Agriculture

A Perfume Industry in the Western Mountains?

Sometimes one can get too close to a work of art and see the brush strokes rather than the big picture. Here’s a shot of the Okanagan Perfume Industry that shows just what I mean …

Okanagan Lavender

Provence North, or what?

The thing is, this perfume field is actually not designed for scent. It is meant to be viewed at speed, from a car, a moving car, preferably an SUV with big tires and glossy paint, on its way uphill to view houses merging California, Spanish, Arizona, and French accents, each with a non-functional tower over the door and wisteria and a barbecue in the yard, which is a deck, and past that a vineyard, and past that a golf course with a view over the lake and the sky. Each of those items exists as a little psychological tweet, or tweak, and if experienced at speed they all unfold into a physical and emotional experience not unlike a poem. Here is the poem’s closing sentence, which a driver or passenger in a steel poetry touring car might see for a fraction of a second while re-entering the world…

Lavender Median

And the lone hawthorn tree that survived five winters of hungry mice now. (Sorry about the off-centre shot, but you get the idea, right?)

But if the subdivision is financially poorly-conceived and the economy goes kaplooey and the people in surrounding neighbourhoods start walking through this artwork, they see it wayyyyy too close. They see individual plants, growing in dirt, watered with trickle irrigation hoses, and impeccably landscaped by a professional landscaping company. So, here’s what I’m thinking: a mile and a half of median, six feet wide, gives 1.1 acres of farmland. We could grow beautiful purple cabbages with this water, or we could just harvest this lavender. The stuff sells for $36 a pound. Given that the water and the land and maintenance are already paid for, the only expense would be harvesting and packaging. Here’s what the folks at Purple Haze Lavender in the coastal grassland in Sequim, Washington, have figured out to do with lavender in the kitchen. Why not? But if this kind of practical social sculpture is not your thing, how about this?

Beautification Project on the Northern Entrance to Vernon Source

Wild trees and plants being ripped up to be replaced with lawn and landscape trees. I hope they don’t plant hawthorns.

And what does the local politician who released the funds for this artwork (which is actually under separate government jurisdiction) have to say for himself? Why, “These are some of the largest taxpayers in Area B and they were being under-served.” Got that? Historically, Western democracies are based on the principle of one person/one vote. Currently, at least in the mind of one western politician, the principle appears to be “one dollar, one vote.” The cost? $25,000. Compare that to the cost of generating income from the lavender median a few kilometres around the corner and up the hill: $0. I hope they plant purple cabbages. Or lavender. Meanwhile, in downtown Vernon, beautification is even more contentious, and expensive. In this case, $100,000, for sewers, bricks, and lights. At least the folks up on the hill understood the power of making a poem out of landscaping efforts, and the power of plants within that art form. Sewers, bricks, and lights? Isn’t it time to put our cities to work? What about planting the correct varieties of lavender and making perfume, instead of dried flowers? City shopping districts, after all, are for walking. Why, people could stop and smell the flowers.

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