Summer means that it’s lavender season and we are so lucky to have this beautiful place on our island. Let us introduce you to Cathy of Lavender Hill Farm – who will be joining us as a full time resident this fall!
VH: From where do you hail?
Cathy: New York City – Manhattan to be exact. From an island to an island. I grew up there, in suburban Philadelphia and then 22 years in Los Angeles.
VH: How did you land on Vashon?
Cathy: Good friends Jeanne Dougherty and Bill Wood moved to Vashon in the mid-90’s. I started making trips to visit them and another friend who moved to West Seattle. When my LA home was being sold, Jeannie called and said there was a cabin I should buy in Beulah Park. I bought it sight-unseen and the adventure began. When my girls were small we visited Theo Christman’s lavender field, called “Lavenders on Vashon”. I started driving by the house and garden, saying it was my dream. And lo and behold it went on the market in 2006 and I became a lavender farmer.
VH: Tell us all about your business – what you offer, what you do, etc.
Cathy: The first couple of years, we opened the field, had an honor box and sold bunches. We also were part of the last three years of the lavender festival, with The Lavender Sisters and Fox Farm Lavender. We have always been open to the public during lavender season – this year 11 – 5 pm Wednesday – Sundays. Visitors can cut their own lavender, make a lavender wreath (we will also do this for them) and visit our farm store with a selection of lavender products, including Suzi’s Lavender bath and beauty products and her CBD salves and lotions. We carry Sonoma Lavender Simple Syrup and lavender soap from Rainy Day Garden – which always sells out. We also distill our lavender and sell lavender essential oil. We distill each variety separately. The scents are quite different.
In addition to the lavender business, the farmhouse has been a vacation rental since 2009. It has been a lot of fun learning marketing, adding amenities to the experience (think popcorn popper, panini maker, new walk-in shower). The farmhouse has six bedrooms. It has been a great location for family gatherings, corporate retreats, weddings and other celebrations. So yes, we host small weddings – no more than four a year. I have an amazing property manager who has kept this going while I have been living in California during the school year.
VH: What inspired you to start Lavender Hill Farm?
Cathy: Love. Inexperience. Necessity.
I love lavender. I planted about 20 Provence plants in my garden in Eagle Rock during a three year drought. I was sept away by the lavender on Vashon and the beautiful farmhouse. So we went a little crazy and bought the farm and then had to figure out how to afford it. The lavender U-Cut business was in place, so I had to quickly get up to speed about all things lavender and figure out how to draw customers. The vacation rental business started when the economy tanked and we didn’t find longterm renters. VRBO was the platform then and we added Airbnb as that platform grew. About half the bookings come from each. Now, 14 summers later, I have a following, a solid customer base of locals and tourists, an intern program I started in 2009 – we house four college students or recent grads who live, learn and work the fields and store for six weeks. It has been a joy to get to know these young adults as they launch their careers and follow their passions. It may be my favorite aspect of the lavender business.
VH: What is your superpower?
Cathy: Getting it done. Come to me with an idea and I will make it happen.
VH: When you have company visiting the island, where do you like to take them?
Cathy: Why do I think of food first? The Hardware Store – essential Vashon gathering spot. May Kitchen. Snapdragon, Pure, Cafe Luna. Can’t wait to try The Ruby Brink. Sailing on a friend’s boat. Whatever Vashon event is happening – First Fridays are a must, Halloween or Strawberry Festival Parade. The beach in Burton or KVI, the Burton Loop, Palouse Winery, a trip to Zuzko ( Zuzana Korbelarova’s jewelry studio down the street). Vashon Theatre – best popcorn. The Farmers Market, where we also have a booth during the season. Island Center Forest, Point Robinson Lighthouse.
VH: What’s next for the farm?
Cathy: In October I will become a full-time resident of Vashon Island after 14 years as “summer folk”. That means I will be offering limited rentals of the farmhouse, possibly a longer lavender season, and more event hosting – meetings, small gatherings and weddings. I’m playing with other ideas. I look forward to getting more involved in island life. I have plans to turn the farm store into an off-season tiny house I can retire to with my cats and dogs when I have vacation guests. It’s a new world. Entertaining all ideas.
VH: What’s the best thing you ever bought at Granny’s? 🙂
Cathy: During one of my first summers, I was invited to a red dress party at KVI beach. So off I went to find a red dress. It wasn’t as terrific and the two piece red suit that Bill Wood (the Jazz Guy) wore, but it passed muster. Over the years, I have taken clothes and household items to Granny’s and I look forward to spotting someone in a jacket or sweater of mine.
Be sure to visit this summer, especially if you never have – it’s so breathtakingly beautiful! Lavender Hill Farm website.