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Down on the (lavender) farm
by MARY POWELL
For the Sequim Gazette
When Mike Reichner opened his lavender farm to tourists, his goal was, and still is, to create an experience people will share with family and friends.
That was 16 years ago, and the visitors continue to pour in, especially during the
Sequim Lavender Farm Faire, an annual and popular event that is part of the Sequim Lavender Weekend.
“We feel good about what we do for people,” says Reichner, owner of Purple Haze Lavender Farm. “We give people memories.”
Reichner and six other lavender farmers will host visitors the weekend of July 20-22. “These are the farms that have been bringing people to Sequim for the past 16 years,” says Scott Nagel, executive director of the Sequim Lavender Farm Faire.
Founding farms such as Olympic Lavender and Purple Haze have set the high standard that has drawn people to Sequim. Other farms have been added through the years. The farms have drawn visitors from around the world, not only because of the beauty and quality of the farms, but because of the organization of the annual event.
All seven farms on tour have been hosting visitors since lavender became a buzzword in
Sequim. But, visit one, you’ve seen them all, doesn’t apply here.
As Nagel likes to say, “Each farm is a festival in its own.”
Drive, or take the free shuttle bus, to any of the farms and it is indeed like stepping into a festival, each one different from the others. Most of the farms offer their own brands of lavender products and food, have a variety of vendors and make sure visitors are entertained with music of all kinds. Each farm is distinctive and reflects the vision of its owner. During the Farm Faire, farmers share their techniques for cultivating, harvesting, drying and using lavender.
“The farm is a busy place during the Faire,” says Carmen Ragsdale, who, along with her husband, Steve, owns Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm. “It gets so busy we don’t even stop to think about it.”
Hosting upward of 20,000 people for one weekend can be daunting and labor-intensive. Right now is the busiest time, when preparations such as weeding and mowing are under way. Reichner says he and his staff are tweaking what’s already on the farm and have added a formal garden.
“We are always adding new dimensions,” he says. “People want to see something a little different after a while.”
Ragsdale says it’s all worth the time and work it takes to get the farm ready for visitors.
“Having that many visitors in such a short time is hard on a farm, but most people respect and appreciate our farm,” she says.
Planning ahead is key to a successful Faire. Mary Borland-Leibsch of Olympic Lavender Farm says she books vendors and musicians a year ahead, finalizing venues in December. That makes sense, since each farm hosts as many as 15 vendors and five or more musical groups.
The best part of the Faire, Borland-Leibsch says, is greeting people, especially those who visit her farm year after year. She tells a story of a couple from Seattle who, five years ago, were married before the Faire at Olympic Lavender Farm. “They come back every year to see us; they love the lavender.”
The Farm Faire ticket is $15, which includes admission to all seven farms on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The ticket is $10 if purchased before July 19.
The reason for the fee is two-fold, Nagel explains. “It costs a lot to put this all together and maintain the high standards required of an international tourism event,” he says. “We pull out all the stops to take care of the people.”
Nagel agrees with Reichner that the goal is to create an incredible experience, “which is what our visitors expect and deserve.”
“Compared to most garden shows, even those on the peninsula, admission to the Farm Faire tour is a great bargain for a 3-day event.”
Second, the Faire is the primary fundraiser for the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association. Money raised is used for education, research and the annual lavender conference.