(Admission is Free)
The aroma of lavender greets you the moment you drive down the country lane to Springbrook Meadows Lavender Farm. Situated at the foothills of the Appalachians in beautiful Highland County is Ohio’s premier lavender farm, owned by Neal and Debbie Cook. The farm is a century farm, since it has been in the family now for over 100 years, but only recently have they begun raising lavender. The Cooks began raising lavender on the farm in the year 2000 after visiting with family in a place called Sequim (pronounced “squim”), Washington. Sequim could easily be identified as the lavender capital of the United States, and while on their visit they determined that they would try to raise the crop themselves back in Ohio. Lavender doesn’t require much to grow except sunshine and it doesn’t like to have its feet wet. That’s about all it takes. Neal says that, “Our part of the farm was a clay patch that just never grew field crops like corn or soybeans very well. That’s one of the reasons that our home is on that spot. It just wasn’t productive for any normal farming.” So they decided to try lavender farming.
That year they bought some extra suitcases and took home two suitcases full of different varieties of lavender to try on their farm in Ohio. Unfortunately the first year crop didn’t fare very well, in fact they lost almost 25% of that crop. It seems that the varieties that they selected to grow in Ohio were not as well suited for Ohio winters as those common in the Sequim area. Debbie went back to the drawing board and studied all the varieties she could find to determine the best fit for growing in Ohio. The next year, they returned and gathered several more suitcases of lavender and this time they were successful in growing and raising lavender in Southern Ohio. They now have over 16 varieties of Lavender in the field and over 95 varieties in the greenhouses for testing and mother plants.
The Cooks have developed a unique way of raising the lavender, literally. They create a raised bed row with a combination of the local clay soil, amended with some compost provided by the sheep, cattle and a horse that graze in their field nearby. They also include some lime to sweeten the soil and a thin strip of sand at the bottom of each row to ensure moisture does not build up in the mounds. The whole row is then covered with a geotextile cloth, which serves as a weed barrier but still allows for the exchange of gases and some water to penetrate. Debbie says “It works well for us. It keeps the weeds to a minimum and the raised bed idea keeps the plants feet from staying wet. An added benefit, is that since it is a raised bed, it makes it easier to harvest.”
In 2004 they had the very first Lavender Field Day, and they have been drawing over 1,700 guests every year since. “We thought it would be nice to share this wonderful plant with the community, and discovered that it drew folks from all over the tri-state area”. Each of the craftspeople that attend the Lavender Field Day were seasoned professionals in their craft and are selected based on the quality of their product. Each craftsperson was asked to incorporate lavender into their artwork or display it in some way to promote lavender. It really makes the creative juices flow for many of the artists.
In 2004 the Cook’s also constructed the Lavender Cottage. This adorable little cottage houses all the lavender products that the Cooks have brought together from all corners of the globe. They created several of their own, including skin care products. Debbie is also a talented fiber artist and potter. You may find some of her hand-painted porcelain in the cottage or one of her famous corn shuck dolls. They have all manner of lavender products from essential oils, lavender filled pillows, to books on lavender including Debbie’s own cookbook, “A Taste of Lavender”. Debbie said that she enjoyed cooking so much that it was just a natural extension of her interest to create this mouth-watering book on cooking with lavender. And speaking of cooking, Debbie also does catered luncheons in the lavender field. Can you imagine sitting in the middle of a lavender field while sipping lavender lemonade? It’s absolutely heavenly.
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