Stonewell Lavender Farm: Restoring our natural and cultural heritage

Four years ago, Lee Anne Downey and her husband Tom Hitchman moved to their Erin farm. They’ve since meticulously restored their 1872 stone farmhouse, planted 3,500 lavender plants, and established a honeybee operation. They’ve transformed the historic site into a unique horticultural operation that specializes in handmade lavender products and on-farm experiential nature activities for visitors.

In addition to managing volunteers, hosting tours, harvesting crops and hand crafting products, Lee Anne has made it a priority to enhance wildlife habitat on the farm. After attending a rural landowner workshop with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), Lee Anne connected with CVC’s invasive species specialists and learned the abundant woody shrub she’d seen growing on her property was invasive common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).

Lee Anne was determined to rid her property of the aggressive shrub. “When I’m passionate about something, I dive right in,” she explains. She started by marking buckthorn locations with flags and spray paint. Working with a local arborist, she set to the task of removing hundreds of shrubs from windbreaks, fencerows, and riparian wetland areas, even learning how to operate a mini excavator herself. Once the area was cleared, she discovered a historic apple orchard had been hidden beneath the shrubby overgrowth.

Piles of excavated buckthorn.

To help re-establish native habitat, Lee Anne worked with CVC’s forestry team to plant 700 potted native trees and shrubs. She also planted a pollinator meadow and is developing a Managed Forest Plan. She continues to keep an eye out for any new buckthorn shoots.

Native trees and shrubs planted to restore habitat.

Creating a new farm business founded on principles of sustainability takes tenacity, awareness, adaptability, hard work and passion. Lee Anne and Tom have approached the restoration of their property with the same dedication and vigour. The health of their property and the success of their farm business stands as a testament to this. We’re grateful to have them as stewards of the Credit River Watershed.

To learn more about Stonewell Lavender Farm visit stonewellfarm.ca.

Inspired? Get started on your own property.

CVC helps farmers and agricultural property owners implement beneficial management practices on their land to improve resilience, build soil health and protect the environment. Contact our agricultural coordinator to discuss opportunities and funding for projects on your farm: [email protected] or 905-670-1615 ext 720.

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