Local farmers bringing in a bumper crop of lavender

‘It’s a great aroma ... and it’s a great place to be’

While purple isn’t exactly a welcome hue in Lawrence, the Washington Creek Lavender farm is filled with almost 5,000 plants just that color.

And the relaxing scent on the acreage is enough to make any in-state college rivalry melt away with just one deep breath.

Owners Jack and Kathy Wilson moved out to the farm in Lone Star in 2004 and planted their first lavender plants two years later. This year’s crop is in full bloom and ready for harvesting.

“We wanted to do something with the area but keep it organic,” said Kathy Wilson, who turns the lavender into a wide range of calming products.

A crew of about 10 people cut the plants, bundle them with rubber bands and get them ready to dry. Second-year veterans Taylor Holenbeck and Sally Virmingham were recruited for the harvesting while working at the Community Mercantile.

“It’s a great aroma,” said Holenbeck. “It makes you relaxed, and it’s a great place to be.”

Virmingham said the group of workers has tripled this year and work has been going fast.

“Each year there’s more lavender put in,” she said. “Jack and Kathy ordered 3,000 more plants. It’s a huge expansion, really exciting.”

The bundles are hung upside down on paper clips in a small outbuilding near the Wilson home. After a few weeks, the lavender is dry and the process of turning the raw plants into sellable products begins.

The Wilsons sell everything from the obvious, such as potpourri and the dried bundles, to the ingenious, including reusable dryer sheets and neck and eye pillows.

“(Lavender) just soothes the mind and the physical body as well,” Holenbeck said.

And while most think lavender comes only in its namesake color, other varieties bloom pink or white.

Wilson said the warm weather probably contributed to the early harvest.

“If the soil’s good for it, you don’t have to do much to it,” said Wilson. “Yesterday we were cutting and planting at the same time. Seems a little odd.”

Washington Creek Lavender products are sold later in the year at the farmers’ market and other places around Lawrence.

The Wilsons’ farm is not open to the public, but products can be purchased at The Casbah Market, the Community Mercantile and Pendleton’s Country Market, or online at washingtoncreeklavender.com.