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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • July 2017
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Celebrating lavender — Island Lavender Company blooms in Door County

There are few things that conjure up a universally pleasant response; thus, they get all the glory. It’s easy when the object can be used in virtually any and every capacity: as a sweet and savory food product, an herb, a popular essential oil, a simple yet satisfying scent, a charming piece of décor, a calming agent, and so much more. It begs the question, “Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?”

Not when it comes to lavender.

It’s something Scott Sonoc and his wife Marsha Williams know firsthand. The owners of Island Lavender Company, they planted the first commercial lavender fields on Washington Island on the newly renovated Historic Island Dairy property in the spring of 2013 and haven’t looked back since.

Situated five miles from the tip of the peninsula of Door County, the Island Lavender Company is a working lavender farm specializing in the cultivation of hearty organic lavender plants to be used to make the highest grade lavender products.

Scott explains that the Island Lavender Company farm has been designed to blend in with the existing character of Washington Island’s Scandinavian heritage promoting agricultural entrepreneurship, specifically celebrating lavender grown in the United States. The property includes a hand built, carved Viking Temple featuring birds, snakes and nature. The lavender market is housed in the restored 100-year-old Historic Island Dairy, a special island location featuring an exhibit of the dairy when it operated from 1917 to 1960.

And this year, they’ve expanded their beloved store to include a location in mainland Ephraim, Door County.

“It came primarily because of customers’ demand,” Marsha explains. “We discovered a fantastic building in North Ephraim that really enables us to show both the wide array of products we have as well as an entire exhibit area devoted to explaining how we process lavender.”

Located on the north edge of Ephraim in the historic big red barn just before entering into Sister Bay on Highway 42, Island Lavender Company’s additional locale allows Scott and Marsha to share their love of lavender and all it is capable of within their array of products and also in the form of graphics, exhibits and educational material — including lavender recipes for guests to try at home.

An extraordinary commitment to quality

The natural growing and harvesting procedure is one that Island Lavender Company takes seriously and procures products of the highest quality, becoming the standard for superiority due to each step in their process being so thoughtfully and diligently executed.

“We do everything by hand,” Scott says. “From the planting to the trimming to the harvesting.”

Lavender bundles are harvested by hand with a sickle, and dried in a barn while buds are stripped and separated from the stems in a custom-designed machine. Dried lavender buds go through the filtering process two to three times to ensure grit is removed, while lavender buds headed for culinary purposes are sifted more than five times and sent to a specially engineered stainless steel still to produce the highest quality food grade lavender essential oil.

It’s all based on the philosophy that excellence is reached when time and attention is paid to make it so; however, there’s something notably lacking in Island Lavender Company’s method: chemicals, pesticides and unnecessary additions during the growing process. Island Lavender Company is a completely natural lavender farm.

“We have an opportunity to focus on the need to protect the environment on various levels,” Scott says. “We don’t use pesticides or any kind of artificial fertilizers. Rainwater and sunshine is it. We work with the environment instead of against it.”

They’re natural components found typically in summer in Wisconsin, and lavender cultivation works exceptionally well in the area in all four of its diverse seasons. Hibernating in the winter, lavender begins growing in spring and flowers in mid-July. There are a number of variations, of which Island Lavender Company grows 16, primarily Lavandula Angustifolia, or English Lavender.

“We get so many comments from people who walk in our doors and just take a deep breath and say, ‘Oh I feel relaxed just being here,’” Marsha laughs. “It’s kind of a path of discovery. We’ve got information panels about lavender and how we process lavender throughout the whole store. People wander and they read the information panels and are able to get a good sense about what the lavender business entails.”

Island Lavender Company’s products are handmade in Wisconsin, with a number of them being done in-house by Scott, Marsha and their team. Travel pillows, neck wraps and salves are among some of the hundreds of products handmade and hand labeled.

