Dollars and scents

Sustainable agritourism blooms in Hunter Valley.

With equal parts passion and patience, Hunter Valley lavender farmers Marty and Karen McRae are cultivating the region’s latest offering in agritourism with a focus on sustainability.

The husband-and-wife duo are the proud owners of Wine Country Lavender, a sprawling lavender farm and boutique Airbnb on their 21-acre property in Sedgefield, just outside Singleton.

Almost three-and-a-half acres is dedicated to seven varieties of culinary and medicinal lavender; an impressive 11,000 plants equal to about six-and-a- half kilometres.

From it, they produce a thoughtful line of lavender scented beauty products, including lip balms, bath soaks and body butters, stocked at Hunter Valley Gardens and Singleton Visitor Information Centre, as well as a range of therapeutic arnica balms used by local physicians.

“We’re the best-smelling farmers you’ll ever meet,” Marty tells Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine.

Airbnb guests are treated to a tour of the farm where they can pick their own lavender bunch, while their accommodation is spritzed with an aromatic room spray distilled on site.

Occasionally, they might be lucky enough to sample Karen’s lavender and honey cookies.

This alone is enough to conjure images of bountiful, fragrant fields of lavender in Provence, but the reality is not always so romantic.

The McRaes sowed their first plantation in April 2022, inspired by Marty’s career as a physiotherapist and chiropractor and Karen’s educational background plus a shared desire to create something unique.

“Initially, I needed it [to treat] things like tennis elbow and Achilles tendinitis,” Marty says. “I got sick of using these balms that left me smelling like a gym locker room.

“Karen has been making arnica balms in a clinical setting for eight or nine years and used to make candles as a hobby. She’s always loved lavender, so, I said to her, ‘Do you think you could make something with lavender in it?’

“We did a lot of research before experimenting and it grew from there.” There’s huge demand for locally grown lavender, Marty adds.

Read the full story in the Autumn Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Georgia Osland