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Communities host a touch of lavender

Washington County growers agree — the best thing about having a lavender farm is sharing the beauty, aroma and flavor with visitors.

Barbara Remington of Dutch Mill Herb Farm in Forest Grove, Lori Carlson of Mountainside Lavender in Hillsboro and Nancy Miller of Helvetia Lavender Farms all love hosting newcomers and regulars alike at their farms, and sharing their passion for the plant that can seemingly do it all.by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Used in medieval times to conceal offensive flavors and to carpet floors to repel pests, it has become a popular flavoring in beverages and desserts, and is still valued as an insect repellent and for its healing and antiseptic properties.

These farm owners will be open for business during the 13th annual Oregon Lavender Festival, always held the second weekend in July, when lavender blossoms are at their peak. The statewide festival boasts “U-cut” lavender, lavender culinary creations, lavender craft demonstrations, lavender-inspired art and live music.

With more than 450 varieties and cultivars — from white to deep purple blooms, silver to green foliage, and culinary varieties to those used strictly for scent — these growers proclaim a lavender for everyone.by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Lori Carlson sells lavender wands and sachets, and lavender honey, chocolate, soda, jams and jellies, barbeque sauce, shortbread and tea in her gift shop at Mountainside Lavender.

“I think when you plant lavender and look around in the midst of it, you find it takes you back through history, through all the people who have ever taken care of lavender and plants before you for centuries, and have used and enjoyed it,” Remington said.

Lavender’s popularity has grown in recent decades, according to the Oregon Lavender Association. It’s no wonder. The multi-purpose plant is used in commercial operations, potted patio plants, and for everything in between. It requires little care once establish in full sun and well-drained soil. It attracts bees and other beneficial insects. It’s deer-, pest- and disease-resistant. It can be used for cooking, crafting, aromatherapy, and to make lotions, soap and other personal care products.

“Many new lavender varieties are developed here. Oregon plays a huge role in the rest of the nation’s and the world’s lavender,” said Dana Casale, marketing and membership coordinator of the Oregon Lavender Association. “Oregon has the perfect climate for growing lavender — and the people who are willing to put the effort into it.”

There are about 50 lavender farms in Oregon alone.

For Remington, a third-generation lavender cultivator, the plant is more of a family tradition than a business. Although she planted her first fields of lavender 30 years ago, she’s always kept a few plants nearby, whether she’s lived in the city or country. Her favorite variety differs from day to day, but whichever sprigs she chooses to harvest always “just make you feel happy.”

The simple act of standing in her fields, she said, is tranquil.

Since she started using lavender vinegar decades ago as a diaper rinse and window wash, she now adds lavender to potpourri; keeps lavender sachets in her drawers to repel moths and to leave clothes with a floral scent; and steeps it in baths. She’s also expanded her recipe book to include lavender-infused desserts such as frostings and shortbread cookies.

“People know lavender is used in landscaping and for its scent, but not everybody knows how many culinary uses there are,” Casale said. “Lavender has been used for centuries, but especially in the last five years with the green movement, it’s become trendy.”

A few years ago, the United States Lavender Growers Association formed. A national organization that recognizes lavender as a growing industry and tracks farms and harvests, is a “huge thing for the industry,” according to Casale.

“The festival is a great way to celebrate a flower that’s become such a big part of so many lives,” Casale said. “It’s a growing and thriving Oregon agricultural industry, and many people who have lived here their whole lives don’t know that.”

At Mountainside Farm, Carlson — a teaching assistant from September to June — spends her summers immersed in purple fields.

Carlson planted her first acre of lavender nearly 15 years ago, after a lifetime of gardening and inspiration from her mother, and quickly doubled that.

“I love seeing returning customers enjoy themselves. I think we give people an experience here that’s meaningful to them,” Carlson said.

Through mid-August, Carlson’s U-cut fields and gift shop are open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Her spread is also open after hours to painters and photographers wanting to capture cascading purple hills in the foreground of Mount Hood.

Another must for U-cutters is Helvetia Lavender Farm, where Miller will serve lavender tea and scones while customers listen to live music and peruse dozens of booths stocked with lavender jams, wreaths, paintings and more.

Miller’s farm is a nonprofit — proceeds benefit Good Samaritan Ministries, which funds scholarships and services for orphans, widows and the elderly worldwide.

“Seeing people come out into the country and enjoy themselves and relax gives the festival a great sense of community; it’s quite an event,” said Miller, who has been growing lavender for a decade. “It’s so beautiful up here. I wish more people could experience the beauty, calm and relaxation, and feel the harmony of the fields.”




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