Winding Brook Estate makes it easy to fall in love with lavender.
Located 20 minutes west of St. Louis in Eureka, Missouri’s only commercial lavender farm features 5,000 organically grown lavender plants and a bucolic setting that is an oasis for the soul. In high season, mid- June through July, the lavender puts on its biggest show, soothing visitors’ senses with the stirring sight of endless purple blossoms, the drone of bees, and a fresh, woodsy fragrance. The blooming period slows for a while, and then, weather permitting, the plants give a repeat performance, stopping only after a hard freeze. “U-pick lavender” is generally available until October 31.
Owners Deborah and Steve Nathe say many visitors consider Winding Brook Estate an antidote for the stresses of modern life. “It’s a place to come and relax,” says Deborah. “As soon as you start breathing in the lavender, it starts to calm you.”
Visitors wander among the rows of lavender and watch bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds flit from blossom to blossom as they clip a bouquet. Most visitors stop at the gift shop, a quaint 100-year-old farmhouse. Merchandise includes lavender bath and body products, lavender tea, pastries, desserts, and more.
Six times each spring and fall, Winding Brook Estate offers tea luncheons in the barn. The luncheons feature lavender in a variety of forms, with dishes such as lavender cream puffs and strawberries dipped in lavender-flavored chocolate.
Lavender and Libations, a summertime evening event, features cocktails and appetizers,many with lavender as an ingredient. There is also entertainment.
Among its many uses, natural remedy proponents say lavender can ease stress, anxiety, and depression and can aid a variety of skin conditions, including sunburn, poison ivy, and psoriasis. The farm’s best-selling product, its home and body mist, is often employed as a sleep aid—users spritz their pillows so they can breathe in the lavender aroma—and as a mosquito repellent.
Forty years ago, when Deborah was in high school, her family purchased the acreage as a place to keep horses. Her family lived on the property for a short period but eventually settled in San Jose, California.
Years later, she and Steve decided life was too short to spend traveling all the time for their demanding sales careers. The 17-acre parcel of land, still owned by the family but becoming engulfed by suburban development, also weighed heavily on their minds.
Suddenly, Deborah recalled a friend who had considered becoming a lavender farmer. “I said to Steve, ‘How about growing lavender?’ It just popped into my head.” Steve was skeptical at first. “I really didn’t know what lavender was,” he says.
The Nathes started researching lavender. Deborah read every book about the plant that she could, and they visited lavender farms throughout the United States. Finally, they tried planting it. Lo and behold, it flourished. They brought in 110 tons of sand to improve drainage and added lime to change the soil balance to alkaline. They dug a pond and refurbished the barn. They put in thousands of lavender plants and waited until the plants matured. Then they opened the farm to visitors in July 2005.
Steve describes their work on the property as “polishing a diamond in the rough while retaining its charm.
“I don’t have a boss, and I’m not stuck in an airport or fighting traffic every day,” Steve says. “I also stop, take a look around, breathe deep, and just take in the simple beauty of the lavender and the farm itself—and then I keep going.”