Michi Warter is a lateral thinker – someone who thinks out of the box and likes to try out new things. From a young age he’s also been running the over 300 year Furtlegg-Gut Farm. Since spring 2016 he has devoted himself to his new passion of cultivating lavender.
He was inspired by an article in the daily paper “Der Standard“, which reported about the cultivation conditions for the purple-coloured fragrant wonder. Sparse terrain, high altitude, not much rain: “We’ve got all that here“, Michi thought and quickly ordered the first plants. He then started his cultivation experiment on several cultivation areas with different soil quality. He tried, tested and observed where and how the delicate and yet so resilient plant of the hardy type “Lavandula angustifolia“ grew best.
New, different, innovative. He was often viewed sceptically and sometimes gently ridiculed. “We can only do cows“, resounded voices from the neighbourhood. However, after a trial period of around two years Michi Warter could safely say: “I can do lavender too.“ He decided to give his project a go. 1,100 plants found their way up the steep Schwemmberg to an altitude of 1,200 in 2018. Their new home: a slope with an over 50 % incline and totalling south-facing location. There, they enjoy the intensive sunshine, yet are exposed to the elements. And that’s what gives them their so spicy, potent taste and fragrance. “Up here the plants really have to assert themselves, grow strong and focus their whole energy on surviving. That’s what makes them into a power plant of aroma and scents.” His girlfriend Sabrina, who runs the farm with him, smiles and raves about the gentle fragrance of lavender, which some days engulfs the farm in a fine spicy-aromatic cloud. “Simply heavenly“, she says smiling.
Patient wealth of ideas. The two pioneers are constantly experimenting: there are so many ideas as buds on a single twig. Lavender syrup, soap and scent bags already form part of their product range. Their biggest dream: to produce their own essential oil in a few years’ time. “But one step at a time“, says Michi. The plant itself is the best master when it comes to patience and deceleration. It predetermines the timeline for growth and harvesting.
Sciving off? No chance. Cultivating lavender is hard work. Everything has to be done by hand, from weeding to harvesting with a scythe. All of which on a slope which is difficult to farm. Yet the couple love it and are enthusiastic about their project. “On a summer’s evening, climbing up the lavender slope, breathing in the scent and simply savouring it relaxes and destresses you completely.” Passing cyclists, pedalling up the Rossbrand, savour a welcome break at Michi’s. They can enjoy the view of the Radstädter Tauern, the fine fragrance and the joy of fresh, home-made lavender syrup. And a chat with Michi? That’s free of charge and always inspiring.
Many paths lead to Michi Warter’s purple paradise: those wishing to can even drive up by car, however, it’s much nicer – following your nose – to conquer the Schwemmberg on foot or by e-bike.
Photo credits: Andrea Bichler