A Beautiful Business
July 3, 2008 · Updated 5:20 PM
Thoughts of lavender lotions, soaps and oils may conjure up advertisement pictures from antique Sears & Roebuck catalogs, Victorian era vanities, grandmothers toiletries and dresser drawer sachets.
To Coupeville resident Sarah Richards, however, lavender and its many products are a current and ever-changing aspect of her everyday life.
For the past five years Richards, who used to be a mental health therapist, has created and nurtured her Lavender Wind Farm on the sandy-loam acreage of her West Beach home a business venture which she said has afforded her many pleasures and chances to grow herself as well as the lavender plants.
After having success with her first plot of lavender plants, Richards planted a lavender labyrinth on her property and then little by little started expanding her fields and lavender varieties.
Soon, she had a large enough lavender harvest to enable her to make her own gifts and products, which she now sells out of a small gift shop adjacent to her home.
We make all our products right here, she said. She does have to send some of her lavender away to distill the essential oils out of them. But after the oils are extracted, the oil is returned to her farm so she can use it in her homemade therapeutic and aromatic lotions, muscle soothers, hand creams and soaps.
Three-year farm employee Cassie Williams, 17, said her favorite part of working on the Lavender Wind Farm is making these lotions and soaps.
Richards said for her other gift shop products, all the lavender is prepared there on the farm.
We just have lavender drying all over the place, she said.
From this lavender, Richards and her staff make dried flower arrangements and wreaths and gather buds for sachets, pillows, decorations and culinary packets.
This is the most surprising thing for people to find out about the plant is you can cook with it, Richards said.
She said she makes a variety of foods with lavender such as strawberry-lavender lemonade, lavender cookies, ice cream, chicken, fish, jams and jellies.
Richards said she has to remind herself not to put lavender in all her cooking, because if she adds lavender too often, her kids start to ask for dinners without lavender in them.
As a hearty native Mediterranean plant, Richards said lavender does well in the Pacific Northwest because of the wet winters and the relatively dry and temperate summers.
Richards said the most difficult part of her farm to maintain is not the lavender plants, but keeping down the weeds.
Richards said because she is an organic farmer and does not use any sprays or weed-block cloth, weeds spread like wildfire.
So we spend a lot of time weeding, she said.
Gini Piercy, 17, works at the Lavender Wind Farm and said she gets tired of weeding, but that the rest of the job has its high points, such as lotion making and taste-testing.
Fortunately, Richards and her staffs efforts are not wasted and the farms success and products are displayed at farmers markets and festivals throughout the Island and surrounding areas.
Her products are also in many local stores and body shops, available for wholesale and on the internet at www.lavenderwind.com.
Agritourism is something that Ive been learning a lot about, Richards said, referring to the many ways she has learned how to get her products known, talked about and purchased. She said she has learning how to grow her farm, business and her products over the past five years
Currently, Richards farm consists of approximately 5,000 lavender plants. In those 5,000 she commercially grows seven of the approximately 400 different types of lavender. She also grows several other types of lavender experimentally.
Farming is just a wonderful thing .... I love this you cant even imagine, she said, looking around her five acres of lavender, home, business and panoramic view of the Puget Sound. I just love it out here.