Worth the trip to Laveanne Lavender fields
Story by Katie Ryalen
In the rolling hills of Northumberland County, which borders Durham Region to the east, is Laveanne Lavender Fields. Surrounded on two sides by the picturesque Ganaraska forest, Laveanne is an annual tradition for many people who seek the peace and tranquility that only a haze of violet blooms can bring. Owners Gary and Sabena Brazeau welcome you to their little slice of heaven for a memorable and uplifting experience.
“Health and wellness” is Laveanne’s overarching theme. “I guess you could call me a hippie,” Sabena laughs. “That is the feel I want to give to Laveanne.” Regular offerings amongst the lavender for visitors include daily morning yoga and workshops which feature themes like en plein air painting, lavender seminars, bee keeping, photography and aromatherapy. There is also a walking labyrinth in the lavender fields. “It’s not a maze,” Sabena insists. “People use the terms interchangeably, but they’re very different. A maze is made to confuse and frustrate, and we don’t want to do that at all. A labyrinth is a walk for meditation and relaxation.”
This summer, Laveanne will also hold special events, for which tickets can be purchased from the website. For example, there will be a demonstration on cooking with lavender (which is an edible plant), and an en masse yoga night with dinner, meditation, and health-and-wellness kiosks. But the big celebration of the season is the 1920s-themed harvest celebration and dinner jazz night. It has been going on for several years now, and Sabena says it is always well-attended.
In fact, food is one of the largest aspects of Laveanne, be it one of their ticketed dinners or the outdoor bistro featuring the culinary delights of celebrity chef Tina Moorey, owner and operator of On the Side Gourmet. “Our bistro is beautiful”, Sabena says.
Health and wellness have always been of interest to Sabena. It is why she and her husband Gary moved to the country in the first place—to grow their own organic food. It was an endeavour which evolved into growing food to bring to the farmers’ market. The business changed when Sabena’s son developed an interest in herbs, edible flowers and fruiting plants. He began a culinary nursery on the farm called Grow Tasty. “My son got his love for plants and for collecting plants from me,” she states proudly. “He started collecting lavender plants at the time that I was collecting heirloom vegetable seeds and things like that for our market garden, and it became this huge collection.”
Sabena’s son eventually decided to go back to school to pursue a new career path, so Sabena carried on the business herself. It was a customer that put the idea for a lavender farm into the Brazeaus’ heads, when she mentioned one she’d been to in Quebec. The couple took a trip out to the location to see what it was all about. “It was awe inspiring,” Sabena says of the Quebec farm. “Just to see that much lavender planted together. It was a beautiful memory for us.”
That vague notion of a lavender farm here in Northumberland County turned into a plan of action when the family was hit by the economic downturn of a decade ago. “Like many others at the time, my husband found himself out of work,” Sabena explains. “We had the market garden, of course. But without his off-the-farm income, it wasn’t enough to carry our family through the winter.” The Brazeaus knew that if they were going to make their farm business a success, they would have to expand their season and develop value-added products and offerings to sustain them year-round. Confident they could tackle it together, the couple jumped into the lavender farm with both feet. Though it turned out to be a more challenging endeavour than they realized at the start (the fields took about a year and a half to prepare, and the lavender took another three years to establish itself), the payoff was worth it. “Things have really come around,” Sabena says. “People think of us now as their little summer getaway.”
Today, Sabena and Gary are happy to be able to provide uplifting and memorable experiences to their visitors. There have been many amazing stories of people’s special memories which the Brazeaus have been able to share because of their farm. Sabena remembers fondly the story of one young man who wanted to propose to his girlfriend in the midst of blooming lavender. “He called me in August,” she tells, “when we had just finished harvesting. I had to tell him that he’d have to wait until next year if he wanted a blooming lavender field. And he did! When he called back the next year, we had our staff prepare a special picnic, he had a musician come to serenade her, and the whole thing was absolutely beautiful.”
If you’ve never experienced the aroma of real lavender before, you might be thinking of the polarizing synthetic scent which is oft-associated with dusty old soaps and cheap air fresheners. Love it or hate it, synthetic lavender is nothing like the real thing. Unfortunately, because of this perception that the two are the same, some people come to Laveanne expecting to not enjoy their experience. “Sometimes couples will come in, and the husband will tell me he’s just going to stand outside because he can’t stand the smell of lavender,” Sabena laughs.
Real lavender is an entirely different experience, and for those who are unfamiliar with it, Laveanne can be a bit of an education. For one thing, most of the products on the market labeled “lavender” are not pure essential oils. For another, you won’t be able to step out of your car, take a deep breath, and inhale pure fragrance. “It’s not like peonies or lily of the valley,” Sabena explains. “Lavender doesn’t waft. It’s more like rosemary, where you have to rub it to get the scent to come out.” Yet another surprise for many is that you cannot wear lavender essential oil as a perfume, as the scent evaporates too quickly.
What is Lavender?
But let’s turn from what lavender is not, to what lavender is. Lavender is a miraculous plant. In recent years it has become quite popular as an alternative to over-the-counter pharmaceutical remedies. It is thought to promote feelings of calm, and to reduce stress and anxiety. It also has physical healing properties—studies have shown that lavender essential oil exhibit antibacterial and other related benefits under certain conditions, and may promote cell regeneration which can be beneficial for cuts and burns.
Laveanne Lavender Fields
8667 Gilmour Rd., Campbellcroft
A DAY IN MILLBROOK
Story by Katie Ryalen
Now that we’ve tickled your desire for tranquility with Laveanne Lavender Fields, we encourage you to make a day of your visit. Touted as a “unique village where history lives on in turn-of-the-century charm”, nearby Millbrook has a number of wonderful experiences to make your trip to Northumberland County extra-special. Here are just four of our recommendations for your day trip itinerary.
