Finding Comfort & Joy At Willamette Valley Lavender

Mike Mitchell and Sandra Solano-Mitchell from the Oregon-based Willamette Valley Lavender tell us about the benefits of living with lavender.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Willamette Valley Lavender

After visiting a nearby lavender farm for their 20th wedding anniversary, Mike Mitchell and Sandra Solano-Mitchell were inspired to turn their own 10.5 acres of land into a similar venture. They named it Willamette Valley Lavender.

“It was then, surrounded by solitude, lavender and bees that we decided to jump in with both feet and take on this new adventure,” the couple recalls. “In October 2020, we planted our test garden with 200 plants and 11 cultivars. This allowed us to see what would grow well in our micro climate.

“Since then, the farm has expanded to over 3,000 plants and more than 30 cultivars.”

We spoke to Sandra and Mike about the therapeutic nature of faming and the differences between French, Spanish and English lavenders. We also got into the best ways to incorporate lavender into your cooking routine.

A Focus on Lavender


View this post on Instagram


Subscribe now

A post shared by Willamette Valley Lavender – Handmade Gifts (@willamettevalleylavender)

“For many years we brainstormed ideas about what to do or grow at the farm. But everything we came up with required huge amounts of time year-round, and we needed to be mindful that our teaching jobs already demanded most of our time,” explains the couple. (They think of themselves as public school teachers by day and hobby farmers on the weekends.)

“We found lavender to be more of a teacher-friendly crop,” they continue. “Harvest times and plant care align well with our school schedules, as we harvest early in our summer break.

“Although there is still a lot of work to do year-round. We really enjoy the process and everything lavender has to offer. The lavender work is stimulating and reenergizing, which makes for an excellent disconnect from our daily jobs.”

Read more: Commitment to permaculture blossoms at Indara Farms!

An Organic Way of Growing

When it comes growing lavender, Sandra and Mike are advocates for organic methods. “We do not need to add fertilizers or pesticides to nature,” they explain.

“Preparing the land, we may add amendments to reach the proper pH level for the soil. But once the soil is ready the only additive we have for the plants is a little bone meal to help them establish. So this fits with our using the resources already on hand.”

English, French or Spanish Lavender?

There are over 450 varieties of lavender available. But Sandra and Mike like to categorize them into three main categories in the United States:

  • English lavender
  • French lavender
  • Spanish lavender

They describe the English variety as being an “excellent choice for culinary purposes” due to its sweet and delicate floral aroma.

On the other hand, French lavender possesses an “invigorating fragrance” that makes it great for aromatherapy. Spanish lavender is a must for garden and landscape use.

Cooking with Lavender

Moving into the kitchen, Sandra and Mike are fans of using lavender in drinks.

“Lemonades, lattes, mocktails and cocktails can be easily achieved with fresh or dry bud or by making simple homemade lavender syrups,” they say. “We also enjoy baking recipes, fruit salads or desserts. When cooking with lavender, a little bit goes a long way.”

Finding Comfort & Joy

“Farming is rewarding because it gives us a healthy, creative and productive outlet to our busy and often stressful teaching jobs,” say Sandra and Mike when asked about the positive impact that Willamette Valley Lavender has had on their lives.

“It also gives us the opportunity to share our lavender products with our community during farm visits and farmers markets,” they continue.

“That is extremely fulfilling because we—like many people—love the fact that lavender brings us pleasant memories, joy and comfort.”

Follow Willamette Valley Lavender on Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *