TRAVERSE CITY — Area lavender farms produce nearly 30,000 lavender plants, which will soon be harvested for a myriad of uses.
This season, several lavender farms adapted offerings for social distancing guidelines to avoid large gatherings in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sonja and Bret Richards operate Harbor View Nursery & Lavender Farm at the site of one of Old Mission Peninsula’s original homesteads.
Their 12 fields bloom with five varieties of English lavender, with public hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily through October.
Walking through a field of lavender — or a barn full of it — is an aromatic and appropriate socially distanced activity, said Sonja Richards.
“It’s a good thing to do, and it’s outside,” Richards said. “It’s about relaxing in nature, even when not in bloom. When walking in cherry and wine country and wandering in the lavender visitors get a good ‘Up North’ feel.”
Harbor View sells lavender plants, fresh bundles and more than 50 all-natural items made on site from the farm’s own lavender. Products include lavender ice cream, pet shampoo, baking mixes including lavender shortbread, lavender teas, jams or edible lavender for making one’s own culinary creation, which are sold on site, online, their roadside stand or their downtown Traverse City retail shop on Front Street.
Northern Lavender, a secluded country site just south of Mesick, postponed scheduled hot air balloons and a kite-flying event until 2021, according to owner/operators Josh and Andrea McCaherty.
Its 12,300 English, French and Spanish plants make it Michigan’s third largest lavender farm and is positioned to become the state’s first certified organic lavender operation and the nation’s 18th.
The pandemic also delayed the inspection process.
But the farm was able to offer the opportunity to pick your own lavender bouquet, stroll the fields and relax beside the pond. Visitors could bring a picnic and linger amidst the quiet landscape.
Among the lavender fields alongside guests wander nine rescued alpacas. It wasn’t part of the original vision to include animals in the lavender operation — it just happened a neighbor’s herd needed a home, said Andrea McCaherty.
“They’re the chillest things ever,” she said. “They eat around the lavender.”
Roof panels from a 100-year-old barn cap Northern Lavender’s sales cabin. The building showcases the farm’s 22 lavender products handcrafted on site, ranging from insect repellent to hand sanitizer.
A still — the same equipment used by whiskey distillers — is the latest addition to the cabin. It demonstrates the lavender oil extraction process, the basis for creating the farm’s products.
Northern Lavender is open 9 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday through Aug. 15 and sells items on site and online.
They may also have fall hours to enjoy the color season, Andrea said.
Lavender is an agriculture product naturally suited to the area’s micro-climate and soil, said Mike Parker, owner of Lavender on Old Mission.
“If you can grow grapes, you can grow lavender,” Parker said.
Parker’s 10-acre “lavender heaven” produces French lavender varieties including Grosso and Provence, and English varieties including Betty’s Blue, Buena Vista, Folgate, Irene Doyle, Mailette, Sachet and Tucker’s Early.
The farm’s 20 handcrafted lavender products include health and beauty products, essential oils and lavender toffee. Parker hits the road with his products selling them at farmers markets in Charlevoix and Harbor Springs, and art and craft fairs.
COVID-19 restrictions prohibited Parker’s ability to open the farm to the public for the July bloom, but he anticipated welcoming the public later this summer.
“It’s about relaxing in nature, even when not in bloom. When walking in cherry and wine country and wandering in the lavender visitors get a good ‘Up North’ feel.” Sonja Richards, Harbor View Nursery & Lavender Farm