In 1964, when Marvin Wodtli was just 2 years old, his parents built a home out on Billadeau Road east of Bend’s city limits. They raised cattle and hay on their 40 acres, and it was so isolated Wodtli could walk out the front door and shoot a gun in any direction. “You couldn’t hit a house,” he said. “It wasn’t until the early 1970s that it started building up out here.”
Wodtli was a farm kid, working his parents’ land and moving pipe for his neighbors at two cents a pipe. It was all he’d ever done, and it got old fast. “I wanted to do anything but be on a farm,” he said. While his classmates were skiing and playing, “we’re moving pipe and doing hay, cleaning ditches. With a farm, it’s seven days a week. You don’t get Saturday and Sunday off.”
To that end, after high school Wodtli went to school to become a machinist, then switched to business administration. In 1989 he started a floor-covering business, then eight years later began managing Floor Decor, which he purchased and ran until he walked away in 2019. According to his wife of fourteen years, April Wallace, the business had changed, thanks in no small part to HGTV home renovation shows and the internet. “It was just a whole new era in terms of buying and merchandising, beyond what we’re used to,” she said. “So that became stressful.”
“I had a choice. I could either sell out and go work for someone else,” Wodtli said, “or I could do something with the property.”
Where did he end up? You guessed it—back on Billadeau Road. Wodtli and Wallace built a home on the remaining ten-acre property back in 2014, but when they began to think about farming again, they soon realized hay wasn’t a viable option, in part due to dwindling water from Arnold Irrigation District.
It was time to find a profitable, drought-resistant crop. “Everybody was getting into hemp, and to me that’s a fad,” Wodtli said. Plus, he didn’t like the smell of it, so after much research, he picked something more pleasing.
On June 1, 2019, the couple began to plant Lavandula Grosso, a classic French hybrid lavender, on the 8-acre plot. They tilled the field, ripped out the underground irrigation system and laid 12 miles of drip line; put down 8 acres of weed mat (stapling it at every foot); and eventually planted 15,200 lavender plants—by hand.
They finished planting on July 18, 2019, and 2nd Life Lavender was born. The company is named for lavender’s life-affirming properties, Wodtli’s second career and the farm’s second life. With their own harvester and two stills right on the property, Wodtli and Wallace harvest, distill and bottle their own lavender essential oil and hydrosol.
Wodtli and Wallace completed the 2021 harvest themselves over 29 days. Lavender can mold easily, so they only harvest what they can distill each day. It takes about 2.5 hours to distill a pot of lavender, and they distilled 98 pots last year. Right now, they’re selling their oil and hydrosol directly to practitioners and businesses. It’s not a big operation, but the goal is to become a wholesaler: bottling the product and selling it in bulk—to chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists, for example.
2nd Life Lavender’s plants are organic certified, though the farm hasn’t been certified. “We follow all the practices—we hand weed, we spray nothing,” Wodtli said. “A lot of people when they harvest, they cut the lavender and put it on a tarp, drag it over to a trailer, dump it out on the ground and then load the pots to distill it. Our harvester puts the lavender in bags and then the bags go into the pots, so it never sees the ground.”
His care extends to the still, too. Wodtli filters the water before it goes into the still, then filters the oil when it comes out. “We’re doing everything we can think of to make the purest product,” he said. Indeed, the jars filled and waiting to be bottled are remarkably clear, with not a speck floating in them.
The farm conserves a ton of water as well. Wodtli estimates he saves about 60 percent of the water previously used to grow hay. He built a storage pond—when it’s full, it can hold 350,000 gallons of water. “There is no way, if we had kept the hay field, that we would even be able to have a hay field. We unknowingly got in at the right time to make the changes.”
Wodtli praises the benefits of the lavender oil and hydrosol, from the well-known (stress reducing, sleep enhancing) to the unlikely (hand softening and burn healing). Maybe one of the best benefits of Wodtli’s lavender farm? It has given his family property a new, sustainable life and has also breathed new life into Wodtli, who had grown tired of his previous career.
“My belief, through my whole career, has been to do the best job you can,” he said. “And I’m doing that. That’s what we continue to do.”
Learn more and buy direct at 2ndlifelavender.com/shop.
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