 57, and the two became engaged. The couple now run the business together.

Misko is a retired teacher and Duffey a retired materials engineer, and both of their previous occupations factor into the lavender farm. Misko learned how to grow lavender and teaches others how to do so with Duffey adjusting the current methods they use to grow lavender.

“We’re always constantly learning, that’s the thing with a farmer,” Misko said.

Today, the farm is home to 2000 lavender plants of 20 different varieties. One reason Misko appreciates lavender is because it is natural and she has allergies to several synthetic materials.

“We make our products so they don’t last that long and it’s fresh, and we try to use as simple ingredients as possible,” Misko said.

Along with growing lavender, Misko and Duffey tend to bees and have three to five beehives on their property.

The farm has also collaborated with other businesses that utilize their lavender. Most recently, the farm and Etowah Meadery have collaborated on a lavender mead, which Misko and Duffey plan to serve at their wedding in May.

Once the lavender is harvested in June, Misko and Duffey will host the Red Oak Lavender Festival. The annual event consists of food, music and art including making crafts taught by Misko.

According to Duffey, most of the money they earn from products goes back into the farm and maintaining the lavender.

“We’re retired and we do this because we love it, not because we make money off it,” Duffey said.

Anika Chaturvedi is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. This story was produced during the 14th Annual Woodall Weekend Workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia.



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