It's sweet smell of farming success at second Lavender Festival


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What do you do when you purchase a 137-acre farm and have no farming experience other than a few years as a 4-H Club member as a child? If you're James and Nancy Cameron of Washington, you look for help.

Mr. Cameron had just sold his Washington-based Coca-Cola distributorship in 1999 at the age of 41 and wasn't one to sit back in an easy chair and vegetate.

"My husband has a great work ethic and thought it was important to show our children that he intended to remain active," Mrs. Cameron said.

He soon segued into owning two golf clubs -- Village Green in Hickory and The Golf Club of Washington. But in 2004, after the couple purchased Mrs. Cameron's grandparents' farm, which had been in the family since 1941, they wondered what to do with it. A Penn State Extension course they took titled "Exploring the Small Farm Dream" put them on the right track, suggesting they find a niche.

Mrs. Cameron said, "While reading a book on how to become a successful small farmer, I hit on the word lavender, and walked into Jim's office and said 'How about lavender as a niche?' "

Currently, Destiny Hill Farm is laced with more than two miles of 5,000 lavender plants in 17 varieties.

"There are over 200 varieties of lavender in the world, and some are better for cutting, for sachets, for crafting and for culinary use," Mrs. Cameron said. "They also come in a variety of colors -- everything from white and pale pink to light and dark blue."

Last year, the couple staged the first Lavender Festival at Destiny Hill Farm and are reprising the event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 30 and July 1. Patrons are requested to park their cars at Trinity High School in Washington and be shuttled to the farm. Admission is $8, but is free to children 12 and younger.

Attendees will be able to take a walking tour of the farm, cut their own lavender to take home, enjoy live musical entertainment, purchase food and crafts from vendors, sample wines by the Christian W. Klay Winery and take in horticultural talks and demonstrations.

Speakers include Washington & Jefferson professor Candy DeBerry, speaking about native plants for the garden and landscape, and Joann Lewis, talking about how to make your own fresh fruit jams. Bill Porter of Pittsburgh also will display his huge collection of antique firearms similar to ones used by early Pennsylvania farmers.

In addition to foods such as beef brisket and pulled pork, patrons also will be able to purchase Bruster's lavender-flavored ice cream, lavender cookies and salads topped with lavender-infused dressing.

The couple originally kick-started their lavender farm by visiting the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival, in Fairfield near Gettysburg, for ideas. They began contacting nurseries to find the varieties they wanted. Anne Morton, Pittsburgh-based sales representative for Greenleaf Nursery, proved a big help in getting the ones they wanted.

"Our company sourced the varieties they requested and grew them into viable quart-sized plants from plugs for later replanting on the farm," Ms. Morton said.

With help from eight full-time, college-age employees, the plants are weeded, pruned and watered by a drip-tape irrigation system.

In addition to lavender, the Camerons planted 600 blueberry and 330 red and golden raspberry bushes and 2,100 asparagus plants. They also grow a couple acres of flowers sold as cuttings at the Washington Farmers Market or used to decorate farm facilities rented out for weddings, private parties and corporate events.

"I don't think the patrons who come in for this year's Lavender Festival will be disappointed because Destiny Hill is such a lovely piece of property," Mrs. Cameron said.

Information: destinyhill.com.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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