By Michael Durante Jr.
Ellen Duffy-Taylor’s birthday is in June, but she says, “Usually we postpone it to July.” As the owner and manager of North Winds Lavender Farm in Pawling, she has a recurring annual event in late June that demands priority over even her birthday: the lavender harvest. With a farm of lavender to tend, a gift shop to manage, and five weekly farmers’ markets to attend through the fall, it is a surprise that Duffy-Taylor can make time to celebrate her birthday before Thanksgiving.
Though Ellen Duffy-Taylor has more than 25 years of experience growing lavender at North Winds Farm, she only began selling to the public in 2005 after more than a decade of practical research. Today the farm consists of eight acres of planted lavender. They grow several different varieties, adding more every year. No matter the variety, the crop requires dry soils and full sun during the summer. North Winds Farm provides ideal conditions. Duffy-Taylor describes it as “farming on a rock outcrop.” Not all of the eight acres of lavender flowers are harvested each year. They pick according to their retail customers’ needs, and as for the rest, Duffy-Taylor says, “The bees have it.”
Most gardeners will note that lavender plants bloom for months, but they may not understand the pressure of a few-weeks-long harvesting season. However, lavender blooms contain the most oil when they first open, and much of North Winds Farm’s offerings are value-added products that rely on lavender oil.
North Winds Lavender Farm crafts a wide product line from their own lavender: dried bunches, wands, sachets, soaps, candles, hand-stitched pillows, and culinary products – lavender scones and shortbread are of exceptional mention, though much more is on offer daily in the gift shop in the Village of Pawling. Of course they also sell several different varieties of live lavender plants. North Winds will only sell a given variety to their customers if it has proven itself to thrive in our area over a three-year trial. Try asking for that kind of research from a big box garden center. North Winds also constructs custom products, such as wedding favors, by special order. Everything is available in their gift shop at 20 Charles Colman Boulevard, open every day except Monday. North Winds also offers some wares at farmers’ markets in Bronxville, Pleasantville, Cold Spring, and Tarrytown on Saturdays; and at Muscoot Farm in Somers on Sundays.
North Winds Farm was originally supposed to be a sheep and goat farm. Duffy-Taylor, who was raised on a diversified family farm in Ireland, realized that livestock would require more babysitting than she would like. “With lavender, I can say ‘bye’ and come back later.”
Despite that, Duffy-Taylor insists that North Winds is “not a nine to five job.” Between farming, making jellies, baking, drying, keeping a store, and selling at markets every weekend, it is more like a 24/7 dedication. She does not seem overwhelmed. Duffy-Taylor remembers how her mother would put lavender in the bolsters on her bed and added it into her quilts, which must have infused her childhood dreams with whispers of lavender.
Why not continue the conversation?