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"For the amount of money I had invested in growing and caring for peach trees including the tree itself, fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide— I could have probably gone to just about any market or grocery store and purchased every peach they had in stock," Jason says.
In 2018, Jason was still struggling to grow peaches. He planted corn and pumpkins, and the family had chickens, ducks, turkeys and bees on the farm.
Later in the year, the corn and pumpkin crops were destroyed by pests, and Jason had to leave the farm to travel to Fort Hunter Liggett in California for his annual Army Reserve training.
Jason's sister, Lisa Meidl, picked him up from the airport and drove him to Fort Hunter Liggett. During the drive, Jason saw a field of purple flowers. He asked his sister what it was. She explained it was lavender and suggested Jason try growing it.
Jason soon discovered lavender is the No. 1 alternative cash crop for small farmers. An 8-acre farm was routinely making more than $1 million in revenue every year. Doing the math, Jason felt if an 8-acre farm was generating $1 million annually, a 4-acre farm could potentially pull half of that.
When he returned home from training, Jason further researched how to farm lavender. He learned lavender thrives in poor soil, doesn't require a lot of water and doesn't have many pests. It's rabbit resistant, deer resistant and fungus resistant it was essentially the perfect crop because none of the issues he experienced with his previous crops caused problems with lavender.
Jason then researched which varieties of lavender grow well in the South. Through an article published by Southern Living, he learned about a variety of lavender called Phenomenal.
Like so many other families in the area, the Leabos spent the next year rebuilding.
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