Whatever you want to know or buy involving lavender, you can find at Lavender Wind Farm in Coupeville.
A stop in Coupeville on Whidbey Island is very much mandatory on any trip along the west side of the Cascade Loop. A tour of the town's historic buildings — it's said to be Washington's second oldest city — and scenic waterfront with views of Mount Baker and the Olympics is essential. You have to eat mussels offered several different ways at the Front Street Grill or one of Coupeville's many restaurants. All serve famous Penn Cove mussels farmed just a few miles away.
But the scent that will really carry you to a land far away is best found at the Lavender Wind Farm at 2530 Darst Rd. in the heart of the Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve. Lavender Wind also has a shop in downtown Coupeville at 15 Coveland St.
The farm grows eight commercial varieties of lavender to use in cooking, essential oils, sachets and bouquets. The lavender is used to make a broad selection of value-added products, including a wide variety of foods, teas, soaps, honey, herbs, aromatic oils, lotions, cleaners, candles and all sorts of other items you might not think goes with lavender. Have you ever tried lavender chocolate bark or blackberry lavender jam?
Sarah Richards moved from Corvallis, Ore. and purchased five acres of rich Whidbey Island farmland in 1998. She wanted to preserve that farming history but had no idea what she wanted to grow. After a couple years of research, she planted her first lavender crop. The farm has since expanded to nearly nine acres. In addition to the eight commercial varieties mainly used for culinary products, sachets and oils, she grows dozens of other varieties for garden and landscape use.
Lavender has been cultivated for thousands of years for its beauty and soothing essence as well as its wide homeopathic and culinary uses. There are more than 400 known Lavender varieties today in 39 species.
After selling her lavender bunches and sachets at farmers markets for years, she decided to focus on adding value to her crops with a line of products. She and her crew of devoted employees harvest the farm's long rows of pink and purple buds for dozens of uses. Some are picked and dried in bunches on drying racks in several outbuildings. Flowers and buds are cut off stalks for culinary use.
Richards stuffed mounds of lavender into two ornate copper pot stills the day I visited. It takes pounds of lavender boiled in water to produce just a couple ounces of oil. The oil is used for aromatherapy and other homeopathic use, but is also a component in lotions, soaps and other products. Richards learned that the lavender water byproduct — gallons of it —can be used to make very effective and sweetly scented cleaning products.
"Nothing is wasted here," she said about the certified organic farm.
In recent years, Richards has opened the farm to the public for tours. An arts festival is held at the farm each summer. She holds classes in soapmaking, candlemaking, cooking and herbal therapy. Her website — lavenderwind.com — always includes new recipes that use lavender.
The whole line of Lavender Wind products can be found at the new store and manufacturing kitchen in Coupeville, or ordered online.
This is one of a series of stories Rick Steigmeyer found while traveling the Cascade Loop this summer for a story in Foothills magazine. For more information about the Loop and its many offerings, check out the website cascadeloop.com