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'Sweet smell of success at Niles lavender farm'~By Ed Semmler South Bend Tribune

By Ed Semmler South Bend Tribune

Martha Otto Wilczynski has had the chance to indulge in two of her favorite passions.

In 1998, she and her husband Bill purchased the 30-acre farm she grew up on at 1219 Morris Drive in Niles.

A few years later, she started cultivating the lavender plants she grew to love while working as a landscape designer.

The couple learned how to distill the lavender flowers to make lavender water and essential oil. Soaps, balms, sachets, lotions and sprays soon followed.

A friend brought bees to the farm so they could also produce lavender honey.

Products were offered at area farmers markets.

By 2009 Martha was able to quit her regular job to focus on Lavender Hill Farm.

Q Give us a thumbnail sketch of the farm.

A We have about 4,200 lavender plants on about 1.25 acres. The lavender is used to produce essential oil and other products offered in our shop and on our website. We also offer a U-pick operation that allows visitors to clip a nice bundle of lavender for $5 from June through July. This year’s flowers will probably be gone in a couple of weeks, but the shop will remain open. We also planted native wildflowers and grasses on 2.5 acres to create a habitat for native pollinators, and we’re thinking about planting more lavender.

QWhat attracted you to lavender?

A I’ve had a passion for lavender for many years. I fell in love with the plant. It’s the smell, the looks and the usefulness. It’s known for its calming and uplifting effect. Now it’s moving into the culinary realm as an addition to drinks and foods.

Q How many visitors does the farm attract?

A We’re not sure, but during U-pick season we can have 100 to 500 people here on a given day. Saturdays are especially popular. A lot of families like coming out, picking lavender and having a picnic. We host garden clubs and many other groups. Our visitors are some of the nicest people, and we love to share the beauty of the property with them. Though the business started somewhat slow, it’s really picked up steam in recent years.

Q Was this always in your blood?

A We had eight kids in the family, and we always had chores around the farm. We always put things up, and we also sold corn, vegetables and fruit at a farm stand. We were always working to make money for college.

Q How can people learn more?

A They can visit our webpage at or our Facebook page at

Take Five is a Tribune feature asking questions of a local business newsmaker. Send recommendations to

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