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Interview with Kathy Gehrt, Northwest lavender expert


Recently, we took time to chat with Kathy Gehrt, a lavender expert and author of “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” In talking with her, we quickly realized that we were in the presence of someone truly passionate about lavender and all of its wonderful properties, especially in the realm of culinary delights. She had so many wonderful insights, and we are excited to be able to share some of those here:

Photo by Kathy Gehrt - Willakenzie Lavender Fields
Photo by Kathy Gehrt – Willakenzie Lavender Fields

Lavender Buzz: What got you started with lavender?
Kathy Gehrt: “After retiring from an executive position in a Fortune 500 technology company, I discovered lavender, or – rather – it discovered me. A small garden plot I acquired boasted a huge lavender bush in one corner; when I went there to tend my garden, I noticed the vibrant color, the pungent fragrance, and bees buzzing around the lavender. I also loved cooking, , and I volunteered at a nearby cooking school where I met a chef. This chef had a talent for creative cooking, and she introduced me to cooking with lavender. My passion took off from there.”
Photo by Kathy Gehrt - AKL Maui Lavender Farm
Photo by Kathy Gehrt – Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, Maui

Lavender Buzz: Name a couple of your favorite farms and what draws you to them?
Kathy Gehrt: “This is difficult, because I love them all! However, I have to say that Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm – located in the upcountry region of Maui – draws me in simply because of its beauty. Cascade Falls Organic Farm – located on Vashon Island near Seattle – is wonderful; it reminds me of an English country garden. Willakenzie Lavender – located near Yamhill, Oregon – is home to an extensive variety of English lavender plants, making it a great resource as well as a beautiful location to visit.”

Lavender Buzz: What is the most creative use of lavender that you have seen?
Kathy Gehrt: “I think the most creative application I have seen was in 2005 at the World Barista Championship. A Danish barista, Troels Overdal Paulsen, won the contest with his signature drink that consisted of Moroccan green pepper, Brazilian espresso and lavender.
Photo by Kathy Gehrt - Willakenzie Lavender Fields
Photo by Kathy Gehrt – Willakenzie Lavender Fields

Lavender Buzz: In your opinion what does the future hold for the lavender industry?
Kathy Gehrt: “The lavender industry has a bright future. Each farm is unique in terms of scale, business model, product offerings, and more. The key is to decide what your farm will offer your customers. Then, make the customer experience outstanding in every way, from beginning to end.”

Lavender Buzz: In the years that you have been involved with the varied aspects of the lavender industry, what has been your most treasured memory?
Kathy Gehrt: “Each season brings me new treasured memories. Last summer, I spent time at Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm. I was demonstrating recipes from my book and although the weather was not perfect, the people I met that day live on in my memory and inspire me. The extended family of the farm’s owners was busy helping out during the festival – a true labor of love. Families brought their children to see a farm and to celebrate the beauty. Adult children strolled through the lavender fields with their aging parents marveling in nature’s beauty. A soon-to-be bride celebrating her upcoming wedding and enjoying samples of lavender blueberry syrup drizzled over Dutch pancakes. Such a wonderful collection of people all gathered together to appreciate the beauty, aroma, and flavor of lavender.”
Photo by Kathy Gehrt - AKL Maui Lavender Farm
Photo by Kathy Gehrt – Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, Maui

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Carmen Ragsdale February 3, 2012, 2:10 am

    Iam one of the co-owners of Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm it was a delight to have Kathy at our farm to do cooking demos. To our delight she will be with us this year also, for our Sequim Lavender Farm Faire. We have different chefs that come in at different time to do cooking demos. We will also have Chef sarah Wong with us this again. I am with the hopes of being able to have a cook off with these wonderful cooks. As I also have cook books along with making alot of my own Lavender Culinary item. In april we our association(Sequim Lavender Farmers Association) will be hosting a International Lavender Conference. Our speaker are fantastic, this will be an exciting way to start our Lavender season. Remember our Sequim Lavender Farm Faire is coming July 20, 21, 12, and yes Kathy will be there. Don’t forget to go to our Web site and check out our conference.

  • Jan Schooley March 20, 2012, 9:46 pm

    Hi Carmen – It was delightful to read about you in this article on lavender. I will be attending the Sequim conference this April. We have an apple orchard and lavender farm in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada. This summer will be my first open house. I have visited the wonderful lavender farms in Sequim twice now. Always a delight.
    ….. Jan Schooley. Follow me on Twitter @AppleHLavender for pictures of lavender in Ontario!

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