Lavender Hill Farm would not be the amazing, magical destination it is today without the hard work and dedication of its three owners, Bill Mansfield, Erin Mansfield, and Rita Robbins. They became the farm’s owners in 2015, and it has truly been a labor of love for them ever since. All three have invested their lives in giving back to the local community and providing Northern Michigan with the natural beauty and rustic elegance of Lavender Hill Farm. The farm is open to the public and free to explore daily from 10am – 5pm.
About the Owners Part 3:
Meet Bill Mansfield
Where are you from originally?
That’s always a tough one for me to answer. I was born outside of Philly and moved around a lot as a kid until we finally landed in Pittsburgh for a while. I now live in East Lansing and have lived there since 2002.
What is your connection to Northern Michigan?
After graduating from Michigan State University, we lived outside of Detroit and started going up north on the weekends. We’ve been coming up ever since and bought our condo in Bay Harbor in 2005.
How do you know the other two owners?
Erin and I are married now, but we originally met in Pittsburgh. We went to the same high school, yet never actually met until after Erin had graduated. I met Rita through a professional capacity in 2004. We had comparable businesses and got to know each other through that connection.
What was the most exciting thing about starting your journey with Lavender Hill Farm?
It’s exciting to see how you can have a few ideas and act on them to make things happen. Stuff like the concert Series, moving the gift shop to the barn, and getting sunflowers at the farm. It’s all about getting creative and seeing ideas being realized!
How would you describe the progress the farm has made since the transfer of ownership in 2015?
I like to take some distance to see our growth through other people’s eyes. I tend to measure our growth by visitor comments. When visitors come up and tell me how we’ve done and comment on our progress, that’s how I know we’ve grown.
What is your proudest moment at Lavender Hill Farm?
Personally, my proudest moment was the first Series concert we did in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone else everywhere was cancelling live music, but we were determined to make it work. We stuck with it and made it a reality while complying with all of the new laws and guidelines set in place. I was proud that we could provide guests with a place to safely enjoy live music!
What is your favorite renovation/upgrade to the farm?
So many! The Flag plot, adding the sunflowers, and just the number of plants on the farm! I think my favorite renovation would have to be the bathrooms in the barn and all the upgrades we did to the barn though.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced at Lavender Hill Farm?
Piloting a business through the COVID-19 pandemic was the challenge of a lifetime! Another challenge we face is staffing. Every other problem has been easily tackled, but staffing continues to be a tough puzzle, especially last year during the pandemic.
What do you see in the future for Lavender Hill Farm?
I see us continuing to get better as we grow. We do everything well, but still not good enough. I like to see the interconnectedness of everything at the farm and how all the different functions can make a lasting impression. I think we’ll continue to emphasize how all of our actions can impact the impression that guests have of the farm.