Do you love walking through a field of aromatic lavender? The scents of rosemary, lemon balm, and rose geranium? Also, to take in great vistas of rolling hills and fields of flowers? Then you need to schedule a visit to Star Bright Farms in White Hall, MD.
Even though Lavender is not in season now, the undulating rows of neatly clipped lavender plants is restful and aromatic. And I was treated to a mini fall tour of Star Bright Farm and it is so much more than just lavender. A wonderful kitchen garden, fields of other aromatics, blueberries, and other edibles are all on display. The farm was neat and tidy with minimal weeds and a showpiece of farming.
The undulating rows of lavender is a result of a system of farm planning called ‘Keyline Design’ where the plants are planted on contour with the land which slows down the water flow across the landscape. The rows of the lavender conform to the natural shape of the land. When the water slows, it can seep into the soil deeper, instead of running off.
Planted in 2017, the lavender fields were decimated by a bad winter a year later where 80% of the crop was killed. But now a few years later, everything is doing well, planted with some new lavender varieties more tolerant of the fickle mid-Atlantic weather.
Tons of girt and limestone was mixed into the planting site to give lavender the perfect drainage that it requires. I have had many a lavender plant succumb to wet heavy soil at my house.
Tulsi Basil is also a contender for fragrance and health benefits. This was a new herb for me and I know there are tons of different basils out there. But Tulsi, or Holy Basil, was a whole new ballgame for me.
All of these aromatic herbs are gathered and distilled and the liquid gathered from the process is sold in the shop.
Kitchen Garden, Photo by Helen Norman
Star Bright Farm says it best; “Our barn is the centerpiece around which work revolves. It is where we gather to process a harvest, sell our crops or share the experience with others. In the high ceilings up stairs, the season may find lavender hanging from the high walls or newly potted plant cuttings resting on a dirty table. The cozy basement below is where we set up shop in our farm market to sell the results of our effort to the wider community. As seasons change, so do the contents of the store, so if there is something you like, scoop it up while time permits. It is in these spaces that we also seek to share the collective knowledge of an elemental life”.
The herbs are harvested and loaded into the copper still with water. Bottom heat is applied and the oils in the plant material are captured by the steam in the chamber. The steam is pushed through the plant material, pulling the ‘volatile’ oils out of the plant and carrying them up a tube to the condensing chamber, transforming the steam and vaporized oil mixture into a water and essential oil mixture. The essential oil floats to the top, and the fragrant water, or hydrosol, sinks to the bottom. Both the hydrosol and the essential oil product is sold in the gift shop.
For a personal tour of Star Bright, watch this video: