RUCH — The long winter, short spring and slow-to-arrive summer weather have conspired to delay many agricultural seasons.

Still, there's no time like the present for local lavender farms.

Rows of carefully coifed lavender form the centerpiece of Lavender Fields Forever on a five-acre plot along the Applegate River on Hamilton Road.

Today marks the start of seasonal operations, where weekend visitors can pick seven varieties, breathe in Continental and Mediterranean fragrances, dance with bumble bees, shop for lavender products and learn to distill oils. If that's not enough, there's also lavender ice cream in the freezer.

"It's a little bit later in the season due to the cooler weather as well as a lot of rain," said new owner Caryn Gehlmann. "So, we're not going to have as much lavender bloom right away but we're a week or so from that." 

Local conditions remains perfect for lavender  — ranging from Hidcote Giant and Gros Bleu to Miss Katherine and Ana Luisa  — to thrive.

"The climate here in Southern Oregon mimics the Greek Isles, which are dry and arid," Gehlmann said. "They don't like wet feet, so it's perfect to plant here."

Gehlmann and Bob Sibbitt moved in April to the lavender farm, planted by John and Bonnie Rinaldi and opened for business in 2014. Sibbitt is a retired Bay Area office furniture manufacturers agent, who moved to the Applegate four years ago. She is a clinical aromatherapist with Essential 3, an essential oils firm in Phoenix.

Gehlmann and Sibbitt commonly visited the farm, where she would distill lavender.

"We fell in love with the property," he said. "Three or four months ago, we were riding by on our bikes and saw it was for sale."

While deer traverse the property, they're no threat to the lavender, a huge plus, Gehlmann said.

"Any of us that live here in Southern Oregon are well aware of how the deer like to share our gardens," she said. "But deer do not like to eat lavender."

Sibbitt admits there is a learning curve to cultivating more than 1,000 plants.

"I've had people ask several times if I've always wanted to be farmer," he said. "It had never occurred to me, but it's actually very exciting, learning a lot about the lavender business and properties."

Gehlmann has operated Essential 3 for 15 years. Her clients include hospitals, hospice groups and health care practitioners, whom she helps write policies and procedures and implement aroma therapy programs.

The farm is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday until Aug. 13. Visitors can pick bundles or have them picked, both for $6. Distilling classes are available July 30 and Aug. 5.

The farm's website is http://lavenderfieldsforever-oregon.com and the telephone number is 541-702-2250.

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.