“Our soaps, lotions and our body mists and room sprays are extremely popular,” Marsha says. “In fact, we offer free shipping to every state in the union — all over the United States. But it’s also nice to pop in and pick something up, and we always offer free food samples!”

The versatility and array of products — both edible and not for consumption — vary greatly; however, Scott and Marsha make it their task to keep one thing in mind for all of them.

“We try to primarily deal with small family-owned businesses,” Marsha explains. “It’s really quite fun, we have cultivated wonderful relationships with various suppliers to whom we supply our own lavender culinary oil and then they use that in making the products. Our food products are all made by professional food manufacturers and they use our lavender.

“The chocolates are really amazing. We have a wonderful chocolate supplier based in Port Washington. He’s really an artist who uses a very high quality cocoa. We have great lavender granola that’s made here in Door County: Lavender Cherry Granola, Lavender Blueberry Granola, Lavender Vanilla Granola and Lavender Dark Chocolate Granola.”

Everything from lavender gelato, lavender infused coffee and teas in a number of varieties like Lavender Crème Brulee, Lavender Grogg and Lavender Chocolate Mint, as well as jams and jellies perfect for the flavor — sweet but also herbal — are available and perhaps make up more of the traditional side of Island Lavender Company’s selection. Lavender seasoned salt and Lavender Balsamic Vinegar from Italy are a couple that Marsha says are very special.

“Lavender Caramel Corn is another one that people are excited about,” she says. “It’s really good and pairs amazingly well with a glass of red wine.

“I love asking customers about how they’re going to use our products. We meet a lot of fascinating people from all over the world. We’re very happy to be here, and we try and make sure people have fun.”

Celebrate with Island Lavender Company!

Join Island Lavender Company daily for the entire month of July to celebrate the Fourth Annual Island Lavender Blooming Festival

Featuring interactive and educational activities — all of which are free! — the Fourth Annual Island Lavender Blooming Festival is celebrated both at the Ephraim, Door County location and on Washington Island.

It’s an especially long festival, Scott explains, following the natural cycle of the lavender plant. Buds begin to bloom in the beginning of July and last through the entire month.

“It’s pretty to look at, fun to walk through and is really aromatic,” he says. “We are working in the lavender fields daily during the festival so you can have your questions answered about how to grow lavender, how lavender can be used in your daily activities and how we transform our lavender harvests.”

Focusing on and bringing attention and awareness to protecting the environment is also important to Island Lavender Company’s core mission, and that includes more than the growing of the versatile plant itself.

“Part of the whole cycle is the idea of pollination and bees,” Scott says. “We have an exhibit in Ephraim with a full size beehive showing how honey is gathered and produced. It really becomes an educational component throughout the month.”

During the festival guests are encouraged to interact with visiting artists who have also made it their artistic passion to protect the environment, the honey bee community and the wonder of lavender. Watch and converse with the artists as they discover the magic of the lavender fields in their compositions and artwork.

“One of the artists paints with beeswax,” Marsha explains. “She’ll be demonstrating her technique and selling her art. We have a jewelry maker joining us and a potter who creates lavender designs. We’re leaning toward the arts and expanding both the lavender focus, pollination and saving the bees.”

“All of our events are free, and there are no entrance or special activity fees at the Island Lavender Company because our goal is to heighten public awareness of the many outstanding qualities of this incredible plant,” Scott adds.

All activities are available daily in the month of July between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at both the Ephraim and Washington Island locations. 

A happy, healthy environment for all

The Island Lavender Company is distinguished by being a working lavender farm cultivating healthy hearty lavender plants specifically for the very cold winter seasons of Northern Wisconsin. Scott and Marsha provide housing for many of their employees, as well as pay a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.

“We have a commitment to quality — in how we treat our employees, our customers, the environment and how we make our products. We take it very seriously. It’s about the little details and we really try to get those right.” —Marsha Williams


Island Lavender Company

10432 Water Street, Ephraim

920-737-1531

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