The Essentials of Canadian Grown Lavender

Up a dirt road drive, off Side Road 15 in East Garafraxa, Hereward Farms is nestled into the property that has been in the family (through owner Julie’s husband) for five generations. While Julie cannot say whether any of her children will be interested in taking over, it’s very much a family business, born of 40 plants bought on a whim and Julie’s husband’s “go big” attitude and support. Today, Hereward farm has 6000 lavender plants.

Curled up in their Lavender Lounge + Boutique with Kitty-in-Residence Gordie looking for attention at our sides, and an unfortunate April wind howling away in our rare silences, Julie sat down with me to discuss all things lavender, as well as the values that she wants to keep at Hereward Farms as her business continues to grow.

Around for millennia, with historical uses in Egypt’s mumification process (it not only softened the skin of the deceased but helped mask the smell of decay), most of us have developed a host of misconceptions about lavender.  Often mistaken for a flower, lavender is in fact part of the mint family, making it an herb. It has long been noted for its strong fragrance, which has been used for masking unpleasant scents beyond just “decay” throughout history. Lavender, however, can be used as an anti-inflammatory and has huge relaxation properties, making it popular in aromatherapy and massage oils. 

When it comes to products that use natural lavender, there are two ways that it can be manufactured: essential oils and infused oils. Hereward Farms uses both, though it’s the product itself that dictates which option they will use in its creation.

Essential oil is produced by distilling the flowers, extracting the volatile compounds from the plant, resulting in a highly concentrated and potent oil. Lavender essential oil has a distinctive aroma, which lends itself to relaxation. The advantage of an essential oil is that it is so potent, you need only a small amount to be effective. However, it is also so concentrated that people with sensitivities can have reactions to them. Furthermore, it’s been suggested that your body does not know how to process essential oils, thus when in contact with the skin, the liver treats them as a toxin, working overtime to clear them out.

As such, Hereward Farms uses lavender infused oils in their skin and body products. To create infused oil, lavender flower is steeped in a carrier oil for about two weeks. Hereward Farms uses grape seed, almond or sunflower seed oil. Not only are these oils milder with a subtle scent that is ideal for anyone with a scent sensitivity or wary about strong “lavender” aroma, but the oil absorbs all of the nutrients from the flower as well, providing users with those anti- inflammatory and other benefits you lose through the extraction process of essential oils.

Regardless of what they are making, Hereward Farms uses every part of their plants, making them the only sustainable lavender farm that they currently know of. They are also committed to ensuring that all aspects of their business remain sustainable.  While they may not be officially organic certified, they don’t use chemicals on their plants and every product that they offer is all natural. Although demand would allow them to make products, such as hand soap, that might contain artificial ingredients, they choose not to, finding their all-natural mission a more important value to uphold.

Unsurprisingly, as the product has always been Hereward Farms main focus; they do run a small amount of agritourism as well, creating paths in their fields during blooming season. The ten-dollar fee they charge for access to a field is given back to their community through charitable donations.  If you are now wondering when lavender might be in season so you can visit, you’re not alone. Unlike popular agritourist plants like sunflowers (which Hereward Farms also has), apples, and pumpkins many people don’t realize when lavender is actually considered in season.

A lavender plant can live for 8-10 years, as such Hereward Farms covers their 6000+ plants for the winter each year for protection, taking the tarps off around mid-April. At that point they leave the plants to do their own thing until around mid-May when they can confidently cut back dead growth. Lavender comes in many varieties and Hereward Farms grows two: English and French. English Lavender is a smaller plant and typically blooms twice a year, once around June and then again in August. French Lavender, on the other hand, is much larger and blooms only once, from July to September.

So, whether you’re looking for their natural products or activities to do with the family, Hereward Farms is open Tuesday through Saturday all year round and they are excited to meet you. So, next time you’re passing through, take a turn up the dirt road drive, and be sure to tell Julie (and Gordie) ‘hello’ from me.

WRITTEN BY: JILLIAN KENT | RESOURCES: HEREWARD FARMS

Author: LivingSpaces

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