In early August, my husband John and I made a trip to Ashland, Oregon. While we were there I was scheduled to do a cooking demonstration at the best culinary store in the area, Allyson’s Kitchen. This amazing store is a “must see” if you are visiting Ashland. With its extensive wine selections, gourmet deli and dining room, this shop is perfect for food-lovers.
About a week before our trip, Deborah Thompson of Applegate Valley Lavender Farm emailed me. She told me her farm was located just outside of Ashland and she would be providing Allyson’s Kitchen with culinary lavender for my presentation. Deborah wrote, “I will be providing the culinary lavender for your visit. Which variety would you prefer to use and what is the quantity that you will need?”
I love discovering new lavender farms and was eager to meet Deborah. Right then, I knew I would not miss the opportunity to visit her farm.
As I opened the car door, the heat blasted me. Temperatures in Ashland were in the nineties and climbing. The thirty-five mile drive to Applegate allowed me to see the brown parched hills, vineyards and ranch land in the Applegate Valley. This landscape with its sunny climate, rocky dry soil and it well-drained hillsides was made for growing lavender, so I was surprised I didn’t see more of it along the highway. Just then, I spotted several neat rows on a farm on the left. I pulled into the driveway.
A woman with curly strawberry blonde hair waved to me from the field. “Welcome to Applegate Valley Lavender Farm,” she said with an engaging smile. As I stepped out of the car, the sweet fragrance of the lavender greeted me. Deborah offered me a cold glass of lavender lemonade and led me on a tour of her farm. A strong wind blew as we walked around the farm. “We planted our first 150 plants in 2005. As for varieties, we grow grosso and royal velvet,” she said. “We are a startup lavender farm.” Deborah joined the Oregon Lavender Association, attending her first lavender festival this summer.
Deborah pointed out new lavender plants she would be planting this fall. The farm also sells a variety of gift items like these darling teddy bears.
After introducing me to her dog and her pet sheep, we talked about the potential for this region. Deborah told me her dream for the Applegate Valley is for it to become a popular tourist destination. She sees the burgeoning wine industry and lavender as opportunities for economic development. Deborah realizes this is a tough economy in which to start a new business, however she has a beautiful property, a clear vision and lots of determination.
Next summer, I am looking forward to visiting Southern Oregon again and hoping Deborah and I can team a summer cooking session at Allyson’s Kitchen!