How one woman left big-city life behind to run a lavender farm in Oregon
Seven years ago, Trina Riemersma was a city girl living in Denver with a job, two dogs, and a dream. "I'd read Under the Tuscan Sun and A Year in Provence," she explains. "And moving to a farmhouse, preferably in France, sounded so romantic."
Inspired by the words of 1950s film icon James Dean to "dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today," she started searching for farmland. "I felt there was more to life," she says. "I wanted to live simply, close to nature. I wanted adventure."
Settling on Oregon, she flew to Portland, toured wheat farms and Christmas tree farms, and got discouraged. "I'd seen one place on the Internet, but the 1950s ranch house looked dated, and the front yard was all mud," Riemersma remembers. "I'd put it last on my list of places to visit." But when she arrived at that last farm, she was pleasantly surprised.
Rolling hills striped with lavender basked in the late afternoon sun, reminding her of fields in Provence. Oak groves, a pasture, a trout pond, and a redone barn filled the rest of the 20-acre property. "The infrastructure was there," Riemersma says. "The place was no blank slate, but it had endless possibilities. I looked at the ranch house and pictured a Tuscan villa."
The following day, after touring area wineries, she returned to the farm, strolled the paths, took pictures, and envisioned where she'd plant berries and flowers. "I was enchanted; I fell incredibly in love with the place," Riemersma recalls. Once she was back home, she made an offer, and three months later, the farm was hers.
Growing a business
At first, Riemersma knew nothing about growing lavender or farming, but she learned how to care for and dry it. She hired locals to help her pull weeds, and a farmer down the road taught her how to harvest the flowers using a sickle. She adopted some goats and started keeping a journal in which she jotted down memorable moments, like the morning she was startled from sleep by cannon fire next door (which she later learned was the neighbors' way of scaring birds from their vineyard).
An accomplished cook, she tried using lavender to flavor everything from ice cream and port reduction sauce to vodka martinis. Eventually she teamed up with neighboring women to make lavender soaps and lotions, began selling lavender to chefs in local restaurants, and helped start the Silverton Saturday Farmers' Market, where she sold her blooms and became known as "the lavender lady."
Now, seven years later, Havenhill Lavender Farm is thriving. "It's a heck of a lot of work," Riemersma admits. But the rewards of country life are enormous. She's grown accustomed to the yips of coyotes in the hills at night, the sight of deer grazing on fallen apples, and ospreys bathing in the pond. "Not a day goes by that I don't appreciate some little thing," she says.
In summer, after a long day of hard work tending the lavender and her animals, she unwinds on the dock, feet dangling in the pond, a glass of wine at her side. "I'm a farm girl now," she says. "But I'll never stop dreaming, never stop learning."