Hidden away in every small town are little treasures. Families and businesses plugging away at a love they have to make a living. Little hobby shops of crafters with talent. Small food producers with flavorful products. Farms with beautiful abundance. We are excited to introduce a series featuring these makers, crafters, farmers. Every week we will bring to you a new small business/product/family!
A little peek into their lives and their work. First on our interview list is Eagle Creek Lavender Farm. This beautiful farm is situated on 20 acres of beautiful country in Eagle Creek, Oregon. Bill and Mary Jabs are the owners of this beautiful farm. I first came to meet Bill and Mary through another lavender farm during our search for local lavender.
Loving to support local it just seemed wrong that our lavender in our teas was coming from France. France is a lovely place, don't get me wrong, but it certainly doesn't support our local economy and there is something to be said for quality as well. Lavender that comes from that kind of a distance just can't be as fresh as the lovely lavender we have been getting from Bill and Mary's farm in Eagle Creek, Oregon!
We have enjoyed getting to know Bill and Mary so much ourselves that we decided to share about them and their hidden treasure of a farm with you all. We interviwed them both so we could share with you.
Could you tell our readers a little bit about your farm and antique cars?
Bill’s passion for antique cars goes back to his teenage years, although he didn’t pursue it much until the past 15 years. The collection now consists of about 30 cars of many makes and models, with Model A Fords and Packard’s the most prevalent. Bill restores cars year around, and is constantly looking for that next gem.
What did you do prior to farming lavender? Mary was a high school teacher specializing in health sciences and Bill was a civil engineer.
What got your started in farming lavender? Bill wanted to be a farmer all is life, and Mary has a passion for landscaping and flowers, so we came together on the decision to grow lavender.
Share the process from planting to harvest, cleaning and the products you make. Lavender plants have a life span of 15 years, and take about 3 years to mature. All of our plants are on drip irrigation, so we are able to get optimal growth. If the plant is harvested for oil, it is hand harvested, put into a steel container and steam distilled to produce essential oil and lavender water, also known as hydrosol. Both are marketable products. Our Buena Vista variety yields two cuttings per year if irrigated, normally cut in July and September. Lavender cut for culinary and other dried product uses, is hand harvested in 1” bundles, hung upside down to dry for about one week, debudded and then cleaned. We have a unique debudding machine that came from Canada, and an old fashion seed cleaning machine which has been adapted for use in cleaning lavender. Cleaning consists of removing stems and leaves from the lavender buds. Future plans include developing a lavender harvesting machine to reduce dependency on labor, which is becoming more difficult to obtain.
Could you tell a us a little about what a day in the life of a lavender farmer looks like? Lavender farming is like any other farming, intensive in the spring and summer and less intensive in the late fall and winter. As soon as weather permits in the spring, we are preparing the ground for new plantings. Lavender starts usually arrive in April and are immediately planted. Once planted, we try to get the rows mulched with wood waste products and plant grass in between the rows. Weeding and mowing become extensive activities throughout the growing season. In our case, we have a lavender festival in late June, so we have lots of preparation to do to prepare our farm for guests. In 2017, we had about 1000 attendees in two days. Then in July and September, we harvest, distill, dry and process the lavender. We also have a winter open house and do some events away from the farm, so are constantly preparing product and filling orders. Farming also continues in the fall, with ground preparation and planting of a cover crop where lavender is to be planted the following spring.
How do you tell the different varieties of lavender apart? How many varieties do you plant? Are there different uses for different varieties? We have 12 varieties and some are easily distinguished by stem length and color, but we mark all rows to make sure we don’t get the varieties mixed up. Some varieties only produce one cutting, while others can produce up to three times per year. We have several blue and purple varieties, along with white and pink. Certain varieties are best for oil, dried bouquets, and/or culinary purposes. Our intent is to keep a balance, depending on what our clientele are looking for.
What type of growing conditions does lavender prefer? Lavender is a fairly hardy plant and can grow in varied conditions. It likes sunshine, free draining soil and needs to have the soil pH neutral or slightly basic. We use lots of lime to our soil to keep it “sweet”. Lavender also needs to be cut back each fall, or the plants will get “woody” and “floppy”. We trim each plant in the fall.
What type of products do you sell and where are they available? Eagle Creek Lavender has about 30 products, ranging from essential oil, to a line of bath and body products, dried lavender sachets and bundles, culinary lavender buds, neck and eye pillows and other products using our raw lavender products. We also sell honey from bees housed on our property. We sell both wholesale and retail during our festival, farm tour, holiday open house, various local market events and by individual appointments. We just opened our first retail outlet at Birch and Crow Vintage Market in Battleground, Washington, and are in the planning stages of online sales.
Thank you Bill and Mary! We enjoyed chatting and sharing a bit about Eagle Creek Lavender! We are so excited to have found such a lovely farm dedicated to high quality lavender. We were impressed with the fresh fragrance, the very very clean product and the flavor surpasses any other lavender that we have experienced.
To get more of Eagle Creek Lavender Farm and meet Bill and Mary make sure you hop on over to their website Eagle Creek Lavender or check out their lavender shoppe located at 27525 SE Starr Rd, Eagle Creek, Oregon 97022.
Want to snag some of our tea with this lovely lavender? Check out our Rose City Repose tea and Cascade Earl Grey blends.
Until next week, keep steeping it local!
Living Healthy with Tea
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