After 15 years of raising lavender, Ellen Karcher remains in awe of the spiky purple blooms that emerge each spring on her 10-acre farm in Morganville. She shares the joy each year, opening her farm, Pleasant Valley Lavender, for workshops and pick-your-own visits.
The availability of a safe, calming experience is especially enticing after a shut-in winter. “I had someone say, ‘I could pay a therapist, but I’d much rather come here,’” says Karcher.
In fact, visitors have long enjoyed this area of Monmouth County. “Legend has it that George Washington arrived here at one point and said, ‘What a pleasant valley,’ and that’s how it got its name,” says Karcher, referring to her aptly dubbed community.
Karcher greets guests starting in May, with weekend planting and craft workshops. During peak bloom—an approximately four-week period beginning mid-June—she offers you-pick access to her lavender fields. The farm, said to be the oldest commercial lavender farm in the state, also sells homemade small-batch lavender products, including honey, soaps and chocolates. At least six other small-scale, family-run operations in New Jersey offer similar experiences.
While savoring her relaxing environs, Karcher rarely sits still. Lately, she’s been checking on the 270 plants added last fall to her 4,000-strong purple palette. They represent a new variety—called Sensational and bred to withstand Northeast climates. The plant delivers intensely fragrant, deep-purple flowers. “I’m counting on it to be a good performer here in New Jersey,” she says.
[RELATED: Tour the Elegant Orchid Range at Duke Farms]
Karcher is also counting on visitors to wear masks when interacting with her and her staff this spring and summer. Masks are not required in the fields, but social distancing is encouraged.
During peak bloom, visitors pre-register for 90-minute slots and are charged by the car—$20, which includes a large zip tie to wrap a lavender bundle. “Usually, people are done in an hour, especially in the middle of the day,” she says. “It gets hot in the fields.”
Guests can take a cooling stroll along mown paths through wooded areas until they come upon a clearing planted with lavender. They can bring their lunch and their pooch to this dog-friendly farm and chill in one of several seating areas around the property.
In addition to planting and crafting workshops, Karcher hopes to offer culinary workshops this spring. “You can use lavender in sweet and savory dishes and for drinks,” she says. “I like it with lemonade and tea. But I also mix lavender lemonade, beer and grenadine—a nice summer drink.”
For event schedules, visit pleasantvalleylavender.com, or call 732-740-4832. “We really try to work with people and make it stress free,” she says. “I want to make it accessible, but sustainable.Click here to leave a comment