Santa Barbara News-Press; Home & Garden section, cover feature; Saturday, July 3, 2010
THE SCENT OF SUMMER; Lavender fields abloom through July
by Karna Hughes, News-Press Staff Writer
...The News-Press talked with three local organic growers who've managed to make a liviing cultivating the hardy plant, which is in the mint family. Each farm has a still to make its own essential oils and products.
...And we visited Santa Ynez Lavender Co., one of a handful of private farms in the area that grow lavender to sell wholesale, online...
SANTA YNEZ LAVENDER CO.
Former environmental consultant Kim Brown started growing lavender behind her home in 1998 after moving with her family to the Solvang area from Hermosa Beach.
You might say it was a dream come true. "When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to have a flower farm," she said.
After researching lavender and finding it grows well in a Mediterranean climate such as the Valley's, she realized it "might be a nice companion product to grow in the wine country."
She says she helped many area vintners and growers plant lavender by propagating cuttings for their properties.
Currently, she grows about 3,000 plants of the Grosso variety on about an acre. While her farm is closed to the public, she's focused on selling products made from the oils to retail stores and on her new website, www.santaynezlavender.com.
"I decided to go more into organic bath products," said Ms. Brown, whose company offers 11 different products, including oils, lotions, soaps and bath salts.
A graduate of Women's Economic Ventures' business training program, she's looking at expanding her sales to large chain stores.
She also plans to expand her farming operations to include other types of botanicals. "Because lavender isn't enough," she said.
"We do compete with European lavender, which is a subsidized market in Europe... From Europe it's brought in by the ton and it's cheap."
But selling organic products helps differentiate her lavender.
In itself, lavender "has got so much worth. It's the workhorse of the essential oils," she said. "It's used as a decongestant. It's used as a prevention for mosquito bites. It's used as an antibacterial for scratches and cuts. It's used for burns.
"It's got a lot of healing properties that are real that have been tested throughout the ages. There are so many great uses of lavender besides just smelling great."
IF YOU GO
• SANTA YNEZ LAVENDER CO.'s farm is not open to the public, but you can buy its products at El Rancho Market, 2886 Mission Drive in Solvang; Wild Hair Salon, 3521 Numancia St. in Santa Ynez; or online at www.santaynezlavender.com .
PAGE 1 CAPTION 1: Local Grosso lavender, which thrives in Mediterranean climates, is starting to bloom throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. Clockwise from left, a bee clings to a flower at Clairmont Farms in Los Olivos, and plants at Andre Organic Lavender Farm in Buellton and SANTA YNEZ LAVENDER CO. in Santa Ynez. The hardy plants are impervious to gophers and deer, according to one grower.
PAGE 1 CAPTION 2: Kim Brown of Santa Ynez Lavender Co. stands outside the barn on her property in Santa Ynez, where she keeps the still for making lavender oil.
PAGE 1 CAPTION 3: Ms. Brown uses a 100-gallon stainless-steel still to steam harvested organic lavender buds and collect the concentrated oil, which she uses to make nearly a dozen bath products.