In love with lavender | Living the Country Life
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In love with lavender

It's purple passion for Tom and Trina Stoffel on their Oregon lavender farm.
  • A Farm in France

    Tom Stoffel was contentedly living life in a snug turn-of-the-century foursquare in Denver, Colorado, when his bride of seven years, Trina, confided she really wanted to live on a farm . . . in France. To his credit, the practical engineer didn't shoot down his artist wife's suggestion; instead he countered with, "How about a farm in this country?"<br>Agreeing that the dream would be more likely to materialize if they stayed within the confines of the United States, the couple launched a plan aimed at getting them out of the city in five years.
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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Ocean View

    Starting with a map, the duo quickly eliminated whole sections of the country: East Coast weather didn't suit them, California was too expensive, and the plains of the Midwest didn't harken.<br>"We liked the idea of being near the ocean, so Tom checked the average rainfalls in the Northwest, and that part of the country started looking real good," says Trina.
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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Oregon Bound

    On a whim, last year the couple flew to Oregon over Memorial Day weekend to check out real estate possibilities around the small town of Silverton, about 30 miles from Salem. The first handful of properties they toured left them cold, but at day's end Tom and Trina headed for a lavender farm they had seen on the Internet and nearly eliminated because of its decidedly unimpressive 1950s ranch house.<br>"We drove up the driveway and were speechless. It was just what we wanted," recalls Trina about the 20-acre property with a view of the Coastal Range.
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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • The Perfect Property

    In addition to a meticulously renovated barn, the property boasted a spring-fed pond, fenced vegetable gardens, and two greenhouses. And then there was the lavender: a vast sea of the hardy herb undulated on the hillside ripe with the promise of the waves of purple to come.<br>"It was the wrong time for a move," admits Tom. "But I said, let's see if we can make it work. If it's meant to be, it will happen.' " Three months later the engineer and the decorative painter were living in Silverton pondering the possibilities that 2 acres of lavender had to offer.
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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Live and learn

    Knowing it could be awhile before their investment turned a profit ("We didn't know a thing about lavender," Trina admits), Tom kept his job as a project management consultant, commuting to Seattle several days a month. That left Trina to figure out the day-to-day demands of farm life and to deal with things like mice and winter mud.<br>"I tried starting seeds in the greenhouse and discovered the mice were eating them. I couldn't bring myself to kill them so I set humane traps, but I think the same mice just kept coming back," says Trina with a laugh. She admits her suggestion to relocate pesky gophers to a state park solicited chuckles from more than one neighbor.
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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • A French fete

    Many of those winter days were spent developing marketing strategies for their lavender. Topping the list was a plan for a French Harvest Festival to celebrate the first crop. "The idea was to have lots of people come spend the day, bring picnic s, and buy lavender," says Trina, who invited a local antique dealer to participate.<br>But first there was the matter of preparing the heavenly scented purple herb for sale. "Lavender is not high maintenance to grow, but it has to be harvested by hand using a bull hook, which is like a giant machete. It takes about eight cuts to clean a whole plant," explains Trina, who along with three hired workers over a period of two days only cleared half of the available crop. After it's cut, the lavender is piled on top of the plant to air dry before it is bundled, loaded in a truck, and driven to the barn where it is hung in the loft to dry completely.
    <br>In the meantime, to stir interest in her harvest event, Trina organized the town's first farmer's market. It wasn't long before locals started referring to the Denver transplant as the Lavender Lady, and anticipation of the French Harvest Festival began to build.<br>The big day attracted over 500 people, and plans are already in the works for private-label soaps and sachets to sell next year.<br>"The most gratifying part of this first year was that I actually figured out how to harvest and sell the lavender and that it was well received," enthuses Trina.
    <br>Meanwhile, Trina and Tom both look forward to the day when Tom travels less and they spend more time building the dream they've envisioned together.<br>"We came here looking for a simpler life, and over time I hope to create a balance with my engineering side," says Tom adding reflectively, "This place just called to us, and we have found home."<br>To purchase lavender or for information about products, call Havenhill Farm at 503/873-0396.
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    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012

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