As the fields begin to bloom, Sequim lavender farmers remain optimistic as uncertainty looms about the summer’s tourism season in the continued wake of COVID-19.
Farms that would be open to travelers and locals can currently only offer curbside pickup and/or online deliveries, with Clallam County subject to Phase 1 restrictions of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.
When Clallam County moves to Phase 2, tentatively set for June 1, farms can reopen with limitations in place for their farm stores.
Jordan Schiefen, co-owner of Jardin du Soleil, said multiple farms with the Sequim Lavender Experience marketing effort are on the same page.
“Yes we want to open,” she said. “Yes, we want to do this safely, and yes we’re a little nervous about opening.”
Jardin du Soleil and several other Sequim lavender farms plan to reopen under Phase 2 with adjustments such as adding outside farm store space, walk-up windows and/or social distancing-appropriate, one-way traffic inside buildings.
“It’s a huge loss not to have multiple people in the shop at one time,” Schiefen said.
When farms do reopen, she said, they’ll look for universal messaging, such as encouraging people to “stay at least two lavender plants apart” following Lavender Connection’s idea.
Whether or not people will be required to wear cloth masks is up to each farm, Schiefen said.
Portions of Jardin du Soleil will be closed for her family’s use, she said, “but the fields are going to look the same.”
Janet Abbott, co-owner of Washington Lavender/George Washington Inn, said the property doesn’t have a gate so people drive on the property to look around year-round.
The lavender plants are turning green now with purple and pink coming soon, and “we welcome people to come and see us,” Abbott said.
When the fields do open, she said, “there’s plenty of room for social distancing.”
During the closure, Abbott said her business developed an extensive online shop and made pickup orders available for locals.
“We can do contact-less,” she said. “Tell us what time you’re coming by and we can put it outside the door.”
When Phase 2 does go into effect, Abott said they will reconfigure the gift shop for one-way traffic.
Kristy Hilliker, co-owner of B&B Lavender Farm, said all lavender farmers “want to give people a farm experience.”
“People are going to be ready to get out and do something,” she said. “We really want to give a good lavender experience. We just have to figure out how that’s going to be safest. We all live where we work.”
Street Fair pushed to 2021
Organizers of the Sequim Lavender Festival last week announced plans to cancel the annual Street Fair July 17-19 in Carrie Blake Community Park.
Paul Jendrucko, media relations for the Sequim Lavender Festival, said the festival isn’t cancelled but rather “pruned” for its 24th year.
“Farms, which have always been an integral part of the festival, will occur,” he said.
“The Sequim Lavender Festival is two major activities. You’ve got the Street Fair which started on Fir Street and grew to Carrie Blake operation which is cancelled due to a host of reasons, and the farm tours, which have always been the reason for the festival.”
Mary Jendrucko, treasurer for the Sequim Lavender Growers Association that oversees the Lavender Festival, said some reasons for cancelling the festival were for fiscal, and for considering interests of vendors and the community.
“We have to think of our vendors (and) I feel the world may not be ready for social distancing, and they would not succeed as a small business either,” she said. “Many come from out of town and have the expenses of travel and lodging associated with our event.
Foremost, we have to be mindful of our community and its health. We would never want to be responsible for bringing in thousands of guests to Sequim and surrounding areas that would cause any ill health effects on our community.”
Paul Jendrucko said they are unsure what phase the county will be in by mid-July and “how sensitive the public is going to be to come over and visit the farms.”
Organizers have polled Lavender Festival-affiliated farms about continuing independent operations, and Jendrucko said they were all positive.
With the Street Fair cancelled, he said lavender farms may see more vendor activity, but that option wouldn’t be open to all vendors.
Musical acts were cancelled though, he said.
Paul Jendrucko said the option to postpone the Lavender Festival to a later date wasn’t an option for organizers.
“The plant’s growth cycle and harvest dictate how and when the festival will occur,” he said. “There’s not going to be much plant material in October or a later time.”
Amy Lundstrom, co-owner of Nelson’s Duck Pond & Lavender Farm, said the farm is open year-round and everyday from April-October, but the physical storefront won’t open until Phase 2.
She, like many others, continues to fill online orders but said she’s unsure if her farm store will move outdoors for visitors and provisions put in place for visitors, such as wearing cloth masks.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Lundstrom said.
“We’re just grinning and bearing it. We know it’s going to be a lot less people, and we want it to be a lot less people.
“The Lavender Festival has people coming from all over the world, but I don’t want to infect our town.”
Her daughter Tilly’s tradition of making and selling lavender lemonade for local efforts is likely not happening this summer, she said.
“I don’t want to risk getting her or anyone sick,” Lundstrom said.
If tourism is minimal this summer, it could mean a potential financial blow for area lavender farms and Sequim businesses.
In recent years, the City of Sequim’s July sales tax receipts have exceeded or come close to December, Sequim’s traditionally largest sales month.
One of the biggest draws in July is the various lavender-related festivals and events. Until Clallam County reaches Phase 4, group events must be limited to some extent.
Schiefen said they don’t have plans to host a specific festival at Jardin du Soleil such as in years past, when they partnered with Olympic Lavender Farm. She said doing so would put restrictions on them such as the number of people allowed on the farm at one time.
She said not being open in April (other than online) was already a big hit financially, and that without weekend ticket sales in mid-July they will continue to see a hit.
“That’s not something I can recover over many weekends,” Schiefen said.
She’s still considering options this summer, such as charging for visits to Jardin du Soleil. The business has added campsites as a new revenue source, too.
Abbott said they will be open all summer including during their traditional two-week Washington Lavender Festival with any typical festival events yet to be confirmed.
“We’ll follow the guidelines and we’re going to continue to do as much as we can,” she said.
Sequim features several lavender farms ranging in size and offerings working independently and/or with marketing groups and associations.
For more information and updates about the various Sequim lavender farms, visit www.sequimlavenderweekend.com, lavenderfestival.com and sequimlavender.org and their respective social media pages.