Lavender Farm Field Trip

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit and tour the Lavender Ranch, a local farm that organically and sustainably grows a variety of plants and botanicals, then distills them into essential oils.  The Lavender Ranch, Biggs, CA  I have been driving by this ranch for years and have always loved the scent of lavender wafting off the fields in the heat of an August afternoon.  Lavender Cookies at the Lavender Ranch

When hubby and I arrived at the ranch we began our tour at the gift shop, which was located inside their quaint old farm house! When first walking through the door, we were greeted with a gorgeous little stand in the corner offering free lavender cookies.  I don’t know why, but I thought eating the actual lavender would be a bit bitter, but these were delicious!  Inside the shop were beautiful displays, including almost an entire wall of hanging bunches of dried lavender for sale.  It smelled so good inside!  Also on display were lotions, salves, soaps and sachets – all for sale at reasonable prices.   bunches of dried lavender

We were so pleased to hear that they were giving guided walking tours of their lavender fields, and so we eagerly waited the fifteen minutes for the next tour to begin.

As our friendly tour guide gave us some statistics (the Lavender Ranch was started in 1983 and right now has 30 acres devoted to botanicals to make essential oils) and several uses for lavender oils (heals skin maladies, promotes circulation, improves digestion),  I couldn’t help but take deep, cleansing breaths while we walked through the fields. And knowing that they grow sustainably and organically, I was even more impressed!  The tour guide said they even had agreements with local farmers not to spray on windy days, so that there would be no over-spray of pesticides or chemicals on to the Lavender Ranch.  On the highway side of the ranch are signs along the right-of-way stating that the ranch is organic and to please not spray herbacides or pesticides in the vicinity!

Although their name implies that all they grow is lavender, such is certainly not the case.

Flowering Lemon Verbena

Flowering Lemon Verbena

I was in seventh heaven when our tour guide asked us to rub some leaves of the plants in the rows we were standing in……… lemon verbena!!  Oh!  My favorite scent of all scents!  I could bathe in it, sleep with it and eat it!  I wanted to literally sit right in the middle of the row of lemon verbena and take a nap, but I’m not sure the tour guide would have thought too kindly of me doing that!  😉   I love lemon verbena and I wasn’t aware that I could grow this plant myself!  Oh Joy!

And then the lavender!

Somehow, walking through these fields of lavender and verbena, I felt so at peace and at ease!  I know that the scent of lavender is supposed to be calming, but to actually walk in a field of lavender is something you just must do.  An experience of a lifetime!

Blooming Lavender

Blooming lavender

Among some of the other plants they grow and distill into essential oils are rosemary, german chamomile, peppermint, and clary sage!  They even had a 153 year old orange tree that they use to get an orange essential oil!  That tree was massive and is a daughter tree to the “Mother Orange Tree” found in Oroville, California.  What history!

In fact, the Lavender Ranch is only a part of the larger Bayliss Ranch which is known for the rice they grow, commercially marketed as Lattitude 40 (the approximate lattitude where the ranch is located).  We got to try some of the brown rice and it was wonderful – nutty but kind of fruity at the same time. The area where the Lavender Ranch is now sited used to be part of a large walnut orchard within the Bayliss Ranch.  With the use of drip irrigation and a lot of mulch, they now use only 10% of the amount of water that was once necessary when the land held walnuts!

But back to the Lavender Ranch tour.

Lemon verbena and Lavender

Lemon verbena (in the foreground) and Lavender

Our guide told us that it takes about 800 pounds of lavender to make 1 gallon of essential oil.  They use a steam distillation process with both a water phase and an oil phase.  The lavender that is grown at the ranch is a proprietory variety developed with UC Davis for a higher camphor content.  They propogate their own lavender in greenhouses right there at the ranch because each lavender plant is replaced at about 15 years of age.

A distiller for essential oils

A distiller for essential oils.

The medicinal uses of lavender are many.  Of course, I am not a doctor and don’t claim to be any type of a medical practitioner, but you can find so many resources on the internet and in books in your local library that hail praises for lavender.

In fact, I found a couple of websites and blogs that have a lot of information about lavender – just click on one of the links below and through the magic of technology you will be whisked away to their website!  No worries, though – you will be able to come right back to mine!   🙂

This one is great and has a lot of information:  How to make and use lavender flower extract by Frugally Sustainable,  and if you want to cook with lavender (who knew? not me!) you can click on this one:  Desserts using lavender by The Kitchn,   For the final fun site involving lavender, how about a recipe for home made playdough scented with lavender at The Chaos and the Clutter.

I hope you enjoyed coming along with my hubby and I on our field trip to the Lavender Ranch.  I just wish we were able to send the wonderful scents of all these botanicals from our computer to yours!

Thank you for all your comments, suggestions and questions – I try to answer every one!


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