BARABOO — Not too long ago, Andrew and Kehaulani Jones were living in St. Louis in a nice, quiet neighborhood; life was easy, but something felt like it was missing. Andrew grew up on a hobby farm in New Zealand; Kehaulani on the islands of Hawaii. They took a vacation to New Zealand hoping to shake that feeling, but instead, it only solidified in their minds that it was time to make a change.
“Within six weeks we’d sold our house and Andrew had an interview in Wisconsin,” said Kehaulani, who is more commonly known to her customers as Lady J. “It was amazing how it all happened.
“It was like we were brought here.”
In 2011, they were new residents to Wisconsin, renting for a while in Wisconsin Dells before finding an 80-acre farm for sale just outside of Baraboo. It had been owned by a local pharmacist and was referred to as “The Pharm;” it was even listed that way in the phone book, Lady J said.
There were a number of parties interested in the property, but after the price dropped dramatically on it, the Joneses were seemingly in the “right place at the right time” — a young family finding themselves on a farm nestled in the lush, green hills of Sauk County, restoring an old farmhouse and outbuildings that hadn’t been touched for 30 years.
“It was kind of like a blank canvas in a way,” she said. “And we knew we wanted to do something different than corn and cattle.”
After a lot of research and consulting with some experts, the Joneses decided to grow lavender; it has a tropical scent that reminds Lady J of the islands and is undeniable when the wind blows just right. It is also something she was familiar with as a certified organic skin care designer and aromatherapist.
The Joneses also settled on a name for the farm: Rowley Creek Lavender Farm, named after the creek that runs through the property, almost cutting it directly in half. The family had fun brainstorming ideas, but naming it after the creek was a “no brainer, as all life is sustained by water,” Lady J said.
Lavender, a purple herb, has many health benefits and can be used in many ways. Essential lavender oil has been found to have antiseptic, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and can also be effective on burns, scrapes and bug bites. Lavender oil is also a commonly used oil in aromatherapy, known for its calming effects to reduce stress and anxiety.
Lavender can also be found in perfumes, fragrances, soaps, salves and sprays and has culinary uses too. Many of these products — and more — can be found at Rowley Creek Lavender Farm, with the majority of the bath and beauty products sold there handcrafted by Lady J herself.
Using an off-site kitchen, Lady J creates more than a dozen lavender goods, from lotions and soaps to lavender-infused fabrics and other home décor items. Her five children are all involved; her oldest does quite a bit of baking with lavender, while her 13-year-old daughter usually helps with running the shop. Another son serves as an “on-site musician,” entertaining customers with piano music.
And of course, Andrew plays a big role in the family operation too.
“He is definitely the farm wrangler,” she said with a smile. “This is his job away from work.”
With everyone’s help, what started as 200 plants in 2013 has grown to 5,000 plants now on the farm. The Joneses usually plant in the spring, keeping in mind that a lavender plant needs a good eight weeks to establish roots. They buy the plants from other lavender growers, none of which are nearby, so they have to drive significant distances to pick them up, Lady J said.
While other years have yielded a bounty of lavender, this year was a sobering one, she said. While disappointing, it has been a good lesson to learn. It taught Andrew and Lady J the importance of diversifying their crop and the need to propagate more plants.
The Joneses are already starting to grow aronia berries, elderberries and Roman chamomile, in addition to planting more wildflowers to diversify their farm. And like many farms, Rowley Creek is “a work in progress always,” Lady J said.
A couple of goats on the property signify another interest for Lady J, who plans to breed the animals in the future and use their milk in the health and beauty products she makes. The family also keeps bees — another venture and learning opportunity with raw lavender honey.
The farm is open from May through July, with customers coming from all around to visit the lavender farm. Many are from Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, and a few are travelers who see the sign and make a turn down the long driveway to get a glimpse of the purple fields.
And while there are two other lavender farms in Sauk County, it hasn’t hindered business; it has actually made it better as people can visit all three farms.
Lady J also hosts events on and off the farm to educate people on lavender’s many uses. Some of these events include a series on phyto-aromatherapy, a culinary inspired workshop, and a special skin therapy event, in which a well-known expert will be presenting. In addition, the Joneses also host farm tours for garden groups, agriculture groups and others curious about the operation of a lavender farm.
With 28 different cultivars, it’s easy to find a peaceful spot among the lavender fields at Rowley Creek; it’s a privilege Lady J feels fortunate to be able to share with others.
“The best thing about being out here is you really slow down,” Lady J said. “We want other people to pull themselves away from the toxic world we live in.
“Just bring your time and we’ll create a space for you to reconnect with nature.”
The lavender farm has been great for her family too, providing her children with an opportunity to earn money and learn how to work.
“It’s great fun. I have the best conversations with my kids in the lavender field. We actually say, ‘What’s said in the lavender field, stays in the lavender field,’” she said. “As a family, it has brought us closer together.”
From the way the family cares for the land to the way they treat their customers, it is all done with a promise of “Aloha Sustained Agriculture.” To Lady J, that promise means so much more than just fresh, organic, high-quality ingredients.
“It means our land is sustained by love — that’s what ‘aloha’ means,” she said. “We get a chance to create something beautiful here, and each year it does get more beautiful.”
Rowley Creek Lavender Farm remains open Fridays and Saturdays through August, closing at the end of the month and only open to special events thereafter — that is until spring brings a new year on the farm.
For more information about Rowley Creek Lavender Farm, including upcoming events, visitrowleycreekfarm.com or find them on Facebook atfacebook.com/rowleycreekfarm.