In the heart of Millbrook is Pastry Peddler, a small-town café with big ambition. Co-Owners Colin Hall and Deanna Bell opened the establishment over ten years ago, when they began peddling their baked goods at the Peterborough farmers’ market during their off days from the restaurant where they both worked. Today, Pastry Peddler’s goods are much raved about in online communities, and the establishment is described by many happy patrons as nothing less than a gem.
“We offer a great variety of food,” Colin says. “Our aim when developing our menus is to create dishes that are tasty, fun, and which accommodate many of today’s dietary needs.” According to Colin, Pastry Peddler is the hub of the village, with guests stopping by for treats, lunch or just to relax.
Pastry Peddler is more than just your average café. Menus are refreshed seasonally, staff host dinner and jazz nights once a month during the winter, and this past year Colin has taught cooking classes on-site. “The dinners allow myself and my other two chefs to shine and inspire our guests with our creations,” he says. “And the classes are a fun way for participants to meet new people.”
As head chef, Colin’s signature creation has long been his almond cinnamon buns, which is one of his original specialties from his days at the farmers’ market. But Pastry Peddler’s strength does not rest on a single dish. “It’s the flavours of the creative minds that each person who works in our kitchen brings, and how we meld all of it together,” he explains. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for our employees coming together and creating something beautiful, keeping true to the vision Deanna and I started with years ago.”
17 King St. E., Millbrook
Get together and enjoy community at Moody’s, a well-loved local gathering place for friends and neighbours. The establishment strives to use local ingredients as much as possible to create its menu of typical pub fare. Blending a depth of culinary expertise—courtesy of head chef Lee Black and his team of talented cooks—with local, fresh ingredients, gives guests the opportunity to rediscover what pub food is supposed to taste like. Food offerings are paired with local and regional craft beer as well as a rotating selection of wines and cocktails.
Moody’s is co-owned by Peter Vance and Sarah Cooling, and was opened in October of 2017. “Sarah and I work together by day at the Northumberland Community Legal Centre,” Peter tells. “It’s a legal clinic based in Cobourg and funded by Legal Aid Ontario. Our shared appreciation of culture and community led to our partnership, and it has been nothing but a pleasure to take this culinary journey with her.”
Thanks to a wonderful staff and regular patrons, Moody’s atmosphere is one of family. If you’re coming through on a Saturday afternoon, you may be lucky enough to catch Moody’s monthly live entertainment. You may even wish to check the website for details on its monthly open mic night.
Moody’s Bar and Grill
3 Tupper St., Millbrook
More than just another chocolate company, the Millbrook Valley Chocolate Company offers chocolate bars with exotic flavours, fine Belgian chocolate, specialty vegan and gluten free chocolate, and a European-style drinking chocolate that many declare to be the best hot chocolate around.
The establishment is owned and operated by Stephen and Jackie Flamminio, who prepare most of their chocolates themselves. “Chocolate is warm, comforting and happy,” Jackie says. “When we decided to open a store, I wanted to spoil people with great chocolate and amazing customer service. We know most of our customers by name, and have laughed and cried over many of life’s ups and downs.”
“Our customers are family,” she adds. “To be included in their lives is a humbling and joyful experience.”
Cocoa sustainability is a priority for Millbrook Valley Chocolates, and the company is involved in a sustainability program which seeks to enable productivity and community in an industry which has historically been exploitative in practice. The program works to achieve this goal by training cocoa farmers in initiatives like good agricultural practices, functional literacy and traceability, as well as by paying farmer premiums and encouraging women’s empowerment, health and safety, and child protection. You can be sure that the chocolate you buy and enjoy in Northumberland County is ethically sourced and part of a broader global solution.
“We would love to meet you,” Jackie insists. “My husband and I have never been happier. This community and the people make this a true labour of love.”
Millbrook Valley Chocolates
32 King St. E., Millbrook
Finish off your day trip with an evening of thespian entertainment at 4th Line Theatre. This magical, not-for-profit company presents unforgettable outdoor theatrical performances. “Thousands of visitors, young and old alike, fall in love with our farm experience complete with picnics, birdsong and sunsets in the country,” Says Sara Mountenay, manager of marketing and development.
Since 1992, 4th Line Theatre has developed and presented 32 original plays based on regional history and culture. In fact, the company’s mandate is to “preserve and promote our Canadian cultural heritage through the development and presentation of regionally-based, environmentally-staged historical dramas.” This summer will mark 4th Line Theatre’s 28th season, and will feature two world premieres which celebrate and explore the early roots of rock n’ roll in the Peterborough area (Bloom: A Rock n’ Roll Fable) and one family’s tribulations during the Great Depression (Carmel).
4th Line Theatre is located on a rustic fifth-generation farm in Millbrook. It was founded in 1992 by Creative Director Robert Winslow who, together with Managing Artistic Director Kim Blackwell, has worked tirelessly to give audiences one of the finest theatrical country experiences around. In addition, it is committed through its Canadian Pulse Series to exploring modern Canadian society. Since 2012 it has made the development of plays which deal with issues that Canadians are struggling to understand a priority in its productions. Such themes include modern teen culture, messaging harassment and online bullying. “4th Line has always been committed to exploring the subjects and stories which go to the heart of what makes Canadian society ‘tick,’” Sara says.
Pursue your perfect summer evening experience with family and friends. “Our theatre is ‘Epic in Nature,’ with a stunning rural backdrop of wildflowers and rolling hills to enhance each performance,” Sara says. “If you are attending a Wednesday or Friday show, be sure to check out our website for details on our Wailin’ Wednesday and Festival Friday programming prior to the play. Come early and enjoy a picnic or our savoury barbecue to truly get the full country experience.”
4th Line Theatre
4 Tupper St., Millbrook