Devil’s Lake Lavender Brings the French Countryside to the Heart of Wisconsin.
By Shelby Deering | Photos by Joe Garza
Lavender saturates much of my life—the essential oils, lotions and sachets that line my bathroom shelves. The fragrant plants that grow in my little garden. And this summer, I finally visited a lavender farm for the first time, and I didn’t even have to have to buy a plane ticket.
I’ve always dreamed of meandering around the dreamy purple lavender fields of Provence, and I found a slice of it in none other than Baraboo. Coaxed by a grand opening celebration, I found myself spending an after noon sipping lavender lemonade, picking up body wash at the gift shop and deeply soaking up the scent of the fields at Devil’s Lake Lavender.
This is the very experience that Rebecca Powell Hill and her family set out to create when they planted the seeds of their venture. As the co-owner and CEO, Rebecca is cultivating this destination with her daughter, Gabrielle Powell, and husband, James W. Hill, serving as vice president of marketing and development and president respectively.
The lavender fields are miles from the couple’s careers. A Baraboo native, Rebecca has worked as a television producer on a health show for the Lifetime network. James is a dentist and lifelong resident of Madison.
Just opened in July, the family started Devil’s Lake Lavender right on the 17 acres surrounding their home, only one mile west of Devil’s Lake State Park. As Gabrielle explains, lavender is admittedly a difficult plant to grow in this climate. But luckily, Gabrielle happens to be studying biochemistry and molecular biology at Marquette, and is doing a field study of cold-hardy lavender on her family’s land. With science and heart on their side, their goals are becoming a reality.
Calling the fields a “legacy project,” Rebecca says, “As you grow older, you want to leave a lasting imprint on your children about what is most important to you.” Starting with 3,000 lavender plants in 2016, they bloomed beautifully, providing reassurance as they added 12,000 new plants this year. Upon visiting, you’ll be greeted by 32 lavender varieties, although the farm’s claim to fame is English Lavender.
The land also acts as a paradise for honeybees and monarchs, populations that are quickly becoming endangered.
“Next year, we hope to be home to over five million honeybees as well as developing a full garden area for monarch butterflies,” says Rebecca.
Visitors have been buzzing around the fields as well, stopping by to “U-pick” and harvest their own lavender. In late 2017, Devil’s Lake Lavender is launching an on-site medi-spa featuring all-natural lavender products, medical-grade skincare offerings, retreats and wellness activities. In 2018, Climber’s Café will open with a focus on small-batch coffee roasting and lavender-infused meals. In the same year, they’ll add a farm stay with lodging for guests, complete with overnight spa services with the invitation to work alongside farm staff.
As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, the farm has started to hold classes. A sampling of the topics includes lavender-wreath making, using essential oils in dog therapy, writing retreats—you can even participate in yoga classes amongst lavender plants, set to rhythmic drumming.
Or, you can simply stop by and breathe it all in.
“There is no charge to visit Devil’s Lake Lavender,” says Rebecca. “If people want to just come to enjoy the sights, smells and walk the fields, they are welcome. We want to offer the lavender experience to as many people as we can.”
As I sit here, lavender essential oil is in my diffuser, permeating my office. For me, and for many others, there are few things better than lavender to soothe and relax. And there are few places as peaceful as Devil’s Lake Lavender.