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Lavender fields forever at Fort Ann farm

Lavender fields forever at Fort Ann farm

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FORT ANN — For David and Diane Allen, moving from suburban New Jersey to rural Washington County definitely meant living on a farm.

They didn’t know the move would lead them to trying to learn everything they could know about lavender — from the dozens of varieties of plants, to how to make lavender extract to figuring out how to keep the plants alive during the frigid winters.

Now, after moving to the farm permanently two years ago, they have nearly 5,000 lavender plants, a store that sells lavender-based items, a Chartes Cathedral-style labyrinth and are open five days a week for pick-your-own lavender.

“We are just so pleased and so stunned at the response we are getting,” said Diane Allen, who added she thinks people come for reasons other than buying lavender. “People are so stressed right now, they just need a place to come and breathe. This is such a relaxing place for people to come to.”

Lavender, especially lavender oil, is said to have medicinal properties. It is used to reduce anxiety and emotional stress, improve stress, heal burns and wounds and to restore skin complexion and reduce acne.

Allen said she and her husband are not done expanding Lavenlair Farm, at 437 Deweys Hill Road near the Whitehall town line..

“There’s so much we want to do,” she said. “We want to put a slate path into the labyrinth, and I would love a fountain in there, too. We’d also like to put up a glass greenhouse.”

The Allens live in an 1820s farmhouse, and the farm draws people for its ambiance and country setting. They advertise on Airbnb and also make the site available for wedding photos.

They are also planning a pop-up dinner in their lavender drying loft, using their lavender and other locally sourced foods in conjunction with chef A.J. Richards from Forged restaurant in Hudson Falls.

“That’s been just crazy,” Diane Allen said of the July 30 event. “We just put it out on Facebook, and we only have 30 seats. I think I have 60 inquiries already.”

The lavender plants are at the heart of the operation, and the farm is open for picking from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

“They are doing a great job at connecting with other area producers to cross-promote product. They are a great example of types of business that can grow our agritourism sector in the county,” said Laura Oswald, director of economic development for Washington County.

The farm was open for eight picking dates last year and is already busy this year.

The Allens are also setting up at farmers markets in Troy, Saratoga Springs, Lake George and Bolton.

“People say it must be really relaxing living on a lavender farm out in the county,” Diane Allen said. “But it’s really busy for us during the summer.”

They are also already looking to the winter, and Allen pointed out that is a key to their future. The Allens are working with Cornell University researchers who are developing hardier strains on lavender.

“It’s really hard keeping the lavender alive during the Adirondack winter,” said Allen, who noted she and her husband have planted 32 varieties at the farm and are looking at a number of strains that say are hardy enough for the cold winter. “We cannot grow some varieties, like Spanish lavender, because it can only survive to 20 degrees, and we get down to minus-20 during the winter.

You can read Bill Toscano’s blog at poststar.com/blogs or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.

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