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MailTribune.com
  • Purple Haze

    Six farms band together to promote the Southern Oregon Lavender Loop
  • The same climate and soil that make Southern Oregon ideal for growing grapes provide great conditions for cultivating lavender, and a cluster of lavender growers are working to turn those conditions to their advantage.
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    • If you go
      What: Oregon Lavender Festival
      When: Friday through Sunday, July 12-14
      Where: Goodwin Creek Farms, 970 Cedar Flat Road, Williams; 541-846-7357
      Two Sisters Lavender Far...
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      If you go
      What: Oregon Lavender Festival

      When: Friday through Sunday, July 12-14

      Where: Goodwin Creek Farms, 970 Cedar Flat Road, Williams; 541-846-7357

      Two Sisters Lavender Farm, 540 Lofland Lane, Williams; 541-659-3627

      Applegate Valley Lavender Farm, 15370 Highway 238, Provolt; 541-291-9229

      Lavender Fields Forever, 375 Hamilton Road, Ruch; 541-324-4223; Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point; 541-776-7371

      Cost: Tours are free; cost to pick lavender may vary by farm, but expect in the neighborhood of $5 per bundle of about 150 stems; some activities have additional fees

      Activities: Friday, 10 a.m. to noon, kids plein-air watercolor landscapes, ages 7 to 14, $12, Applegate Valley Lavender Farm; Saturday, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., oil-distillation demonstration at Lavender Fields Forever; 2 to 4 p.m., lavender botanical illustration postcards, ages 5 and older, free, at Goodwin Creek Gardens; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., kids plein-air watercolor landscapes, ages 7 to 14, $12, Applegate Valley Lavender Farm.

      Information: See www.oregon lavenderdestinations.org/festival.php
  • The same climate and soil that make Southern Oregon ideal for growing grapes provide great conditions for cultivating lavender, and a cluster of lavender growers are working to turn those conditions to their advantage.
    "It prefers harsh climates with good drainage and hot, dry summers," says John Rinaldi, whose Applegate Valley farm is called Lavender Fields Forever. "A very drought-tolerant plant, it originated in the Mediterranean region — Greece and Italy."
    Six Southern Oregon lavender farms have joined together to create the Southern Oregon Lavender Loop, and two more farms are expected to join them next year. The farms are open for weekend tours throughout July and August.
    John and Bonnie Rinaldi are the newest of the local commercial lavender farmers to open their gates to the public. Their farm boasts seven varieties of the aromatic plant.
    The Southern Oregon farmers hope to gain even more exposure this week, when they'll join lavender growers around the state in showcasing their farms and products on Friday-Sunday, July 12-14, during the Oregon Lavender Festival. It's a statewide promotion aimed at celebrating the more than 200 varieties and 28 species of lavender being grown. The Rinaldis, along with three other Applegate Valley farms and the Oregon State University Extension Service's lavender demonstration garden in Central Point, will open their farms for the event.
    While visiting some of the farms, visitors can pick lavender, distill lavender oil, purchase lavender bouquets and plants and shop farm stores for lavender products.
    Although the biggest market worldwide for lavender is essential oil, utilized for its soothing and calming properties, the uses appear to be limitless.
    Lotions, shortbread cookies, honey, syrup and chocolate are only a few of the products Deborah Thompson sells at the Applegate Valley Lavender Farm on Route 238 near Provolt.
    "My kids make lavender margaritas — the first night we harvest, they put them in the blender," Thompson says. "It's also very well known for lamb, and Herb de Provence has lavender in it. If you're looking for good recipes, I recommend 'Discovering Cooking With Lavender' by Kathy Gehrt."
    What's the best variety for cooking?
    "It's like wine tasting, you've got to have somebody sample each one of them, because there are so many of them," Thompson declares.
    Among the varieties at her farm, Thompson uses Royal Purple or Royal Velvet for sweet dishes. Brides, she's found, like the sweet smell of Royal Velvet best and will sometimes throw it at their weddings as an aromatic alternative to rice.
    Visiting lavender farms is often more than a trip to save money by purchasing directly from the farm.
    "People come out for two different reasons," Thompson explains. "There's the buyer who wants the lavender oil and will drive to get it, and there's the one who just wants to stand in the middle of the field and experience it."
    For those who want the experience and have an hour or two, John and Bonnie Rinaldi charge $40 to make your own lavender essential oil from U-pick flowers, which includes the bottles to store the liquid.
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