Lavender and Its Ability to Unite a Community

FieldsLavender and Its Ability to Unite a Community and Heal the World.

by; MaryRose Denton

“The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender…”(William C. Bryant).
Voyage to the largest island in the San Juans, just off the Northwest coast of Washington, on any summer day in mid -July and you will experience the aromatic and visual delight of fields in the peak of purpleness. This is lavender in full bloom. This is a “place of great gathering”, this is Pelindaba farm,

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Pelindaba, owned and operated since 1999 by Stephen Robins, is a premier grower of certified organic lavender, hand-crafting their lavender products which are made with the essential oil, distilled on-site at the farm. Thy are the largest vertically integrated lavender operation in the country which translates into they do it all themselves; they grow the lavender, distill it into essential oil, harvest it, and make all their products in house. The only do lavender and they do it, very, very well.

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At Pelindaba, they live by a certain ethos, one of sustainability. The farmland is a preserved open-space as well as agricultural land. The cutting fields, which grow 4-5 different varieties of lavender, is open to the public year-round. “Never locking the gates”, is Stephen’s philosophy for this communal spirit invites anyone to walk the fields or picnic on the benches, while soaking in the healing vibrations of these pretty purple plants. Weddings and private functions are held in the fields which are also open to painters and photographers alike, of all degrees, for inspiration and any artistic activities. Any time of year is splendid to visit these fields on San Juan Island but in mid-summer, at the height of blooming, the flowers and fields are purely magical.

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Just to the left of the gravel drive as you enter the farm, is the Gatehouse. It stands a charming, white farmhouse which became the first retail store in 2001, for all the Pelindaba products. Walking up the steps to the Gatehouse, you walk through what is termed the Demonstration Garden. In here, more than 50 types of lavender grow, with the intention to show the wide diversity of this plant.

Behind the Gatehouse are educational exhibits including a hands-on distillery area. A second tier to the Pelindaba ethos is education and a sense of responsibility, a giving back to the community be it a county wide community or a world- wide one. As Stephen stated, “by doing good in the community in which we live, we are doing good by the world”.
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So, what makes lavender so popular to the aficionado as well as the new comer? It has universal appeal. Lavender has been written about for centuries in prose and poetry, giving it a sentimental air, and can be found as a fundamental staple to the quintessential Shakespearean garden. From the garden to the plate, lavender is widely used in culinary dishes for both flavor and decoration. Its oil has been used for hundreds of years to remedy all sorts of maladies from sore muscles, insomnia, and tension headaches to nervous conditions and anxiety. The chemical components of lavender, such as linalool, not only provide antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties but also have shown to be analgesic for pain relief. Lavender is safe for all ages and pets too!
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Besides being an environmental and sustainable crop that requires very little resources, it is a versatile, non-toxic product for almost anything that ails you, and it can be found 100% certified organic, made by Pelindaba. In 2004, Pelindaba expanded their retail presence off the farm and into the neighboring community of Friday Harbor. Today there are stores throughout Western Washington as well as Oregon, Colorado, California, Illinois, Florida, and Hawaii. Throughout it all; the years, the growth, the ups and the downs, Pelindaba has continued to maintain its vision and the vision of its creator Stephen Robins, “to do well by our island environment – physically, economically and culturally.” It is a great gathering of crops and a place for great gatherings of people. It is Pelindaba.
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To read more on the inception and concepts of Pelindaba Lavender farm or to find a store location, please visit their website at .
For further information on visiting the San Juan islands please contact the San Juan Visitors Bureau at .

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A Sunny January Day at the Nakashima Barn

Situated at the northern end of the Centennial Trail, the old red barn of the Nakashima dairy greets you, as you pull in the drive, standing sentry to the entrance and to the memory of its past.

The Nakashima family lived and worked this land for almost 30 years, and raising their 11 children here. They were among the earliest Japanese settlers to farm in Snohomish County, Operating it as a dairy farm, bringing the first registered Guernsey cattle to this area, until 1942 and WWII. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, ordering approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into internment camps, the Nakashima family was among them. The farm was sold and changed hands several times until it was sold into a Trust for Public Land in 1997, upon which it became maintained by Snohomish County for use as a park. It later became part of the Heritage Barn Registry.

As you walk across the path, past the dedicated marker establishing the park in 2012, there is a small footbridge to carry you over Tributary 80, a serene little stream that meanders through the open fields, once dairy pasture to the herd of Guernsey cows. Closing your eyes, you might find yourself cast back to those days, hearing the soft lull of the cattle’s moo. Perhaps even the sweet smell of hay hits your nostrils, carried by the breeze.

The trail takes you past these pasture lands, slowly giving way to marshes and Birch groves. On this late, winter morning the Birch tree branches are bare but in a few short weeks a chorus of frogs song will usher in Spring to these wetlands and new buds will appear on bushes and trees. These are native growth protection areas, home to a wide array of wild life from frogs and herons in the marshlands to deer, coyote, and bear calling the woodlands home. There are signs at the trailhead as gentle reminders that this is their home and we must respect it, keeping it clean and free of garbage. Just in case we had forgotten.

On this crisp, weekday morning, I begin the first half of my walk in solitude, only the song if the chick-a-Dee-Dee-Dee accompanies me. I walk for three quarters of a mile before I encounter a local couple out walking their dog, a very gregarious Spaniel. I continue my course for about another mile, staying on the paved path built for walkers, joggers, and cyclists, before I turn back. There is a horse trail that runs parallel to the path I am walking. It is now an hour later in the day, almost midday, and the trail is becoming more active. I pass two other walkers and a serious yet curteous  cyclist, calling out “on your left” as he whizzed past me. This curtesy, the gentle head nod, and “hello” or “good morning” leaves me with a renewed hope of civility and humanity as I leave this park. I will carry this uplifted feeling with me through my day and gift it to others. I will pay forward the beauty I found here today.

And 75 years after the Nakashima family left this farmland, I whisper a soft “thank you” to honor their stewardship.

The barn is open from 7am to dusk everyday and makes a lovely walk with a friend, serene place to jog or bike, and family friendly with benches and rest areas near the barn. There are a few smaller, side trails off the main paved trail if you would rather explore the path less taken.

written by MaryRose Denton