Major changes are in store for the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association in 2015.
Last week, farmers announced they are going for a fixed rate for visitors on their farm tour. They also plan to drop the Lavender in the Park event during Sequim Lavender Weekend on July 17-19, 2015, while expanding events that weekend and through the summer.
But they’ll be going forward without one of the first farms on tour, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, which is branching off from the association to host its own festivities.
Paul Schiefen, co-owner of Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm, said the changes are positive and that the decisions keep the farmers en route with their mission of promoting agriculture in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.
Schiefen said stopping Lavender in the Park follows the four remaining farms’ efforts at Jardin, Lost Mountain Lavender, Olympic Lavender Farm and Washington Lavender Farm to emphasize more activities and vendors at their farms.
“We realized that the park event was no longer necessary to sustain our vision for the future of the farms,” he said.
“Even though the event was always a great side activity for our farm visitors, we determined that the elimination of the park would help ease confusion for our out‐of‐town visitors and give the farmers more time and energy to focus on making the farm tour even better.”
The farmers started Lavender in the Park in 2011 after branching off from the Sequim Lavender Growers Association’s Sequim Lavender Festival to start their own event, the Sequim Lavender Farm Faire, now called the Sequim Lavender Farm Tour.
The amount of vendors fluctuated from 40-80 each year, Schiefen said, and those who participated in the park will be offered a spot at a farm during Sequim Lavender Weekend.
Jardin du Soleil, for example, had 18 vendors in 2014 and Schiefen anticipates doubling or tripling the number of vendors at each farm.
“The intention is not to leave them in a lurch,” he said.
Those who volunteered will be welcome at farms and other events, too.
“We want everyone to be included,” Schiefen said.
Another shift in tradition for the farmers is going away from the individual buttons for admission to a $10 per carload model to visit all four farms.
“It simplifies (the process) and maybe it will attract a broader audience,” Schiefen said. “Maybe more families can participate, too.”
The farms will keep a fee, as opposed to the Sequim Lavender Festival’s free farms tour, to cover some festival expenses. Traditionalists won’t be without a button souvenir of some sort though.
Farmers are planning a memento like the button, Schiefen said, in time for Lavender Weekend.
Passenger vans and buses will have different rates to be announced.
The group also won’t be bringing back David Doxtater and his event-producing firm, The Workshop, of Seattle. They hired him earlier this year to operate the 18th annual Sequim Lavender Farm Tour.
Purple Haze out
Perhaps the biggest surprise to long-time lavender tourists may be the departure of Purple Haze Lavender from the Lavender Farm Tour.
Co-owner Mike Reichner said he’s analyzed the farm’s business plan over recent years and decided to go out by itself in November after its biggest fiscal year in 19 years.
“It just didn’t really fit our business plan to belong to the association anymore,” he said.
“We’re not quitting though. We still see ourselves as the leaders in lavender.”
His new plan? To continue the same activities on Sequim Lavender Weekend with live music, food, drinks and lavender but under the banner Purple Haze Daze.
Reichner said he purchased the online domain name, which will link up to the farm’s website.
“We’ll do everything exactly the same,” Reichner said. “We’re still going to be a part of Lavender Weekend.”
However, the decision was tough to leave the association, Reichner said.
“I still feel passionately about these other farms,” he said. “I praise them at every turn, but we’re just going to do our own thing. I encourage these young farms to push on and move forward with their ideas.”
Schiefen said activities on the farms were quite positive last summer.
“We saw more people coming through,” he said. “The weather was a lot better so there were a lot more happy, smiling faces.”
But the farms’ owners don’t plan on just focusing on Sequim Lavender Weekend. They’ve already expanded programming in recent years through the summer with the Tour de Lavender, Brunch in the Blooms, the Northwest Colonial Festival and Jungible Music Festival, and they are planning for more, Schiefen said.
Until then, here are some of the planned events at the farms during Sequim Lavender Weekend:
• Jardin du Soleil – A Lavender Fiesta with local food, music, along with U-pick lavender, crafts and activities for all ages, lavender distillation, demonstrations, petting zoo, pony rides, a garden maze, antique car show and more.
• Lost Mountain Lavender – U‐pick lavender, educational workshops and demonstrations, crafts, food and beverages, live entertainment and more.
• Olympic Lavender – Following up on its homegrown “Olympic Lavender Festival,” it features local cuisine and drinks, lavender educational and crafting demonstrations, kids zone and activities, a stage for local musicians, a local antique tractor show and more.
• Washington Lavender – With the setting of a replica of George Washington’s home, the “Washington Lavender Festival” features a special afternoon tea, a colonial reenactment of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, plus period-appropriate costumes, live music, crafts, farm demonstrations and more.