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Scentsational crop

Husband-and-wife team started their organic hobby farm from cuttings.



Imagine a sea of pale, gray-green plants covered with a powdery purple hue, growing on a small California hillside. Stretching out in well-manicured rows, the plants wave softly in the dry, warm breeze. Beyond them are hills filled with avocados and citrus. As you breathe in, you smell an exotic, sweet and tangy scent that lingers in the air, giving you the sensation of being in a place that is both serene and stimulating at the same time.

Welcome to The Lavender Fields of San Diego!

When Ellen Sullivan and Paul Bernhardy started The Lavender Fields in 1998, they had a vision of a peaceful place where lavender grew and was harvested for its beautiful flowers, essential oils and therapeutic floral water. Little did they know what it would grow into.

After purchasing a nine-acre farm in the hilly region of northern San Diego County, the husband-and-wife team started their crop from cuttings taken from neighbors' lavender plants. Eight years later, the couple's organic hobby farm has grown to become a viable business that employs Ellen full time. The Lavender Fields now conducts online sales of lavender products, hosts an annual lavender festival and offers classes on cooking and crafts-making using lavender.

Ellen and Paul started propagating lavender in 1999 after building a potting shed. Using cuttings from one-year-old plants, the couple soon found themselves with 3,000 starter plants. Ellen and Paul found success with their new product line, which inspired them to expand the business. The Lavender Fields now features three fields of lavender, a 600-square-foot greenhouse and a 100-gallon distiller. A gift shop sells the farm's products to visitors during the months of June and July when The Lavender Fields is open to the public. The products are available on the farm's Web site all year long. Paul (who is employed full time as an executive) and Ellen do all the work on the farm with the assistance of only one full-time employee, who also helps care for the couple's livestock.

When you look at the properties of lavender, it's not hard to understand why Ellen and Paul were so drawn to this hardy herb.

The history of lavender use begins 2,000 years ago with the Greeks and Romans, who used this native Mediterranean plant to scent soaps and bath water. Long recognized for its therapeutic properties, lavender has been used through the centuries to treat headaches, sore throats, wounds and anxiety. Also, lavender played an important role in World Wars I and II. The oil from lavender plants was used widely as an antiseptic because of a shortage of medical supplies. Private growers in England provided the lavender from their farms and citizens collected the plant in the wild as part of the war effort.

At The Lavender Fields, Ellen and Paul do more than just cultivate lavender for their products. They also educate the public about this special herb in a variety of ways. Classes on crafting with lavender are available throughout the summer. Students pick their own materials for making baskets, wreaths and other items.

For more information, visit www.thelavenderfields.com.


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