Eric and Kathleen Turner are growing their love for lavender.
The pair launched Hillcrest Lavender Farm, offering "U-pick" bouquets and farm-fresh gifts at 239 Stone House Road in Sherburne in 2016.
Kathleen Turner, 51, said, inspiration for the farm came unexpectedly.
“We actually saw something on TV, and I said, ‘Huh, maybe we should try that,’” she said. “We have the perfect location with the southern slope, and it gets a good amount of sun. We just kind of jumped into it and our first year was not good — if you could do it wrong, we did. It can be a hard crop and a lot of individuals might have a hard time keeping just a few plants — they don’t like good soil, but typically like a more rocky, sandy soil — so it’s been a learning process, but now we’ve got a good handle on it.”
Today, Turner said, Hillcrest is home to seven acres of lavender, with more rows being added this year. The four-week picking season, she said, began on July 10 and will last through mid-August.
Turner said interest in self-picking opportunities blossomed through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did (U-pick) for two years before that, but last year was our biggest,” she said. “I think we had so many people coming out because everybody was looking for something to do outdoors. This year, we’re still feeling a lot of interest.
“We have had people from Syracuse and Oneonta and a wider area,” Turner continued. “We get a lot of locals … and our neighbors seem to love it. We’re still in the process of getting the word out, but once people hear about it, they’re coming and they’re pretty supportive of it. And people do seem to be coming from farther away — Utica, people up visiting from the city and people from Jersey.”
And, Turner said, picking the plant provides an unmatched sensory experience.
“There’s no down to lavender,” she said. “Just being in it — even when it’s dried and you’re working with it — it’s so pretty and nice and relaxing.”
Turner said she and Eric, 58, along with their visitors, have various applications for the harvested lavender. Visitors, she said, are given scissors upon arrival and instructed on how best to cut large or small bouquets.
“I find that we have people who have different interests,” she said. “Some want to just pick it and take it home and put it in water and display it … and others want it to take home to hang upside down for two or three weeks to dry then remove the buds and do crafts. And some people do a little of both. If you dry it, it stays nice for years and you can just give the buds a pinch to release the oils.
“My husband and I got a still last year,” Turner continued, “so he distilled everything that was left to be harvested, so we have the hydrosol and essential oils of it available. (We offer) air freshener, linen spray and lotion, and we just came out with a bug spray, which is lovely. We have eye pillows with our buds in them and we’re looking to do a few pet products.”
Such items are available at the onsite gift shop, which Turner said she hopes to cultivate along with the crops.
“It’s grown from a canopy tent and a table to this little gift shop (and), next year, we’re hoping to add a larger gift shop and a bigger parking area,” she said. “Eric puts in more time than I do, because he’s making all the products and I’m a full-time child care provider … but this winter I’m actually looking to do more products for the store myself and I’d like to do a little festival next year with food trucks and live music and just keep growing. As we see people are interested, we’ll just keep adding to the experience.”
Though walk-ins are welcome, picking reservations can be made at hillcrestlavenderfarm.com. The gift shop, Turner said, is open during picking hours.
For more information, find “Hillcrest Lavender Farm” on Facebook or follow @hillcrestlavenderfarm on Instagram.