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Growers of the plant are preparing for the Oregon Lavender Festival

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Sunset at Barn Owl Lavender farm in Stafford is as relaxing as it gets. Owner Chris Mulder hopes patrons feel the same way during the July 12-13 Oregon Lavender Festival. Although last week’s unseasonable rains dampened things a bit, hundreds of strains of lavender are blooming in local fields right now.

Preparation for the seventh annual Oregon Lavender Festival is ramping up in advance of the July 12-13 event, said Chris Mulder, owner of Barn Owl Nursery in Stafford. Featuring 29 different farms from across Oregon, the festival is the biggest event of the year for the Oregon Lavender Association and also serves as a fundraiser for dozens of different charitable groups.

“The festival is always the biggest event of the year,” Mulder said.

It’s essentially a two-day open tour of farms statewide. Each features its own varieties of lavender, and each will have its own activities arranged for the festival.

At lavender farms, you typically are able to cut your own bouquets of fresh lavender, while at nurseries one normally can purchase specialty lavender plants and speak to experts on growing and cultivating lavender. That and much more will be on tap this year, said Mulder, who also was elected this year as OLA president.

Although, she added, this year’s extremely dry winter, wet spring and all around unusual weather has thrown farmers for a loop.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Chris Mulder of Barn Owl Lavender, shown here with a new de-budding machine designed to quickly remove lavender flowers from their stems, is the new president of the Oregon Lavender Association. “The peak is in the summer, but if you count Spanish lavender we have it blooming from the end of April until those that bloom in the early fall,” she said. “But, like any Oregon farmer of crops, you are always at the mercy of the weather. The main thing is because we had all this warm weather and sun early, it forced the English lavenders to bloom earlier, where in years past we’ve sometimes been two or three weeks late and we’ve been worried about not having it at all for the festival.”

Right now, she said, she and other farmers are worried the vibrant purple flowers might be slightly past their viewing prime due to the early bloom.

“It isn’t past its prime at all for oils, fortunately,” she added. “It’s still good for that. To get the rain right now, it turns some of the flowers brown, so it’s not as attractive. The more sun we get, though, the higher the oil content, so that may affect us later — who knows, if we continue to get this rain.”

In weeks prior to the festival, plein air artists also will be busy capturing colorful local fields on canvas. The resulting art will be presented during the festival at a juried art show and sale in Beulah Park in Yamhill.

Photographers are also welcome. Each year, photos are solicited and judged by an independent team of professional photographers. Images also are displayed at various lavender destinations, with winning selections used in OLA promotional materials.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Fresh lavender hangs from the ceiling to dry at Barn Owl Nursery in Stafford. At Barn Owl Nursery, Mulder specializes in edible lavender products such as tea, cookies, scones and much more. This year she has more time on her hands, thanks to her recent retirement from Providence St. Vincent’s, where she was the volunteer coordinator for breast cancer outreach for many years.

“That’s why I can have these products,” she said. “I’m taking on more things I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

For the festival, she will have five new culinary products, including a new tea.

She’s working with Portland’s Jasmine Pearl tea company to help package and market her lavender tea, and also has an arrangement with Lake Oswego’s Kyra’s Bake Shop to produce lavender edibles, including a line of gluten free cookies and other treats.

“Lots of people are asking for gluten free products, and they’ve been popular with my customers,” she said.

Mulder and many other lavender farmers also tout the medicinal uses of lavender. Popular since medieval times for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, as well as its pleasant aroma and skincare properties, lavender, and especially its essential oil, still has its proponents today.

“It’s one of the few you can put directly on the skin,” Mulder said. “It’s edible, and if you talked to a naturopathic physician they’d probably have it in their cabinet. It even works for bee stings and for migraine headaches, with oil applied to the temples or a compress on the back of your neck.”

So come and learn more about lavender, how to raise it, how to use it and much more.

“People think, ‘Oh, a lavender festival, it’s only in one area,’” she said. “But now we’re spread out throughout Oregon.”

For more information, visit http://oregonlavenderdestinations.com.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Lavender has a long history of use as an edible as well as a medicine.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Lavender like this field at Barn Owl Nursery will be on display at 29 different farms around Oregon during the July 12-13 Oregon Lavender Festival.

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