For the love of lavender
Rounded rows of bright purple lavender stretch across the field, leading up to the verdant grounds of Cascade Lavender Farm, owned by Wayne and Terry Pearson of Madras.
The farm is in bloom from June through August, but its fragrant, healing products are available year-round at its website www.cascadelavender.com, and the Pearsons are eager to share them.
Developing the farm was a labor of love for the Pearsons, who dreamed about having such a venture in their retirement.
Terry Pearson always enjoyed visiting flower farms. When I retired, I thought I would like to have an agritourism business a flower farm where people could enjoy coming to view the flowers and relax, she said.
She retired two years ago from working as a project manager with Intel, and Wayne Pearson retired from his job as the Jefferson County economic development coordinator in September 2012.
However, their retirement plans got a jump start in 2006, when they moved to Madras from Northern California. The Pearsons had settled on the idea of a lavender farm, but had trouble finding the right place.
We discovered this property on the market. We had secured the name Cascade Lavender and this property was just perfect with its view of Mount Jefferson and the Cascades, Wayne Pearson said of their 40-acre farm at 5000 S.W. Feather Drive, west of Metolius.
They set aside three acres for the lavender beds, one acre for the lawn, house and barn, and grew alfalfa with a neighbor on the remaining 36 acres.
The barn was built in 2007, then the Pearsons did research and selected 40 varieties of lavender, and planted 5,000 cuttings in June 2007.
There are so many flowers I love, but I was aware of the wonderful properties of lavender aromatherapy, antibacterial, healing and relaxation and thought this was a plant I would like to share with others, Terry Pearson said of the herbal flower they chose.
Other advantages of lavender are that deer dont like it, it doesnt need bees for pollination, doesnt require much water, and the plants produce for 12 years.
It took three years for the plants to start producing, and in 2010 the Pearsons opened their Cascade Lavender farm to the public.
At first, rather than taking their products to market, they encouraged people to visit the farm and U-pick their own lavender. Lavender is $5 a bunch during the U-pick season, which runs from mid-July to mid-August.
They started a test garden to see which varieties grew well in the high desert, and also had a small greenhouse where they propagated bedding plants to sell.
People enjoy seeing what they like in the field, and then buying the plant, Terry said of the bedding plants priced at $4 and $6.
Their field is organized with U-pick sections of English lavender (18 to 24-inches tall) and French lavender (20 to 36-inches tall), in addition to a large production garden, which they pick themselves.
Lavender is a very labor-intensive crop, and most of the year the Pearsons make up a two-person crew.
From late July through August, they hand-cut the stems while the flowers are still in the bud stage. Some bunches are dried, while others are processed into flower oil (essential oil).
At first, they had an area company distill the oil. Soon, they bought a distiller and Wayne began processing their own oil and hydrosol, which is a floral water by-product with aromatherapy qualities.
We distill our own lavender because you can control the quality of the oil and hydrosol better, Wayne said.
After harvesting the production garden, they hang long garlands of lavender in the barn to dry.
In the winter, we do round-the-clock work on the lavender in the barn, Wayne Pearson said, noting he rolls the stems back and forth in his hands to get the buds off, and they have bins of different dried varieties.
Since opening, Cascade Lavender has expanded its varieties and nursery offerings.
Most people dont realize how many varieties of lavender there are. We now have 65 varieties with more planned, and were hardly scratching the surface, Wayne said.
Signs label the variety in each row. Favorite varieties include Buena Vista, Loddon Bleu, and Purple Bouquet in the English garden, and True Grosso, Super and Gros Bleu in the French garden. There is even a white lavender named Edelweiss, and culinary types called Provence and Melissa.
The nursery is a big part of the business. People are happy to get plants that are propagated here, Terry noted.
Daughter Holli Pearson has also joined them to work on the marketing side of the business. She has a marketing background, and recently returned to the U.S. after living 12 years in New Zealand.
The three of them have divided up the duties. Mom is a master gardener, handles the nursery, and gives talks at seminars and to garden groups. Dad is focused on the farm, distilling the oil, and product development, and I do the marketing, Holli explained.
Terry knows the nuances of all the plants which ones are good for cut flowers, landscaping, etc., Wayne said, adding that one purpose of the farm is to educate people about lavender and growing it in Central Oregon.
