Capital Press Article

Small urban lavender farm has big aspirations

By ALIYA HALL For the Capital Press Aug 26, 2021

PORTLAND — When Ramona Krueger was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she was looking for something she could do with her property while staying at home recovering.

“I thought, What crop could I grow that I don’t have to plant every single year that’s, number one, a beautiful thing to look at and, number two, for our pollinators?” Krueger said. “And then trying to think, Could I make a little business out of it?”

Sunderland Acres Lavender Farm is an urban farm in Portland, Ore., that focuses on creating value-added products made from French and English lavender. The farm also offers tours so families can connect with sheep, rabbits and donkeys.

Krueger planted her first variety, English Lavender, in 2017. Despite the challenges of learning how to farm, she said the process was also part of her personal healing.

“Having gone through chemo and multiple surgeries, being outside and digging in the dirt, and keeping active was very rewarding,” she said. “It’s something I didn’t envision in my future, but I’m enjoying it, for sure.”

Sunderland Acres started with the goal of marketing the lavender to restaurants, bakeries and ice cream shops. After attending farmers markets she opened a shop on her property and started offering tours.

“We’re unique because we're inside an urban setting, and you don’t have to drive 45 minutes to a lavender farm,” she said.

Krueger added that sometimes people envision sprawling fields — she has only three-quarters of an acre — which is why she also has two sheep, rabbits and donkeys to add more to visitors' experience.

She also added French Lavender to extend the bloom season for visitors and is looking to bring in workshops and a Farmer for a Day program for children to learn about the plants.

“Every year we try to add something else to the farm,” Krueger said. “We want people to come back for multiple visits to see what’s changed.”

There are numerous ways to use lavender, Krueger said, and she tries to utilize every part of it.

After debudding the stems for culinary purposes, she sells the stems for use in nesting boxes for chickens — she also uses them in her sheep’s bedding — and in fire-starter bundles because the smoke can be used to infuse barbecued meat.

With her culinary buds, she wants to make people more aware of lavender’s versatility.

“It’s not just sweet but savory dishes, too,” she said. “We’re opening people’s eyes about that.”

Sunderland Acres also makes value-added products with lavender. She makes her own soaps, roll-on perfume and eye pillows. She also designs unique wreaths and flower arrangements and partners with other local vendors to provide lavender ice cream, goat milk lavender soap and lavender design bar ware.

The essential oil and hydrosol, a byproduct from distilling the oil, are made by someone else, but her next goal is to purchase her own still for essential oils.

At the end of the day, Krueger said she wants to encourage people to “eat their flowers.”

“My vision is still to continue to make connections for culinary lavender,” she said. “I feel like food brings people together.”