Maui Lavender: Product of Passion
Some businesses succeed on pure intelligence or on the founders enthusiasm. Many businesses are primarily built on some special know-how. The owners of the best businessesespecially in the tight, limited Maui marketprovide all of the above plus an indomitable passion. Cathy Goo-Toda is brilliant and enthusiastic, but she didnt have the special know-how to go with her passion when she wanted to start Maui Lavender. The USC Masters Degree she earned in Real Estate Development didnt prepare her to grow anything smaller than a building.
It is the nature of passion, though, to find a way or make a way. When Goo-Toda came home to Maui, she thought shed return to the mainland once her daughter graduated high school. Things went another way. As she tried to re-adjust to island life, she noticed that Maui had changed in the 15 years she was away and was changing still. A sensitive person, she saw that Maui needed healing "for its growing pains." At the same time, she was beginning to succumb to stress-sourced illness herself. While taking care of herself, she had a talisman, a photograph of a beautiful, mature lavender garden at a vineyard in Northern California. As she healed, she took comfort from the picture, then inspiration. "I wanted to bring that to Maui," she says.
Family and friends were concerned. How could she possibly want to be a farmer? Still, she wanted to grow lavender, but was unable to find the lacking know-how. Lavender resources couldnt tell her anything about varieties and methods for Maui. Hawaii resources could tell her about farming, but had no information on lavender. "My heart wasnt in development or real estate. Like Maui, I needed healing. The more I learned about Lavender and botanicals, the more I knew thats where my heart is," she explains.
Reaching out wherever she might find the special skills she needed, Toda discovered a conference of people involved in all phases of lavenderagriculture to botanical-healing values to processing into useful productsin Australia. She also discovered a women-owned lavender farm there, Yuulong. "The owners of Yuulong said, come, stay with us, well teach you, because theyd gone the same route I was on."
After the conference at Charles Sturt University, Melbourne, and her sojourn at Yuulong, Goo-Toda came home rejuvenated and feeling great about the prospects for lavender farming. She saw a place on Crater Road that was perfect, but sadly not available. Remembering the beautiful combination in the photo she had kept with her through her own healing, she thought shed associate her lavender garden with Mauis winery, Tedeschi at Ulupalakua. And she tried. After what she recalls as "a long and arduous five to six years of intense loyalty to Ulupalakua," Goo-Toda found bloom-success in some lavender varieties, but not others. Realizing the extent and cost of her "setback," she secured a second test plot at a higher elevation. In fact, it was the very piece of land she had originally fallen in love with on Crater Road. She stored her old, non-blooming plants there through the winter.
"Lavender is not a fast growing plant," she says. "You dont plant it and watch it bloom. It takes years to mature." After traveling over the Winter, Goo-Toda returned to the lavender farm where a wonderful surprise awaited. One by one, her dried up old lavender plants were coming to life, promising to thrive after all. In a few years, they may look like the lush rows of lavender she was inspired by in the photograph. She could certainly speed the process by using insecticides to ward off bugs and herbicides to reduce weeds and chemical fertilizers to encourage growth, but she wont.
"We do everything by hand. Im very dedicated to organic lavender farming," she says. "Maui Lavender is founded on a belief in sustainable, organic agriculture that which promotes a safer and sounder environment, a chemical-free product for culinary use as well as for body products."
For now, Goo-Todas lavender farm is too small and too young to provide all the lavender she needs for Maui Lavender products, but she has friends in the world of lavender able to fill Maui Lavenders needs for organic botanicals and pure essential oils for her bath and body products. And, despite the long ramp up to knowing how it is done, Goo-Toda is now an able and important producer of botanically sound, organic lavender products which are used in some of the best resort spas. To keep up with Maui Lavenders established and new Made in Maui products log on to www.mauilavender.com. Goo-Toda is especially excited about her upcoming line of organic childrens and baby products.
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