We really want people to visit the farm, Holli said. Its family-friendly, theres a petting zoo, and they can come, learn and enjoy it. They can hold events here, including small weddings and group meetings.
This March, the Pearsons were busy having a fenced run installed along the south end of the lavender field for the five alpacas they recently purchased to add to the farms agritourism appeal.
The alpacas are friendly, and kids can also enjoy seeing the farms chickens and bunnies.
The farm has a large lawn with unbrellaed picnic tables where guests can relax with a glass of lavender lemonade to enjoy a sweeping view of the fragrant flower fields.
The display garden by the greenhouse has been expanded to include a photo setting, where visitors can snap pictures of family members among blooming lavender, with majestic Mount Jefferson in the background.
Several groups which have held events at the farm, including the Oregon Mayors Convention two years ago, quilting and gardening groups, and a Bend artists group which came out to do plein air painting (outdoor painting) of the fields and mountain views.
Community involvement is important to the Pearsons. We offer work on the farm as a fundraiser for local youth groups, and the Madras Gospel Mission. They weed and help with manual work, and we donate to their funds, Terry said.
The farms gift shop is expanding its offerings, which are available on the website during the off season.
Items include aromatherapy neck wraps, body wraps and eye pillows, sachets for closets and dresser drawers, lavender wreaths and dried bouquets, distilled essential oil, hydrosol mist spray, lotions, soaps, and bags of dried lavender buds for home crafters and cooks.
The oil is very nourishing and is great for burns, bee stings, and sunburns, Terry said.
The hydrosol is milder and can be used as an air freshener, to spray pet beds for a natural bug repellent, as a body spritzer, deodorant, or to disinfect countertops.
A lot of people like to send baskets from the local area for gifts, like the recent visitors from our Sister City in Japan. And our baskets say Madras on the label, mentioned Wayne.
Cascade Lavender can also customize gift baskets for business events, or individuals, and ship them anywhere in the U.S.
Besides the farm, their products are available at Madras Saturday Market, Great Earth Natural Foods and the Hospital Gift Shop in Madras, and Newport Market and Northwest Crossing in Bend.
Since retiring, Wayne has become the president of Madras Saturday Market and is attending many more events and shows to display their products.
He was at the Sandy Fall Fair, Bend and John Day fall festivals and holiday shows, OSUs Central Oregon Spring Seminar at the Deschutes County fairgrounds, and the farm will participate in the statewide Lavender Festival in July by giving distilling demonstrations and having food items to try.
Lavender is very popular as an herb and is used for both savory and sweet foods, Terry said, adding, We have several cooking varieties.
Visitors to the farm can often sample foods and pick up recipes that use dried lavender buds or ground lavender. These include: Lavender Lemon Bars, Lavender Shortbread, Lavender Lemonade, Herbs de Provence, and potato, pork, and chicken recipes using Herbs de Provence.
Steep 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds in 1 cup of boiling water until the buds lose almost all of their color. Add the steeped water to 2 quarts of white lemonade. You can use canned or fresh squeezed. The lavender will add a lovely color to the lemonade and enhance the delicious citrus flavor.
The farm uses pure Opal Springs water for all its products, and prides itself on growing organic and offering natural products.
We are not certified organic, but we practice organic methods with no pesticides or herbicides used on or near our fields, Terry said, noting the trade-off was, It makes weeding very labor intensive.
During the summer season, the farm is open to U-pickers and visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Call 541-546-9390 for more information or to arrange a group tour.
The Cascade Lavender farm is about more than just growing lavender Terry emphasized.
The farm is for the publics education and enjoyment. It gives us great satisfaction to see people enjoying it and the panoramic views, she said.
From Madras: From Highways 26/97 heading south, turn right at D Street which becomes Culver Highway. Continue south through Metolius; turn right on Eureka Lane and follow until it turns left onto Feather Drive. The farm is a half-mile south on the right.
From Bend/Redmond: From Highway 97 north, exit left onto Culver Highway. There will be signs for Cove Palisades State Park and Round Butte Dam. When on Culver Highway, turn left onto Iris Lane at five corners. Follow Iris over the railroad tracks and turn right onto Feather Drive. The farm is approximately four miles north on the left.