“Everyone is friendly on this farm,” Bill Musgrove proudly told us as we stood petting his delightful 14 year-old donkey, Jack. Bill, the owner of Musgrove Family Farms located in Greenville, TX, took us on a tour of the family’s property earlier this month. And if one thing could define this operation, it would be family. Bill told us about all of the family’s most interesting pets across the years, including a vulture named Lurch, who was released into the wild, but still came back for the occasional visit. Bill made sure to inform us that even Lurch was friendly. From the pigs Mr. Pigsley and Penelope, to the handful of dogs including Grandpa and Gig, to the Brazilian Macaw— Mimi— that greeted us at the front door, we would have to agree, everyone is friendly on this lavender farm.
Bill Musgrove is relatively new to the farming business. Musgrove started six years ago and has not had a smooth path to success. While showing us his impressive 4,200 plant field, Bill pointed out some empty patches that had been ravaged by wild hogs. Three years of work had been demolished in about 30 minutes, he told us. But such difficulties do not get this family down. In fact, Musgrove is on its third round of plants– the first two crops died due to the difficulty of growing lavender in this region. However, the third time truly is the charm. With a hearty strand of lavender plant, better soil PH, and an incredible symbiotic relationship with all the other operations of his farm, Bill has created a field that has not only survived, but thrived. His plants are now three feet tall and up to three feet wide, a fact made even more impressive as the plants are grown without the aid of chemicals or pesticides. Last year he harvested about 4,000 pounds of lavender. This year he expects to harvest about 9,000. And the lavender is only looking up. With plans to expand with an additional 3,000 plants this spring, Musgrove looks like it could rise from its humble beginnings and, as Bill shared with us, he’s “beginning to think this might be big.”
Bill’s career began in Washington State. As a contract worker for the Navy, his job was to find and recycle copper valves from nuclear powered submarines. It was a good job, until there were no more parts to retrieve, and the jobs dried up. He moved to Terrell, Texas, where he quickly realized that he wanted to work for himself rather than work for a corporation. So Bill began to research what he might be able to do to support his family. He has always been an entrepreneur, starting his first “businesses” as a child, selling red worms he raised to local fishermen, then selling the compost they created to gardeners. When considering his new business options, he was inspired by his mother and recalled his friend’s advice “don’t just let your land sit, grow something ”, so he settled on lavender. Looking back on his decision, Bill reflected that he was naive. He had no idea how complicated his journey would be. At one point Bill was $30,000 in debt to his sister, with nothing to show for it. When his wife began to question how they were going to make a living, Bill improvised. Lavender plants take three years to grow before they can yield a harvest. Bill needed something to tide him over, so he picked up mushroom farming. Fully grown in only one month, Bill’s oyster and shitakke mushrooms helped boost the clay-filled soil of the lavender fields with the nutrient-rich soil the mushrooms left behind. The lavender is distilled in the same room as growing mushrooms, which lends moisture and heat that create a better growing environment for the mushrooms. Together, the two plants allow the farm to bring in revenue year round, with Bill selling his mushrooms to places like Nonna, Sixty Vines, and Market Provisions, which located right here at the Dallas Farmers Market.
Bill’s first harvest was adventurous, with all of the flowers being ready at close to the same time and no way to distill it. When Bill looked into outsourcing the distilling process, he realized he would not be able to make a profit. When he looked into getting his own still, he realized he didn’t have the money. So Bill once again made the most of a tough situation. He went and bought an antique autoclave from the University of Irvine, replaced the broken parts, added some others, and created his own homemade still. It worked, and allowed him to gather the exceptionally fragrant oil his hearty plants are known to produce. Now, Bill has the freedom to expand, he has plans of putting in more lavender plants, more mushroom houses, a couple of greenhouses, and a new still.
All of Musgrove Farms products are made from their own lavender and are made by their family. Bill’s daughter makes the soaps, his son helps him harvest, distill, and deliver the oil, and his wife helps keep the books. Come say hi to Bill, Gavin, or any of the other Musgrove family members at the Dallas Farmers Market!
Musgrove Farms’ lavender is sold at the Dallas Farmers Market every weekend with their handmade soaps, lotions, body sprays and their pure self-distilled essential oil. You can also find their products online at www.musgrovefamilyfarm.com.
The Dallas Farmers Market is open Fridays (10am – 3pm), Saturdays (9am – 5am) and Sundays (10am – 5am). Musgrove Farms will be featured during our Lavender kick-off day on July 6th, along with Prayer Lavender Gardens from Rockwall, TX. Can’t get enough of the Dallas Farmers Market? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!