The first thing to know about Woodinville Lavender is, well, it’s technically in Redmond.
“We think of ourselves as Woodinville as our northern property line is Woodinville,” explained Tom Frei, who co-owns the lavender farm with his wife, Brenda. “Our farm feels more like Woodinville, as we look across the Valley at .”
Buying the three-acre farm was a serendipitous event, according to Tom. Back in 2008, he and Brenda had decided to start a lavender farm and were looking for suitable land when they saw the property along NE Woodinville-Redmond Road.
“We just knocked on the door to let them know if they ever wanted to sell, we were interested in buying. It turns out they were a week away from calling a Realtor,” he said.
Despite being an aerospace engineer for the past 24 years, Tom says he was “born with dirt under my fingernails.” His parents were dry-land farmers in the Pullman area, and he grew up on the family farm. “I knew I wanted to farm but I didn’t want big commercial farming and I didn’t want to have to deal with irrigation.”
He and Brenda settled on lavender because of the plants’ hardiness and drought tolerance. After spending the first couple of years on the farm amending the soil and planting test beds of lavender, they were ready to take the next step and market the lavender. In 2010, they started selling at three local farmers markets.
“We wanted to start slow and see how things went,” Tom said. He kept his day job in Redmond and Brenda continued her career as a labor and delivery nurse. Their adult children pitched in to get things going.
Today, Woodinville Lavender sells at four farmers markets as well as selling its lavender products online. In addition to fresh-cut bundles, and sachets and other items made from dried lavender, the product line includes lotions, bath salts, oils and soaps. “We’re hoping to add more products every year, but we are working on our quality control, making sure every product we make meets a high standard,” Tom said.
It’s remained a family effort, with oldest son Justin taking over the farmers market operation while son Josh handles product development and production (when he’s not at his job as a firefighter in Redmond). Daughter Nicole, in her first year as a veterinary student at WSU, helps with manufacturing in the summer months and daughter-in-law Brooke lends a hand with manufacturing and purchasing.
They also plan on opening the farm to the public next year instead of always going off to markets to sell. Currently the farm has more than 1,000 lavender plants and 25 different varieties. When all that lavender is in bloom, from mid-June to September, it’s easy to see why so many tourists travel to Provence to see the lavender fields.
“We’d eventually like to have a festival here with music and food and a gift shop. But we’ll take it slow and make sure we do it well.”
For now, the family will continue selling at farmers markets in Edmonds, Fremont, Queen Anne and Kirkland.