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The lavender is lavish at the Harris family farm

August 20, 2005

Though Lavender Valley was open to the public this year as a U-pick lavender field, by next year the Portland Road farm should be “ready for prime time,” after five years of hard work by owners Dayle and Kai Lai Harris, and Dayle’s mother, Verva.

“We bought the place six years ago, and this is our fourth summer of bloom,” Dayle says. “I looked at every town in the Northwest — and I mean that, from Ashland to the Canadian border — and Hood River was the place.”

The Harrises have five acres of lavender planted in more than 60 varieties, five of which they grow commercially. They have nurtured and pruned the plants, which are now strong and healthy.

“We propagated every plant out here,” Dayle says. “We propagate in February and put them in the ground in May. We finished the field this year — finally.”

The Harrises hand-cut the lavender and either dry it or use it to distill lavender oil. They make their own products, including soaps, creams, oils, sachets, tea, and honey. A small gift shop on site also features glassware decorated with hand-painted lavender blossoms.

“I do the painting and sewing, and Kai Lai does the soaps, creams and lotions,” Verva says. “Dayle distills the oil and extracts the honey — so we all have our little jobs.”

The distiller is a new addition to Lavender Valley — they got it in June — so now they can distill their own oil.

“We’re working on our fourth gallon of oil,” Dayle says. “We won’t be doing anything with it right away because, number one, it needs to age for a year (“It mellows out,” explains Verva), and number two, we need to get it ‘spec’d out’ and see how it compares in quality.”

Dayle doesn’t feel competitive toward Hood River’s other major lavender grower, Hood River Lavender; in fact he would like to see a few more farms arise in the valley, so that Hood River could have a true lavender festival similar to the one held each year in Sequim, Wash. That festival has seven participating farms. Hood River Lavender held a lavender festival this year, and Lavender Valley got some overflow from that.

The Harrises were surprised at the number of visitors they had this summer — some days as many as 200 — just from being listed on the Hood River County Fruit Loop map. They have a better idea what to expect next year, and will spend the winter building up a stock for the gift shop, which got fairly depleted. Before next season they also plan to relocate the greenhouse and make a few other changes and improvements.

Lavender Valley already has a gazebo and a breathtaking view of both Mount Hood and Mount Adams. Though the season is winding down, it will keep its summer hours — 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday — until Labor Day. After that the farm will just be open on weekends, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., until Dec. 31. The Harrises plan to reopen next year on June 1.

Plans for next season include music events, an art festival, and the introduction of their own tea — they just recently bought some tea plants and plan to grow their own. A local woman has approached them about selling her pastry products, and they may do that, too — tea and scones are a natural pairing. But for now, it’s still harvest time.

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More information, visit Lavender Valley during the above hours, or go online to:

www.lavendervalley.com

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